Tag Archives: Isabella of France

3 Names Worthy of Medieval Queens…and Modern-Day Princesses

Andrea CefaloAndrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper,  was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The sequel–The Countess’s Captive—was published earlier this year.  She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.

Thought the new Windsor princess’s name would be Khaleesi? Sites like paddypower.com let us put our money where our mouths are. So while William and Kate mulled over the name for their baby girl, the rest of us were able to make wagers. With odds at eleven to four, Alice was the safest bet. Charlotte, Olivia, and Elizabeth were, too. But what if the royal couple had looked to England’s most famous Medieval queens for inspiration? Which name might they have picked?

Empress Matilda Matilda

Odds: Forty to One

Who was she? The most famous queen from the House of Normandy, Empress Matilda was born to Henry I of England in 1102. After the untimely death of her brother, King Henry made Matilda his heir. But when he died, Stephen of Blois usurped the crown—resulting in civil war. Despite a failure to definitively take the English throne for herself, Matilda secured her son’s position as heir after the death of King Stephen’s son,  Eustace.

What made her a good candidate? Matilda was a strong independent woman who often ruled in the stead of her first husband, Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. She fought for twelve years to rule England. Some people in London called her harsh and others named her arrogant, but she compromised when she had to—especially if those compromises benefited her family and friends.

Eleanor of AquitaineEleanor

Odds: Sixty-six to One

Who was she? Eleanor of Aquitaine is arguably the most famous Medieval queen of England—and France.  When she inherited the duchy of Aquitaine upon her father’s death, the king of France scooped her up for his son. Within months of the marriage, the king died and the two were crowned king and queen. But the marriage was an unhappy one. Citing consanguinity (being blood relatives), they sought an annulment from the pope. It was granted.

Despite their shared blood, Eleanor chose Empress Matilda’s son, Henry, for her second husband. The two were crowned king and queen of England two years later. The marriage was adulterous and tumultuous, but still produced eight children.

In 1173, Eleanor supported her son’s efforts to overthrow his father. Furious and mistrusting of Eleanor, Henry imprisoned her for sixteen years. It was her son, the famous Richard the Lionheart, who freed her after his father’s death.

What made her a good candidate? Eleanor was as determined as she was beautiful. When she wanted something, she usually found a way to get it. During her lifetime, Eleanor was a duchess, a queen of France, a crusader, a queen of England, an attempted kingmaker—and an inventor.  She developed Europe’s first built-in fireplaces.

Isabella of FranceIsabella

Odds: Sixty-six to One

Who was she? When Isabella of France married Edward II in 1308, Edward’s strange favoritism toward incompetent commoner, Piers Gaveston, left Isabella—and Edward’s barons—feeling angry and forgotten. In the end, the barons executed Gaveston.

For the next decade, the queen and king seemed happily married and had four children. Then Edward found a new and dangerous favorite in Hugh Despenser. Isabella had had enough. She set sail for France to discuss an unrelated peace treaty, but she returned with a lover and an army. Isabella and English Baron Roger de Mortimer ousted Edward II and put young Edward III on the throne. While the two lovers were serving as co-regents for fourteen-year-old Edward, the old king was violently killed. Edward III later sentenced Mortimer for his part in the crime and had him hanged. It was only at Isabella’s pleading that Mortimer wasn’t drawn and quartered. Isabella spent two years under house arrest. After that, she led a quiet life as a pious Christian and doting mother and grandmother.

What made her a good candidate? For many years, Isabella tried to be a loyal queen and wife. Whether viewed as a woman who killed her husband or a monarch who saved England from a weak king, Isabella’s resourcefulness and cunning can’t be denied. She led the most successful invasion of England since William the Conqueror.

Wiliam and Kate With Baby Daughter Leaving HospitalIf William and Kate wanted to name their daughter after a Medieval English queen, these three women would have been worthy candidates. I  placed my money on Matilda and lost. The royal couple announced the name this morning: Charlotte.  I guess I’ll have to forego my skinny soy mocha frappuccino today.

So I want to know, did you make a wager?  If you did or if you simply guessed what the princess’s name would be, tweet me @AndreaCefalo.






Maddest Medieval Monarch Week: Isabella of France

Many times history is more interesting than fiction if we just look in the right places.  Follow me as I venture into the lives of some of the most scandalous, most murderous, most insane monarchs of the Middle Ages.  Day two of Maddest Medieval Monarchs Week brings us to a monarch made legendary by literature and cinema, Isabella of France.

Article Written by Andrea Cefalo

Isabella “She-Wolf” of France

English: Isabella of France, wife of Edward II...

English: Isabella of France, wife of Edward II of England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of us equate Isabella of France with the kind-hearted and lonely English princess from the movie Braveheart or the she-wolf of plays by Brecht and Marlowe.  Based on her life, it is easy to conclude that Isabella was lonely in her marriage to a bi-sexual English king. However, determining whether she was the she-wolf, as literature labeled her, or the sweetheart, as Hollywood made her, is not so easy.

Isabella was wedded at twelve to Edward II of England.  Edward, however, was in love with Piers Gaveston whom he openly showered with gifts. Isabella learned to tolerate Edward’s relationship, but some of the English barons never did. Four years into their marriage Gaveston was murdered.  Isabella consoled her grief-stricken husband and the two became closer.  They even had three children together, but in 1319, another man, Hugh Despenser the young, gained Edward’s affections. Despenser was ruthless, greedy, and insanely jealous.  For six years, Isabella’s power, influence, and income were reduced upon the advice of Despenser.

English: Illustration of the execution of Hugh...

English: Illustration of the execution of Hugh the Younger Despenser, from a manuscript of Froissart (Bibliotheque Nationale MS Fr. 2643, folio 197v) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Isabella visited her brother, King Charles IV of France in 1325, she met and fell in love with Roger Mortimer, a former English general who had since turned against the king and Despenser.  She and Mortimer raised an army, overthrew Edward, and tried Despenser for treason.  Despenser was hanged, drawn, and quartered.  Edward was imprisoned, tortured, and starved, but did not die until 1327.  It is rumored that he was killed under Isabella’s orders by a red-hot poker being inserted into his rectum.   Edward’s heart was placed in a silver coffin and given to Isabella.

Isabella served as regent for a short time until her son Edward III was old enough to take the throne.  Mortimer turned out to be every bit as greedy and ruthless as Despenser.  Edward III, with the support of English barons, arrested and executed Mortimer.  Isabella was imprisoned for two years in Windsor Castle, where she was rumored to have had a nervous breakdown after the loss of Mortimer.  Isabella was later cleared of any wrong-doing and lived a comfortable life.  Upon her death, she was entombed with Edward III’s heart, though buried next to Mortimer.

In literature and legend, Isabella is often remembered as a king-killer, but no one knows for sure who gave the orders for Edward II’s murder.  So was Isabella the she-wolf or simply a desperate woman trying to save England from a careless king?  No one really knows, but we can certainly speculate.

Article written by Andrea Cefalo, author of The Fairytale Keeper: a novel of corruption, devotion, and the origins of Grimm’s fairytales

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