Isabella of France (1292-1358)
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Isabella of France (1292-1358)

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The She-Wolf of France.
She was called this by the English people during her own lifetime.

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Isabella of France (1292-1358)

Isabella the spectacularly beautiful daughter of Philip the Fair, was only seven when betrothed to the sixteen-year-old Prince Edward, who became King Edward II eight years later. They were married the following year in Boulogne and she was surprised to be met by Piers Gaveston, the king's favourite, when they landed in Dover. Edward gave him most of the jewels she had been given as a wedding present by her father. The barons were so shocked by Edward's behaviour that they insisted Gaveston be sent away before the coronation and into exile four times in the next three years, but he kept coming back at the king's request. Eventually during a visit north to rally royalists, on which Gaveston and the queen accompanied Edward, the barons arranged for Gaveston to be executed, much to the king's fury.

Soon afterwards they had a son, the future Edward III, to great popular acclaim, but after the defeat by the Scots at Bannockburn, with conditions in England very bad, the barons took control, until Edward, with the help of new noble favourites, the Despensers, revenged himself on them. In the course of this Edward imprisoned one, Roger Mortimer, in the Tower of London where Isabella was living. They became lovers and she helped him to escape to France where she joined him a year later.
Isabella persuaded Edward to let their son visit France to pay homage to his father's French possessions, and so set off with him and Mortimer to raise an army in the Low Countries. In this she succeeded and landed with her forces in Suffolk in 1326. The English flocked to her standard and the king was captured less than two months later in Wales. The two Despensers were duly executed, the king was deposed and their son was crowned at Westminster Abbey. But Isabella knew her plans would be threatened while the deposed king was still alive, so she arranged with Mortimer for him to be murdered without leaving a mark on his body. The horrific method used involved a red hot poker being inserted and Edward's entrails being burned out, however his agonised screams were heard and the murder became known.

Now aged eighteen, Edward (III) was finding the unpopular Mortimer increasingly tiresome and arranged for a band of knights to enter Nottingham Castle by a secret passage and drag the naked Mortimer from his mother's bed. Although he was not present she knew who was behind the deed and cried out "Fair son have pity on gentle Mortimer!" However Mortimer was soon hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. Edward settled his mother in great comfort at Castle Rising in Norfolk, visiting her quite frequently. Finally she joined the Order of Poor Clares and later died aged 66. She was buried at Greyfriars with, at her request, the heart of Edward II.


The King carried a knife in his hose to kill the queen, and had said that if he had no other weapon he would crush her with his teeth.
- The Bishop of Winchester, speaking during his trial. Advanced Category Search

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