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On Left - Isabella directing the Siege of Bristol. On Right - Isabella of France is welcomed to Paris when she returned from England to pay homage to her brother, King Charles IV of France.

The Wild Life of English Queen Isabella, She-Wolf of France aka the Rebel Queen Who Killed the King of England

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Fourteenth century English Queen Isabella, the She-Wolf of France aka the Rebel Queen, was a complex, violent person who drank heavily but who was charitable to the poor and well-liked by her people. She killed her husband, King Edward II, the only English queen known to have killed an English king. Later in life she became a nun.

Isabelle of France was a Descendant of William the Conqueror

Isabella was born in France in the royal family in 1295. She was not a new money type royal. Isabella of France’s family tree is full of royals going way back. She was a descendant of William the Conqueror .

Philip IV of France and his family: l-r: his sons, Charles IV of France and Philip V of France, his daughter Isabella of France (wife of Edward II of England), himself, his eldest son and heir the King of Navarre, Louis X of France, and his brother, Charles of Valois. (Michaelsanders / Public Domain)

Philip IV of France and his family: l-r: his sons, Charles IV of France and Philip V of France, his daughter Isabella of France (wife of Edward II of England), himself, his eldest son and heir the King of Navarre, Louis X of France, and his brother, Charles of Valois. (Michaelsanders / Public Domain )

When she was 14 Isabella’s father, French King Philip IV , married Isabella off to her second cousin once removed, England’s King Edward II, in 1308. Edward was 23 years old. The young couple were both reportedly beautiful physically.

Edward was Homosexual – Gave Wedding Jewels to His Lover Instead of His Wife

Edward was involved in an affair with the Gascon knight Piers Gaveston. Edward’s father, King Edward I, had earlier banned Gaveston. But when the elder king died, the new King Edward II recalled Gaveston, married him to his niece and bestowed the earldom of Cornwall on him.
At his wedding to Isabella, Edward sat and spoke with Gaveston not his new bride. He gave Isabella’s jewels to Gaveston which his lover wore in public. And tapestry makers were ordered to include Gaveston’s and Edward’s coat of arms.
This was not exactly a romantic situation for the young Isabella to say the least. Keep in mind she was a young teen. She complained to her father, the king of France.

King Edward II, by an unknown artist (National Portrait Gallery / Public Domain)

King Edward II, by an unknown artist ( National Portrait Gallery / Public Domain )

Gaveston was exiled to Ireland for a while but returned. Edward went to war against Scotland, a disastrous misadventure that prompted the barons to rise up against him in civil war. They captured Gaveston at Scarborough Castle and executed him. They marched his headless body around town on a ladder.
The king found new lovers in the two Hugh Despensers, both the father and son.

Isabella Gives Birth

Isabella must have either been with Edward or someone else because she gave birth to her first child, whom they named Edward, at Windsor Castle in 1312. He would become King Edward III. The couple (whoever the father was) had two daughters and another son, too.

Isabella In Danger But Edward Ignores Her

There was much intrigue, dissatisfaction among the nobles and more disastrous wars with Scotland, after which Edward had to flee back to England by boat with the Scots hot on his heels. Twice Isabella was nearly captured by the Scottish in two different wars. The second time she sent word to her husband for help, but he fled. The Scottish killed two of her ladies in waiting that time, but Isabella was able to get on a boat and escape.
Her feelings for her husband were even harder now. Edward did not appear to care because when she refused to pledge loyalty to the Despensers Edward confiscated her lands, took their youngest children from her and put them in the Despensers’ custody.

Isabella landing in England with her son, the future Edward III in 1326. (Gallica / Public Domain)

Isabella landing in England with her son, the future  Edward III in 1326. (Gallica / Public Domain )

Isabella Raises an Army to Kill Her Husband, King of England

She went to France with her son Edward to pay homage to her brother, now King Charles IV. While there, she raised an army, including many English nobles who were dissatisfied with Edward II, and returned to personally kill her husband and retake the throne.
She did do that, having Edward II put to death with a red-hot poker up his rear end legend says. So as not to leave any marks on him, the poker was introduced into his body through a horn. There is an alternative story that he was strangled or suffocated. This was in the year 1327.
The Despensers both met with grisly deaths, the father hacked apart by a mob of noblemen and his remains fed to dogs; the son dragged, hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Hugh Despenser the younger and Edmund Fitzalan brought before Isabella for trial in 1326; the pair were gruesomely executed. (visualiseur.bnf.fr / Public Domain)

Hugh Despenser the younger and Edmund Fitzalan brought before Isabella for trial in 1326; the pair were gruesomely executed. (visualiseur.bnf.fr / Public Domain )

Edward III Becomes King but Under Isabella’s Control

Though Edward III was officially king, Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, ruled England jointly for four years. She had met and rescued Mortimer from the Tower of London earlier when the nobles had gone to war, some on her side some on the side of her husband. Mortimer had been sentenced to die by starvation, but she fed him and took him under her wing. She had taken refuge in the tower because it was the most secure place in London.

Isabella meets Roger Mortimer, who became her lover and co-ruler after she killed her husband the king. (British Library / Public Domain)

Isabella meets Roger Mortimer, who became her lover and co-ruler after she killed her husband the king. ( British Library / Public Domain )

Edward III Arrests His Mother, Executes Mortimer

After four years, Edward III led a coup to depose Mortimer in 1331, took over and put his mother under house arrest for the remainder of her life, 27 years. Edward III tried Mortimer for treason, convicted him and sentenced him. Isabella pleaded with her son to spare Mortimer, but Edward had him beheaded.
Before her death, she asked that the heart of her lover, which she had kept in a casket for many years, be placed in her coffin.
Isabella found religion and became a nun with the Poor Clares. She died in 1358.

Who was Queen Isabella of England?

A story from 1321 says something about Isabella. She was denied entrance to Leeds Castle on a pretext. She ordered her men to force their way in, but they failed. She insisted her husband take the castle by storm. He did and then she had 13 men of the garrison hanged.
Isabella the She-Wolf of France had much to repent for in her convent. The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols says the she-wolf is synonymous with the depraved in everyday France.

Beautiful Isabella of France, queen of England. (Alex Shadrin / Adobe)

Beautiful Isabella of France, queen of England . ( Alex Shadrin / Adobe)

By Mark Miller

Top image: On Left - Isabella directing the  Siege of Bristol. On Right - Isabella of France is welcomed to Paris when she returned from England to pay homage to her brother, King Charles IV of France. Source: Left, Public Domain ; Right, Public Domain

References:

Cavendish, R., Edward II marries Isabella of France , History Today website, [Online] Available at: https://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/edward-ii-marries-isabella-france
English Monarchs website, Isabella ‘The She-Wolf of France,’ [Online] Available at: http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/plantagenet_27.html
Thompson, B., Isabella of France, The Badass of the Week website, [Online] Available at: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/isabella.html

Comments

This article is full of historical inaccuracies. For starters:

1. She was called a "she wolf" because she lived in times that were incredibly misogynistic. In reality, Isabella was much admired for her intelligence, beauty, and extraordinary diplomatic skills.
2. Edward II was about 23 when he married her (she was 12). They had little to discuss at their wedding, but later became devoted parents to their 4 children. He didn't give her jewels to Gaveston.
3. She didn't have Edward killed. She wanted him to dismiss Despencer the Younger, as he was cruel and nasty to her, his queen. Edward was never involved with Hugh's father. There is nothing to link Isabella to Edward's death. There is very little that is true about how Edward died.
4. There is no evidence that Mortimer was her lover.

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