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Gewalt, Krieg und Geschlecht im Mittelalter

Edited By Amalie Fößel

Gewalt und Krieg sind heute wie auch in der Vormoderne keine ausschließlich männliche Domäne, sondern Räume der Männer und Frauen gleichermaßen. In Zeiten kriegerischer Auseinandersetzungen werden Geschlechterrollen ausgebildet, konforme und abweichende Verhaltensweisen ausprobiert und Konzepte von Männlichkeit und Weiblichkeit entwickelt. Erstmals für die Epoche des Mittelalters (7.-16. Jahrhundert) werden daraus resultierende Fragestellungen im interdisziplinären und kulturübergreifenden Vergleich untersucht. Die Beiträge erörtern Geschlechterbeziehungen auf Darstellungs- und Handlungsebene und beschreiben Interaktionsformen in Kontexten von Gewalt und Krieg. Über den europäischen Raum mit seinen zahlreichen Fehden und Heerzügen hinaus werden auch die Kreuzzüge in den Blick genommen.

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Violence, War, and Gender in the Life of Isabella of France, Queen of England (Sophia Menache)

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Sophia Menache

Violence, War, and Gender in the Life of Isabella

of France, Queen of England

Abstract: Isabella of France offers a unique example to study the convergence of violence, war and gender. Although she devoted her life to achieving peace between the king and the barons, and between the kingdoms of England, France and Scotland, her role as peacemaker has been neglected in research, which endorsed Isabella’s image as the she-wolf of France.

The life of Isabella of France, queen consort of England between 1308 and 1327 and ruler de facto as her son’s regent from 1327 to 1330, presents a unique example of the convergence of violence, war, and gender in the Late Middle Ages. Notwithstanding the many conflicts and wars in which Isabella was involved, she devoted her life to the achievement of peace between Edward II and the insurgent barons and later on, as Queen Regent, with France and Scotland. Isabella’s role as peacemaker has been neglected in historical research, which often endorsed the queen’s biased image as the she-wolf of France.1 This paper addresses the main stages in Isabella’s fascinating biography, while revealing a different perspective, which we believe is more in line with the testimony of her contemporaries.

In contrast to the pious image of other medieval queens,2 often relegated to a secondary political position, if any, Isabella played a prominent diplomatic role in the Kingdom of England from an early stage.3 Medieval chroniclers developed a very positive image of Isabella and paid full attention to the young queen from her first steps in the kingdom. They were well aware of Isabella’s high lineage, as ←237 | 238→the only daughter of Philip IV of France and his wife, Queen Joan I of Navarre.4 They were also attentive to the fact that Isabella was promised in marriage to Edward II, the heir of the Kingdom of England, under the auspices of Boniface VIII.5 The pope saw in the royal nuptials an ideal solution for the everlasting conflict between England and France, the strongest kingdoms in Christendom and, as such, a condition sine-qua-non for the continuation of the Holy War against the Infidel. A few years after the fall of crusader Acre (1291), the renewal of the crusades was, indeed, the most cherished goal of the papacy.6 The papal plans crystallized on 25 January 1308, when Isabella – by the time twelve or thirteen years old – married Edward II.7 The marriage generated much attention in contemporary records, because of the generous dowry provided by Philip, the magnificence of the ceremony, and the presence of the leading political personages of the time: besides the queen’s father, Philip IV of France, also Albert of Habsburg, Charles II of Sicily, Leopold I of Austria, and John II of Brabant.8

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In contrast to the Job’s warnings, with which some modern historians approach the marriage,9 medieval chroniclers offered differing opinions: the canon of Bridlington expressed the hope that the marriage would pave the way to a peace treaty between England and France, while facilitating the Capetian evacuation of Guyenne – and hence his disappointment following Philip IV’s refusal to fulfil his pledges.10 A later chronicler, however, was more aware of the many scandals and disasters that the royal union potentially entailed for the Kingdom of France.11 Still, thirty years before the claims of Isabella’s firstborn, Edward III, to the Capetian crown, which ultimately brought about the Hundred Years War, one can hardly charge this later development to the account of the young bride. Furthermore, the inhabitants of London did not share any apprehensions of this kind. On the contrary, contemporary records reported that they decorated their city as a new Jerusalem to greet the arrival of the royal couple and came in great numbers to the coronation ceremony.12

This early display of joy, so characteristic of medieval times,13 was very short-lived and did not characterize Isabella’s stay in England for much longer. The main threat to the young couple was personified by Edward’s favourite at this early stage, Piers Gaveston.14 Besides being a foreigner and, as such, regarded as a usurper by the barons, Gaveston’s relationship with the king was seemingly accompanied by homosexual undertones.15 The eventuality of sodomitical ←239 | 240→behaviour16 further complicated Edward’s delicate relationship not only with his young bride and her royal father, but also with Earl Thomas of Lancaster, Isabella’s uncle and the undisputed leader of the baronial opposition.17 Monastic chroniclers testified the close relationship between the uncle and his niece and they refer in rather dramatic undertones to the earl’s readiness to swear to the queen that he would personally bring about Gaveston’s ruin.18 They further criticized Edward’s preferences for this malefactor as a substitute for his elegant and beautiful wife, portraying Gaveston as someone raised in the dirt.19 This claim obviously served political purposes, but was hardly true: Piers Gaveston was the son of Arnaud de Gabaston, one of the leading barons in the county of Béarn, who had been in the service of Edward I since the early 1280s.20

In contrast to the manipulative, negative essence of the prevailing approach to Gaveston, one should note the chroniclers’ positive attitudes to the queen. Already at this early stage, indeed, Isabella was described as elegant and beautiful. To complete the ideal image of the queen, as opposed to the many weaknesses of her husband and his favourite, the chroniclers stressed the harmony between Isabella’s beauty and wisdom, depicting her not only as pulcherrima but also as sapientissima. Geoffrey de Paris’ delightful praise, describing Isabella as the beauty of beauties in the kingdom if not in all Europe, reflects a common approach:

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Que c’est des plus bèles la rose

le liz, la flor et l’exemplaire;

a briewz moz, et n’a point de paire […]

c’estoit la plus bèle des bèles,

com le soleil sur les estoiles,

la noble et sage dame Ysabiau […].

mes Ysabiau, puis je bien dire,

plus bèle en royaume n’en empire,

a son temps n’estoit pas trouvée;

et estoit sage et avisée

selonc le sens qui est en fame,

et en sa biauté preude fame.21

True, monastic chroniclers were usually very magnanimous in attributing exceptional beauty to medieval queens and other young aristocratic women.22 However, the very fact that Isabella’s father, Philip IV, as well as her brother, Charles IV, enjoyed the nickname the fair, lends credence to the flattering reports of the queen’s beauty. On the other hand, the wisdom attributed to Isabella – of which she gave ample proof throughout her life – was not part of her genetic inheritance nor a lip service to historiographical traditions. Although there were a few historiographical precedents of this kind, such as Guillaume de Tours’ praise of Chlotilde, the Catholic wife of Clovis,23 the political wisdom attributed to Isabella was rather exceptional at the early fourteenth century. Indeed, besides the ever-lasting conflict with France, the growing ‘national’ awareness might have adversely influenced the shape of the queen’s image.24

The chroniclers further took pains to complement the wise and beautiful image of the young queen with a martyred halo vis-à-vis the malicious and selfish behaviour of her husband, the king. They critically reported Edward II showing concern for Gaveston’s safety instead of protecting his wife. When ←241 | 242→the king and his favourite were forced to flee from the insurgent barons, they supposedly left Isabella behind unattended, in her third month of pregnancy.25 Wardrobe records, however, refute the accuracy of this story, since Isabella left for Scarborough in Edward’s company. It seems that the chroniclers confused the events of 1312 with those of 1322, when Isabella was indeed abandoned to her fate at Tynemouth, after Edward’s defeat by the Scots.26

The growing opposition to Edward undoubtedly fostered the supportive approach to his queen, portrayed as the main victim of the king’s many weaknesses. Gender considerations – if taken into account – thus only favoured Isabella’s image in contraposition to her husband’s selfishness and malevolence. Some chroniclers further justified the queen’s complaints to her father about her loneliness and lack of resources. In consequence, they reported Philip’s efforts to incite the barons against the King of England and his favourite in the early stages of Edward’s reign.27 The interest of medieval kings in their married daughters, who following their nuptials to a foreign prince were required to emigrate, was a common phenomenon.28 Besides a common parental affection, they were well aware of the potential contribution of their daughters to their own political influence in other countries.29 The question remains, however, whether Philip’s genuine concern for Isabella might have justified his active involvement in the Kingdom of England, in light of the many crises that the King of France himself encountered in his own kingdom.30 With or without Capetian support, ←242 | 243→nevertheless, the barons apparently fulfilled their wish when after several critical months they captured Gaveston and following a summary trial had him executed at Blacklow Hill (19th July 1312).

Rather obviously, Gaveston’s punishment did not solve the conflict between the king and the nobility. Beyond personal antagonism, this was a rather long process nurtured by the persistent disagreement between the centralizing aspirations of the Plantagenet monarchy and the constitutional concerns – or perhaps the party interests? – of the barons, almost one hundred years after the proclamation of the Magna Carta.31 Gaveston’s death, however, removed a major obstacle from Isabella’s conjugal life and at the same time facilitated her deeper involvement in internal government.32 Indeed, the following decade shows the intense involvement of Isabella in the kingdom’s intricate politics, when she tried to bridge the gap between the king and his barons and to some degree also succeeded. Early in 1313, the queen cooperated with Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester,33 in the peace negotiations between Edward and the nobility.34 Isabella played a central role again in 1318, at the side of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex and constable of England, in promoting the peace treaty with the Lancastrian faction.35 Isabella was active also in 1321 together with Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, in the negotiations that brought about the removal and exile of the king’s new favourites, the Despensers, father and son. To ←243 | 244→enrich their reports with dramatic undertones, contemporary chroniclers sympathetically described the queen approaching Edward on her knees for the sake of the people.36

Throughout her diplomatic activity over almost one decade (1313–1321), Isabella thus strove to foster a compromise between the king and the barons. This aim was obviously shared by the three leading personalities with whom she cooperated, who were among the king’s closest advisors and friends.37 Up to this point, one may therefore infer that although Isabella’s political influence resulted from Edward’s instability and failure to overcome old feuds, the queen acted as a moderating factor, trying to restore peace and understanding among the most radical elements in the political arena of England. It is clear, too, that the barons would not have accepted Isabella’s mediation unless there had been some basic understanding and mutual confidence between them.

Isabella’s mediatory efforts elicited the vociferous applause of her contemporaries, as reflected in the narrative sources from both sides of the English Channel. Chroniclers from the Capetian Kingdom sympathized with the young queen, emphasizing that Isabella was much loved by the barons and the nobles of the kingdom. In open contradiction to former reports about Philip IV’s machinations in the northern kingdom, they further claimed that Isabella and her royal father were actually those who prevented the deposition of Edward II at the beginning of his reign.38 Although chroniclers from the Kingdom of England were much less supportive of the Capetian policy as a whole, they also did not mince words in cheering Isabella’s efforts to intercede between Edward II and the barons. They further recognized that the queen’s actions had ←244 | 245→earned her wide appreciation not only among the nobles of England but among the common people as well, since they were well aware of the fact that the young queen was acting on their behalf.39

Isabella’s involvement in politics did not prevent her from fulfilling her marital duties. During these turbulent years, she gave birth to four children, two boys and two girls (1312, 1316, 1318, and 1321),40 for which she gained not only Edward’s appreciation but the praise of her contemporaries, as well.41 The king’s close relationship with Gaveston may have been a contributing factor in the delay – the first child being born only four years after their marriage – but it seems also probable that Edward II had postponed marital relations to the stage when Isabella could safely undergo pregnancy and childbirth.42 The monk of Malmesbury thus voiced the general joy in 1312, at the birth of the future Edward III, which resulted from the prevailing fears that Gaveston’s influence over the king might have indefinitely delayed the appearance of an heir to the throne of England.43 Because of the notorious sexual behaviour ascribed to the king, it is significant to note that according to their respective itineraries the royal couple was together nine months prior to each of their children’s births. One may therefore conclude at this point that gender considerations played some role in the positive attitudes to the queen, but not in the prejudiced manner that may be expected from monastic chroniclers. On the contrary, at least twice, in 1319 and again in 1321, English chroniclers compassionately referred to Isabella’s misfortunes in the northern border and contrasted her miraculous escape from the Scots with the cowardly attitude of her husband the king, who had abandoned the queen to her fate.44 One should furthermore note the complete absence of ←245 | 246→xenophobic rhetoric with regard to Isabella, which was otherwise characteristic of the chroniclers’ approach to other foreign queens at the time.45 The popularity of Isabella appears the more exceptional not only because of her foreignness but also, and primarily, because of her origin in the Kingdom of France, England’s traditional adversary and most dangerous rival in Christendom.

Considerations of dynastic continuity did not however ensure political stability nor prevent Edward’s attention to a succession of favourites, Hugh Despenser the younger at their head.46 In early 1322, Edward recalled the Despensers from exile and after defeating Thomas of Lancaster and his faction, the king accused the earl of high treason and condemned him to death. The loss of her unconditional ally undoubtedly affected the queen and weakened her political status.47 Moreover, the threat of a French invasion brought about the seizure of Isabella’s dowry two years later.48 At the same time, Hugh Despenser’s wife, Eleanor de Clare, was made the queen’s housekeeper, a position that enabled her to spy on Isabella’s every turn. Together with Isabella Hastings, Eleanor was also entrusted with the care of the royal children, who were deliberately alienated from their mother, the queen.49 Edward further ordered the arrest of all Frenchmen in the Kingdom of England and the appropriation of their property, a policy that led many servants and clerks in Isabella’s closest circle to leave the country.50

True, measures of this kind against foreigners from a hostile country were rather common, and the seizure of Isabella’s dowry was not an irregular measure; it followed the precedent of the appropriation of the dowry of the queen mother Margaret in Edward’s own time. The very fact that Isabella was allowed to keep her French serfs for a rather long period was somewhat exceptional. Furthermore, Isabella received a suitable financial compensation of 2920 marks a year, which allowed her to continue with her luxurious style of life.51 The main damage ←246 | 247→the queen suffered in 1324 was not therefore of a financial but rather of a political nature, since she was effectively displaced from the focus of power. To justify these radical measures against the popular queen – though Isabella was not formally charged – it was alleged that the queen had intrigued against the king with her relatives, among them her uncle, Charles de Valois, who had led the Capetian conquest of Guyenne in 1324.52 The hostile approach towards Isabella was sufficiently noticeable to bring about the interference of her brother and to raise apostolic censure: in a letter to Hugh Despenser, Pope John XXII did not hesitate to criticize in blatant terms the ill-treatment of the queen.53

However, the same French threat that had served as an excuse to confiscate Isabella’s property was to have the opposite effect a few years later, and actually paved the queen’s path to the summit of power. Following Charles IV’s seizure of the English assets in Guyenne, Edward requested Isabella to sail to her brother and rebuild mutual understanding between their kingdoms.54 The king’s decision testifies his trust in Isabella not only because her family links but also and perhaps more important still, because her skills to conduct problematic and challenging negotiations. Yet, contemporary records suggest the possibility of Isabella’s additional concerns:

The queen departed very joyfully, happy with a twofold joy; pleased in fact to visit her native land and her relatives, pleased to leave the company of some of those whom she did not like. Certainly, she does not like Hugh…; consequently, many think she will not return until Hugh Despenser is wholly removed from the king’s side.55

Although the chronicler of Malmesbury hints at Isabella’s reluctance to return to England in her former denigrated status, it is rather uncertain whether upon her landing in France, the queen had elaborated any plans to act against Edward II, and even less so, whether she had already planned to bring about the usurpation of the throne of England. Regardless of Isabella’s plans to the long range, the queen ←247 | 248→enjoyed a supportive welcome from Charles, who showed understanding of his sister’s suffering and even urged her to extend her stay in the Capetian Kingdom.56 In such favourable circumstances, Isabella succeeded in bringing about an extension of the truce, and her eldest son and heir to the throne of England, Edward III, paid due homage to the King of France. However, despite the fact that the objective of her visit to France was obviously fulfilled, the queen refused to return to England, despite Edward II’s repeated requests. Rather ostentatiously, Isabella began to wear black dresses that suited the status of a widow, as she considered herself; namely, a woman who had been deserted by her husband.

En celle temps la reyne usa simple apparaille come dame de dolour qe avoit son seignour perdue. Et pur langwis q’ele avoit pur maintener la pees, le commune people muit la pleinoit.57

According to the anonymous chronicler, Isabella thus deserved the love of the common people not only for being the ‘lady in distress’ of medieval tales, but also and perhaps primarily for her continuous pursuit of peace in the Kingdom of England. In blatant contrast, there were rumours that the king had sent his confessor, the Dominican Thomas Dunheved, to Pope John XXII to ask for the annulment of his marriage.58 Such a possibility, however, seems rather unlikely given the support recently evinced by the Avignonese Pope towards Isabella. No less important, in light of Edward’s own unstable position at home, the dissolution of the royal marriage might have borne harmful effects for the king and his kingdom, in both the internal and external grounds.59 Yet, Edward severely criticized the notorious behaviour of the queen and her son in a letter to the leading prelates and the nobility of France. The king passionately blamed Isabella and the prince for having joined forces with Roger Mortimer, first Earl of March, whom Edward labelled the king’s traitor and mortal enemy.60

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Isabella’s refusal to return to England obviously appeared as a personal challenge to Edward II and represented much more than a marital quarrel. It implies that at this stage the queen had assumed a pivotal position in the opposition to the king, which crystallized in France and included the leading barons61 and the most prominent prelates of England.62 The growing disappointment with Edward II and the Despensers caused the opposition to reproach the King of England as rex inutilis, a rather convenient formula to justify its open hostility to the lawful ruler.63 Whereas, given its miscellaneous nature, the queen’s camp could not sustain a united front for long; still, the growing resentment toward Edward II and his senior advisors was powerful enough to support Isabella’s confrontational return to England and the eventual deposition of the king. Just a few days before her departure for England, however, Isabella wrote a moving letter to Walter Reynolds, Archbishop of Canterbury, justifying her refusal to return before the removal of the Despensers. The queen still referred to Edward II as her beloved and sweet lord and friend and assured the archbishop of her desire to be in her husband’s company and even to die with him.64 Subsequent developments, however, cast serious doubts as to the queen’s real sentiments towards the king at this stage and, no less important, as to her political plans for the immediate future.

At this crucial stage in her life, the choice of Isabella to lead the opposition to Edward II merits some attention, since it appears in complete contrast to the prevailing attitudes with regard to foreigners in general and to women in particular. The predominant approach to what Shulamith Shahar has successfully called The Fourth Estate,65 especially but not only among the nobility, might have prevented the choice of Isabella. Moreover, the inferior political status of women and their ←249 | 250→lack of rights to inheritance were manipulated time and again a few years afterwards, on the eve of the Hundred Years War; they further served as a serious claim against Edward III’s pretentions to the throne of France.66 Medieval queens did not therefore represent a privileged class, nor enjoyed special privileges; as claimed by André Poulet.

“A queen was not exempt from the ideology that defined the female. In absolute terms, the marriage that raised her to royal rank gave her a juridical and social status identical to those of her anonymous sisters and closed her in a domestic setting in contrast to that of the male, which centred on the exercise of power in the public and private spheres”.67

Bearing these reservations in mind, it seems reasonable to assume that the many discrepancies among the barons and their confronting party interests turned the queen into a unifying factor. Isabella might have been considered as someone around whom they could rely to lead the deposition of the lawful sovereign, while leaving themselves with a room to manoeuvre. The mediatory role that Isabella had successfully played in previous years undoubtedly helped to weaken, if not eradicate, both gender and xenophobic feelings.

On 24 September 1326, Isabella landed in England with about 700 men-at-arms. It was not the return of a repentant wife but the triumphal march of the queen to London. At this stage, one may also estimate that the main goal of Isabella was to remove not only the king’s corrupt advisors but Edward II himself, as well. Some chroniclers emphasized the fact that the queen’s army advanced without any use of violence, sine armis et sine quocumque bellico apparatu, hinting once more at Isabella’s popularity among the different sectors of contemporary society. They further claimed that the queen’s radical actions were widely justified by the need to remove the king’s evil counsellors, the Despensers at their head, and to seek justice for their many victims.68 Moreover, most chroniclers depicted Isabella’s policy as a faithful expression of popular will, not just of the barons, but also of the prelates and townsmen as well, especially those of London.69 The ancient motto of Vox populi, vox Dei, thus served to legitimize ←250 | 251→the first armed rebellion of a queen against her royal husband in the annals of medieval England. Thomas de la Moore’s claim seems therefore rather dubious, according to which it was Pope John XXII’s threat to excommunicate the queen’s opponents while releasing the king’s subjects from their fealty that paved the way for Isabella’s successful offensive.70

Isabella’s march to London fostered general anarchy in the city,71 soon to be followed by the arrest of the Despensers on 26 October, and their summary execution a few days later.72 The rumours about Edward’s unsuccessful attempts to kill the queen – whether with the help of the Earl of Richmond or by himself, if need be by means of his own teeth should other weapons be lacking73 – were probably propagated by Isabella herself to justify her reluctance to meet her husband or to join him, as requested by some prelates. The following political developments, indeed, did not leave much room for a friendly, peaceful agreement between king and queen. Edward II fled to Wales, where he was captured in November.74 The many charges against the king were later summarized by Bishop John Stratford, who justified the first deposition of a king in the history of medieval England:

First, because the king is incompetent to govern in person. For throughout his reign he has been controlled and governed by others who have given him evil counsel […].

Item, […] he has always given himself up to unseemly works and occupations, neglecting to satisfy the needs of his realm […].

Item, through the lack of good government he has lost the realm of Scotland and other territories and lordships in Gascony and Ireland […].

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Item, by his pride and obstinacy and by evil counsel he has destroyed holy Church and imprisoned some of the persons of holy Church and brought distress upon others and also many great and noble men of his land he has put to a shameful death, imprisoned, exiled, and disinherited.

Item, wherein he was bound by his oath to do justice to all, he has not willed to do it, for his own profit and his greed […]

Item, he has stripped his realm, and done all that he could to ruin his realm and his people, and what is worse, by his cruelty and lack of character he has shown himself incorrigible without hope of amendment, which things are so notorious that they cannot be denied.75

The conclusion is rather clear: Edward was not only a rex inutilis but also one who had systematically harmed the contractual essence of the English monarchy, as clearly expressed in the coronation oath.76 Furthermore, Edward’s actions throughout his reign were to the detriment of the kingdom and the privileges of all sectors of society, the clergy and the nobility at its head. Under these circumstances, the king’s readiness to abdicate – under the condition that his son, Edward III, and not his wife, Isabella, would inherit the kingdom – released the community of the realm of any obligation towards the deposed king.77

With the constitutional background provided by each and every charge against Edward II, his oldest son, Edward III, was nominated custos or keeper of the realm (26 October) and formally crowned in Westminster Abbey on 1 February 1327. Since the lawful heir to the English throne was fourteen years old,78 Isabella and Roger Mortimer, one the most radical elements in the queen’s ←252 | 253→camp, were appointed regents.79 The exercise of regency seemingly opened ample possibilities for Isabella. Still, the very essence of regency was of a limited scope, mainly, during Prince Edward’s minority and as such was only temporary. Besides, Isabella’s problematic relations with Mortimer were in blatant contrast to the expectations of a queen regent. On the other hand, the mysterious death if not murder of Edward II at Berkeley Castle on 21 September 1327 – allegedly after three unsuccessful escape attempts80 – seemingly freed Isabella of any threat from the deposed king, but it did not increase her power. Although the queen could still rely on her son’s affection and her privileged rank as queen mother, considerations of this kind could not suffice to ensure her political survival to the long range in light of the growing resentment against her rule.81

The shift in attitude towards Isabella between the years 1327 and 1330 is faithfully reflected in contemporary sources. Although there is no indication whatsoever of Isabella’s active role in Edward’s death,82 medieval chroniclers dramatically changed their approach to the queen. They now sympathized with Edward’s suffering, claiming that the late king had made repeated requests to meet his beloved queen but had encountered Isabella’s complete refusal, thus disclosing the vindictiveness and cruelty of the queen’s character. A new, more sensitive image of Edward II was gradually elaborated; his past weaknesses were ignored as if they had never been, to pave the way for a reincarnation of the biblical Job, who peacefully acquiesced in suffering his misery.83 This new approach ←253 | 254→afforded a convenient background for the later abortive attempts to bring about Edward II’s canonization.84 The growing resentment to the queen did not remain in the field of monastic laments alone. Isabella’s unrestrained liaison with Roger Mortimer and her generous munificence towards him85 turned most nobles, her partners in the near past and her indispensable allies for the near future, against the new regime. Isabella was aware of her deteriorating position and tried to restore her former standing by all the means at her disposal; among others, by promoting Thomas Lancaster’s canonization at the papal court, restricting the very unpopular Laws of the Forest, and awarding various privileges to the City of London.86 She further tried to appeal to the magic influence of consultation and consent as the constitutional foundations of the new regime, as reflected in Edward III’s formal confirmation of the Great Charter in the Parliament of Westminster (1327):

To the honour of God and the common profit of the people, by assent of prelates, earls, barons and other magnates, and all the commonalty of the realm.87

It is rather dubious whether this bombastic declaration did indeed reflect the plans of action of Isabella and Mortimer or what seems more reasonable, actually represents a lip service to the prevailing expectations of the new regime. One can further assume that these declarations actually reflect the declined status of Isabella soon after the deposition of Edward II, and her need for a more favourable ‘public opinion’. However, declarations of this kind were of no avail and did not improve the queen’s abating position, as faithfully reflected in contemporary records. Many chroniclers criticized Isabella’s luxurious way of life, coupled with her greediness, and endless pursuit of estates all over the country.88 Although the allegation made by some chroniclers that Isabella owned two thirds of English ←254 | 255→territories is undoubtedly exaggerated, it faithfully reflects the growing antagonism to the queen’s expansionist policy.89 Geoffrey le Baker could therefore at this stage approach Isabella as harpya, virago, or just Jezebel.90

Isabella’s extreme greed coupled with Mortimer’s ostentatious displaying of his new prosperity, undoubtedly aroused old feuds among both the nobles and the chroniclers, who faithfully reported the changing state of mind. Isabella and Mortimer thus inherited the prevailing antagonism to the royal favourites, a political process that by the end of the century brought about the first impeachment in the constitutional history of England.91 The changing attitudes towards the queen cannot therefore be explained by her personal behaviour alone since Isabella had been with Mortimer at the beginning of her military campaign a few months earlier, and she remained with him during her rule as queen regent. It seems therefore much more reasonable to focus on the policies that Isabella and Mortimer supported during these critical years as the main reason for the queen’s decline.92

At the theoretical, statutory level, one should keep in mind the gender prejudices prevailing in medieval society as a whole, primarily among the ruling classes. As claimed by Louis Huneycutt: “While it is clear that medieval thinkers were not able or even willing to exclude women from sharing in public authority, it is not so clear that their tolerance extended to accepting a female ruler in her own right” (emphasis mine).93 In a more practical level, Isabella and Mortimer failed to improve internal stability thus actually enduring the chaos of Edward II’s reign.94 Their struggle with the Lancastrian faction and the lawless ←255 | 256→execution of the Earl of Kent further pushed England to the verge of civil war.95 The couple was much more successful in the external arena. Indeed, Isabella and Mortimer ended the War of Saint-Sardos with France, and large areas of Gascony were returned to England in exchange for 50,000 marks as war indemnity [Treaty of Paris, 31 March 1327].96 They further succeeded in achieving peace with Scotland by the Treaty of Edinburgh/Northampton [5 May 1328].97 Even if the balance of power was precarious, it is rather clear that from the very beginning of their rule Isabella and Mortimer supported a peace policy. The peace treaties with both France and Scotland were in complete disregard of the bellicose strategy of Edward III, shared by most barons, which in a few years resulted in the Hundred Years War. These achievements, however, were to the very short run: though the Treaty of Paris left the Agenais to France, the premature death of the last Capetian king soon afterwards led to the inheritance claims by Isabella and Edward III, thus making the whole agreement meaningless.98 The queen’s policy with regard to Scotland was not much more effective nor much popular. Although Robert Bruce had to pay 20,000 pounds in compensation for his damaging attacks along the northern border, many of his English neighbours still regarded him as an outlaw. Furthermore, the treaty of Edinburgh did not settle the territorial claims of the English lords, thus strengthening their opposition to Isabella and Mortimer, whose policy was regarded as a shameful surrender to an inferior enemy.99

The agreements with France and Scotland did not therefore encounter much support in England, especially among the barons, who had recently supported Isabella’s coup d’état. The unpopularity of Isabella and Mortimer’s foreign policy, coupled with continuous internal instability, fostered the consolidation of the opposition around Edward III, who appeared as the natural, lawful leader, already at an age to assume real power over the kingdom.100 On 18 October ←256 | 257→1330, Edward had Mortimer arrested in the queen’s chamber at Nottingham. Notwithstanding his mother’s cry, Bel fitz! Bel fitz! Eiez pitie du gentil Mortimer, the queen’s paramour was indicted before parliament for the murder of Edward II and many other crimes, and was sentenced to death about one month later, as was Isabella.101 Yet, the young king commuted his mother’s death penalty in return for the confiscation of all her lands. Contemporary chroniclers were well aware of the critical role played by Edward III in releasing Isabella from her tragic fortune:

Isabella, mater regis, adjudicate est perdere omnes terras suas, et cum difficultate evasit damnationem ad mortem, eo qued erat mater regis, et ob reverentiam regis dilate est haec sententia.102

The clemency showed by Edward III to his mother, however, hardly reflects just a filial, unconditional love. It seems much more reasonable to assume that the young king was well aware of the harm that Isabella’s execution might cause to the already fragile prestige of the English monarchy and his own claims to political expansion in France.103 Edward III’s political considerations were clearly manifested throughout his obstinate refusal to allow Isabella’s mediation with France, despite Philip VI’s continuous requests.104 On the other hand, Edward III provided Isabella with an annual stipend of 3,000 pounds, a generous amount that allowed the queen to enjoy a comfortable way of life.105 Forced, however, to resign from political activity, Isabella retired to Castle Rising in Norfolk, which she left for periodic visits to Windsor and other areas of the kingdom. Ultimately, ←257 | 258→Isabella joined the lay penitents of the Poor Clares of the Franciscan Order in 1358 and died soon afterwards.106

As the main reasons for Isabella and Mortimer’s downfall, contemporary records pointed to their sinful relations – which according to some chroniclers led to the queen’s alleged pregnancy after Edward II’s death.107 They further mentioned the couple’s usurpation of Edward III’s prerogatives, their misuse of royal finances, the unlawful execution of Edmund, Earl of Kent, and the shameful peace treaty with Scotland without the agreement of the notables and leaders of the kingdom. All these accusations were repeated time and again to justify Mortimer’s execution, but they also faithfully reflect the deterioration in Isabella’s status during the three years of her rule.108 Edward III seemingly learned the lessons of his parents’ downfall, and at the beginning of his reign publicly declared that:

[…] Our affairs and the affairs of our realm have been managed in the past to our damage and dishonor and that of our kingdom, and to the impoverishment of our people […] And we wish all men to know that in the future we will govern our people according to right and reason, as is fitting our royal dignity; and that the matters which touch us and the estate of our realm are to be disposed of by the common counsel of the magnates of our realm, and not in any other manner.109

Bearing in mind the centralistic policy of Edward III throughout his long rule, it is rather dubious whether the letter to the sheriff of York did indeed reflect the royal plans of action to the long range. It seems more reasonable to assume that it echoes prevailing expectations, which Isabella did not want or was not able to accomplish during the three years of her rule.

***

←258 | 259→

In contrast to the multifaceted figure that emerges from the medieval sources, the she-wolf image of Isabella was perpetuated in theatre and poetry from the sixteenth century onwards, despite or perhaps because of the lack of satisfactory historical research. Christopher Marlowe introduced Isabella as a rejected wife, unloved and alone, while the nobles extolled her virtue (lines 486 ff.). Her actions were dictated by the men involved in her life, first by her father, King Philip IV of France, and then by her husband, Edward II of England, but also by Gaveston and Mortimer, and finally by her son, Edward III. As time passed on, Isabella gradually changed, and her image accordingly deteriorated. According to Marlowe, although the queen was well aware that her husband’s murder would bring about her son’s revenge on the perpetrators (line 2591), she ultimately accomplished her wish thus eventually emerging as a malicious and cruel woman.110 Thomas Gray, in the mid-eighteenth century, perpetuated this harmful image, which he encapsulated in the nickname of she-wolf,

Mark the year, and mark the night,

When Severn shall re-echo with affright

The shrieks of death, thro’ Berkley’s roof that ring,

Shrieks of an agonizing King!

She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs,

That tear’st the bowels of thy mangled mate,

From thee be born, who o’er thy country hangs

The scourge of Heav’n. What terrors round him wait!111

As claimed by Alison Weir, is seems therefore that Isabella was “more vilified than any other English Queen.”112 Indeed, although historiographical research on Isabella has developed considerably in recent years, much attention is still devoted to the scandalous events of her life, and her important insight into English politics is relegated to a secondary consideration, if any. Isabella became the symbol of the unfaithful wife, an adulterer, a woman of strong character and violent passions whose evil nature stood in complete contrast to the alleged morality of ←259 | 260→the English people.113 More than once Isabella has been accused of allowing her female frailty to overcome the queen in her.114 Bearing in mind Isabella’s impact on the political history of England, accusations of this kind seem hardly accurate and do not reflect the changing attitudes of the contemporaries. Medieval chroniclers, indeed, were more aware of the changing circumstances and concurrently shaped the fluctuating image of the queen. Notwithstanding Isabella’s challenge to traditional behaviour norms, up to 1327, even during Isabella’s march to London, they positively described the Queen of England and her policies and there were her policies that ultimately brought about her downfall.

To sum up, medieval queens were expected to promote the interests of their husbands and then – no less important – those of their children, as well as to preserve peace between their husband and their native lands, and to protect their own standing and power-base in the form of their dower. Isabella successfully fulfilled most of these tasks. However, Isabella’s liaison with Mortimer and her greedy pursuit of lands and revenues clearly went beyond the normal, accepted range of a queen, and they surely tarnished her image. Yet, the question as to the degree to which Isabella’s love affair brought about her downfall still stands. The wide support for Isabella’s return to England undoubtedly served the interests of the opposition to Edward II and the Despensers. After the queen brought about the deposition of the king, however, her part in English politics in fact finished, with or without Mortimer. Although Isabella was allowed to rule for three more years, the political chasm between her peace policy and the interests of the barons became unambiguous and eventually it was this chasm that led to Isabella’s downfall. Though gender considerations influenced sometimes the attitudes to Isabella, her downfall was primarily due to political interests and not to gender, even less to ethical reasoning. Although violence and war left their mark throughout her life, Isabella of France deserves to be freed from the she-wolf image, thus allowing her to reach a well-deserved status in the political history of medieval England.


1 For a more complete analysis of historiographical approaches to Isabella, see my articles: Isabella of France, Queen of England: A Reconsideration, in: Journal of Medieval History 10 (1984), pp. 107–124; Isabella of France, Queen of England: A Postscript, in: Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire 90,2 (2012), pp. 1–20.

2 Miriam Shadis: Blanche of Castile and Facinger’s ‘Medieval Queenship’: Reassessing the Argument, in: Kathleen Nolan (ed.): Capetian Women, New York 2003, pp. 137–161. See, also, Sean Gilsdorf: Queenship and Sanctity: The Lives of Mathilda and the Epitaph of Adelheid, Washington D.C. 2004, passim.

3 John Carmi Parsons: Isabella [Isabella of France], in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (www.oxforddnb.com/view/printable/14484; 7 July 2011).

4 Paul Charles Doherty: The Date of the Birth of Isabella, Queen of England (1308–58), in: Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 48 (1975), pp. 246–248.

5 Annales de Wigornia, ed. Henry Richard Luard, in: Annales monastici, 5 vols. (Rerum britannicarum medii aevi scriptores. Rolls Series 36), London 1864–69, vol. 4, London 1869, p. 538; Foedera, conventiones, literae…inter reges Angliae…ab ineunte saeculo duodecimo… ad nostra usque tempora, ed. Thomas Rymer, 10 vols., Hague 1739–1745, vol. 1,4, London 1739, p. 26.

6 Norman Housley: France, England, and the ‘National Crusade’, 1302–1386, in: Gillian Jondorf, David N. Dumville (eds.): France and the British Isles in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Essays by Members of Girton College, Cambridge, in Memory of Ruth Morgan, Woodbridge 1991, pp. 183–198. On the pressure exerted by Philip IV to advance the nuptials against Edward I’s hesitations, see, Paul Doherty: Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II, London 2003, p. 13ff.

7 The Plantagenet kings of England often opted to postpone the marriage of their daughters to the age of fifteen or even more, thus beyond the age criteria established in canon law.

8 Extraits d’une chronique anonyme intitulée Anciennes chroniques de Flandre, ed. M. Léopold Delisle in: Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, repr. Farnborough, Hants, 1967–1968, vol. 22, Paris 1968, p. 397; Chronicon Galfridi Le Baker de Swynebroke, ed. by John Allen Giles (Caxton Society 7), London 1847, pp. 49–50; Thomas de La Moore, ed. by William Stubbs, in: Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, 2 vols. (Rolls Series 76), London 1882–1883, vol. 2, London 1883, p. 297; Elizabeth A. R. Brown: The Marriage of Edward II of England and Isabella of France: A Postscript, in: Speculum 64 (1989), pp. 373–379.

9 Hilda Johnstone: Edward of Carnavon (1284–1307), Manchester 1946, p. 129; Bertie Wilkinson: The Later Middle Ages in England, London 1969, p. 118.

10 Gesta Edwardi de Carnavan auctore canonico Bridlingtoniensi, in: Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II (see note 8), vol. 2, London 1883, p. 32.

11 Sexta Vita Clementis V auctore Amalrico Augerii de Biterris priore Sanctae Mariae de Aspirano in dioecesi Elnensi (excerpta e chronicis quae dicuntur Actus Romanorum Pontificum), ed. Étienne Baluze, in: Vitae Paparum Avenionensium, 4 vols., Paris 1693, new ed. Guillaume Mollat, 4 vols., Paris 1914–1927, vol. 1, Paris 1914, p. 99.

12 Annales Londoniensis, in: Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II (see note 8), vol. 1, London 1882, p. 152.

13 Johan Huizinga: The Waning of the Middle Ages, trans. F. Hopman, 1924, Middlesex 1982, p. 9; Sophia Menache: The Vox Dei: Communication in the Middle Ages, New York 1990, p. 10.

14 Jeffrey S. Hamilton: Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, 1307–1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II, Detroit, London 1988, passim; Alistair Tebbit: Royal Patronage and Political Allegiance: The Household Knights of Edward II, 1314–1321, in: Michael Prestwich, Richard Britnell, Robin Frame (eds.): Thirteenth Century England – Proceedings of the Durham Conference 2003, Woodbridge 2005, pp. 197–208.

15 One should note in this regard that Pierre Chaplais’s assumption with regard to the adoptive brotherhood nature of the relationship between the king and his favorite has not gained much support in historical research. Still, Ian Mortimer recently suggested that Adam Orleton’s accusations of sodomy against Edward II might have been inspired by similar sodomy charges pronounced by the Capetian court against both Pope Boniface VIII and the Templars. See, Pierre Chaplais: Piers Gaveston: Edward II’s Adoptive Brother, Oxford 1994, pp. 109–114; Ian Mortimer: Sermons of Sodomy: A Reconsideration of Edward II’s Sodomitical Reputation, in: Gwilym Dodd, Anthony Musson (eds.): The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, Woodbridge 2006, pp. 48–60.

16 On contemporary attitudes toward homosexuality, see Claire Sponsler: The King’s Boyfriend: Froissart’s Political Theater of 1326, in: Glenn Burger, Steven F. Kruger (eds.): Queering the Middle Ages, Minneapolis 2001, pp. 143–167.

17 John Robert Maddicott: Thomas of Lancaster 1307–1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II, London 1970, p. 83 ff.

18 John of Trokelowe: Annales, ed. Henry Thomas Riley, in: Chronica Monasterii S. Albani, 7 vols. (Rolls Series 28), London 1863–1876, vol. 3, London 1866, pp. 75–76.

19 Annales Paulini, in: Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II (see note 8), vol. 1, London 1882, p. 258, 262; Chronicle of Walter of Guisborough, ed. Harry Rothwell (Camden, 3rd s.), London 1989, p. 382.

20 Seymour Phillips: Edward II, London 2010, pp. 96–97.

21 Geoffroy de Paris, in: Recueil (see note 8), vol. 22, p. 135, 138, 139, 151. See, also, Jean Froissart: Chronicles, ed. Georges Diller, Genève 1972, p. 49; Landulphhus de Columna, in: Recueil (see note 8), vol. 22, p. 194.

22 Margaret Howell: Eleanor of Provence: Queenship in Thirteenth-Century England, Oxford 1998, p. 5.

23 Guillaume de Tours: Historia francorum, ed. and trans. Lewis Thorpe, Harmondsworth 1974, liber 2, chapter 29–31, pp. 87–90.

24 Andrea Ruddick: English Identity and Political Culture in the Fourteenth Century, Cambridge 2013, pp. 128–32; Sophia Menache: Les Hébreux du XIVe siècle: La formation des stéréotypes nationaux en France et en Angleterre, in: Ethnopsychologie 35 (1980), pp. 55–65; ead.: Vers une conscience nationale: Mythe et symbolisme au début de la Guerre de Cent Ans, in: Le Moyen Age 89 (1983), pp. 85–97.

25 Thomas Walsingham: Historia Anglicana, in: Chronica monasterii S. Albani (see note 18), vol. 1,1–2, London 1863–1864, vol. 1,1, London 1863, p. 131; John of Trokelowe: Annales (see note 18), pp. 75–76.

26 The Household Book of Queen Isabella of England for the Fifth Regal Year of Edward II, ed. F. D. Blackley, G. Hermansen (The University of Alberta Classical and Historical Studies 1), Edmonton, Alberta 1971, XXVI.

27 John of Trokelowe: Annales (see note 18), p. 68; Thomas Walsingham: Historia Anglicana (see note 25), p. 125.

28 Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo: Woman, Culture and Society: A Theoretical Overview, in: Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo, Louise Lamphere (eds.): Woman, Culture and Society, Stanford 1974, pp. 32–33.

29 John Carmi Parsons: Mothers, Daughters, Marriage, Power: Some Plantagenet Evidence, 1150–1500, in: John Carmi Parsons (ed.): Medieval Queenship, Stroud 1994, p. 72. As for Philip IV’s concern for Isabella’s comfort, see, Elizabeth A. R. Brown: The Political Repercussions of Family Ties in the Early Fourteenth Century: The Marriage of Edward II of England and Isabelle of France, in: Speculum 63 (1988), pp. 582–584.

30 Jean Favier: Philippe le Bel, Paris 1978, pp. 152–159, 206–223; Francoise Autrand: Progrès de l’état moderne ou construction de l’état du droit? Les ordonnances de réforme du royaume de France XIVe – XVe s., in: Emmanuelle Baumgartner, Laurence Harf-Lancner (eds.): Progrès, réaction, decadence dans l’occident medieval (Publications romanes et françaises 231), Genève 2003, pp. 65–77.

31 Ronald Butt: A History of Parliament, London 1989, p. 110–11; Kathryn Faulkner: The Knights in the Magna Carta Civil War, in: Michael Prestwich, Richard Britnell, Robin Frame (eds.): Thirteenth Century England – Proceedings of the Durham Conference 1999, Woodbridge 2001, pp. 1–12.

32 Wilkinson: The Later Middle Ages in England (see note 9), pp. 119ff.

33 Gilbert de Clare was one of the Lord Ordainers who brought about the expulsion of Piers Gaveston. See, Michael Prestwich: A New Version of the Ordinances of 1311, in: Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 57 (1984), pp. 189–203; John H. Truman: The Statute of York and the Ordinances of 1311, in: Medievalia et Humanistica 10 (1956), pp. 64–81.

34 John of Trokelowe: Annales (see note 18), p. 80.

35 Bertie Wilkinson: Negotiations Preceding the Treaty of Leake, August 1318, in: Richard W. Hunt, W. A. Pantin, R. W. Southern (eds.): Studies in Medieval History Presented to F. M. Powicke, Oxford 1948, vol. 1, pp. 333–353.

36 On the role of intercessor ascribed to medieval queens and their influence in actual practice, see, Howell: Eleanor of Provence (see note 21), pp. 257–260.

37 Maddicott: Thomas of Lancaster 1307–1322 (see note 17), p. 90–92, 102–104; James Conway Davies: The Baronial Opposition to Edward II: Its Character and Policy – A Study in Administrative History, Cambridge 1918, pp. 426–430; John Roland Seymour Phillips: Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke 1307–1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II, Oxford 1972, p. 270 ff.

38 Les grandes chroniques de France, ed. by Jules Viard, 10 vols., Paris 1920–53, vol. 8, Paris 1934, ad a. 1312; Continuationis chronici Guillelmi de Nangiaco pars prima, ed. Hercule Géraud, in: Chronique latine de Guillaume de Nangis de 1113 à 1300 avec les continuations de cette chronique de 1300 à 1368, 2 vols. (Société de l’histoire de France 33–35), Paris 1843, vol. 1, ad a. 1312; Continuatio chronici Girardi de Fracheto, in: Recueil (see note 8), vol. 21, p. 33.

39 Thomas Walsingham: Historia Anglicana (see note 25), p. 136, 161; Annales Paulini (see note 19), p. 297; Chroniques de London, ed. George James, London 1844, p. 49.

40 Edward III of England; Joan of the Tower, Queen of the Scots; John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall; Eleanor of Woodstock, Countess of Guelders.

41 Flores historiarum, ed. Henry Richard Luard, 3 vols. (Rolls Series 95), London 1890, vol. 3, p. 176; Adae Murimuth continuatio chronicarum, ed. Edward Maunde Thompson (Rolls Series 93), London 1889, p. 45ff.; Annales Londoniensis (see note 12), pp. 220–221; Annales Paulini (see note 19), p. 273, 283, 291; Vita Edwardi Secundi, Monachi Cuiusdam Malmesberiensis, in: Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II (see note 8), vol. 2, London 1883, pp. 36–37.

42 See Parsons: Mothers (see note 29), pp. 66–68.

43 Vita Edwardi Secundi (see note 41), p. 39.

44 John of Trokelowe: Annales (see note 18), p. 103; Annales Paulini (see note 19), p. 287; Flores historiarum (see note 41), p. 189; Vita Edwardi Secundi (see note 41), p. 95.

45 János M. Bak: Roles and Functions of Queens in Arpádian and Angevin Hungary (1000–1386 A.D.), in: John Carmi Parsons (ed.): Medieval Queenship, Stroud 1994, pp. 14–16.

46 Martyn Lawerence: Rise of a Royal Favourite: The Early Career of Hugh Despenser the Elder, in: Gwilym Dodd, Anthony Musson (eds.): The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, Woodbridge 2006, pp. 205–219.

47 Seymour Phillip: Edward II (see note 20), pp. 481–483.

48 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 1, 2, London 1739, p. 110.

49 The Chronicon of Lanercost, ed. Herbert Maxwell, Glasgow 1913, p. 254.

50 F. D. Blackley: Isabella and the Bishop of Exeter, in: T. A. Sanquist, M. R. Powicke (eds.): Essays in medieval history presented to Bertie Wilkinson, Toronto 1969, p. 230ff.

51 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 1, 2, London 1739, p. 144, 148.

52 On the war of Saint Sardos, see, Phillips: Edward II (see note 20), pp. 461–481.

53 Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, 1305–42, ed. William H. Bliss, London 1895, p. 461, 468, 469, 475, and 477.

54 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,2, London 1739, p. 132, 141. Isabella had represented her husband at the Capetian court already ten years earlier, in 1314. See, Elizabeth A. R. Brown: Diplomacy, Adultery, and Domestic Politics at the Court of Philip the Fair: Queen Isabella’s Mission to France in 1314, in: Jeffrey S. Hamilton, Patricia J. Bradley (eds.): Documenting the Past: Essays in Medieval History Presented to George Peddy Cuttino, Woodbridge 1989, pp. 53–83.

55 Vita Edwardi Secundi (see note 41), p. 228–229; trans. by Phillips: Edward II (see note 20), p. 483.

56 Chronique de Jean le Bel, ed. Jules Viard, Eugene Déprez (Société historique de France), Paris 1904, p. 13.

57 Chroniques de London, ed. George Aungier (Camden Society), London 1847, p. 57. See, also, Carla Lord: Queen Isabella at the Court of France, in: Chris Given-Wilson (ed.): Fourteenth Century England, vol. 2, Woodbridge 2002, pp. 45–52; on Isabella’s itinerary, see Pierre Chaplais: The War of Saint Sardos 1324–1325, Gascon Correspondence and Diplomatic Documents, London 1954, pp. 267–270.

58 The Chronicon of Lanercost (see note 49), p. 249.

59 Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers (see note 53), p. 477, 479.

60 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,2, London 1739, pp. 147–148, 153, 159. For the biography of Roger Mortimer, see, Ian Mortimer: The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England, 1327–1330, London 2004.

61 Among others, Edmund of Kent, half-brother of the king on his father’s side; Henry of Lancaster, brother of the late Earl Thomas; Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk; Henry of Beaumont; John de Brittany, Earl of Richmond; and Roger Mortimer de Wigmore.

62 Kathleen Edwards: The Political Importance of the English Bishops during the Reign of Edward II, in: English Historical Review 49 (1944), pp. 311–347.

63 On the constitutional problems raised by the queen’s journey, see, Vivian Hunter Galbraith: Good Kings and Bad Kings in Medieval English History, in: History 30 (1945), pp. 119–132; Edward Peters: The Shadow King: Rex Inutilis in Medieval Law and Literature, New Haven, London 1970, passim.

64 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,1, London 1739, p. 622–623. Blackley: Queen Isabella and the Bishop of Exeter (see note 50), p. 234.

65 Shulamith Shahar: The Fourth Estate: A History of Women in the Middle Ages, trans. Chaya Galai, London 1983.

66 John Le Patourel: Edward III and the Kingdom of France, in: Clifford J. Rogers (ed.): The Wars of Edward III: Sources and Interpretations, Woodbridge 1999, pp. 247–264; Craig Taylor: The Salic Law and the Valois Succession to the French Crown, in: French History 15,4 (2001), pp. 358–377.

67 André Poulet: Capetian Women and the Regency: The Genesis of a Vocation, in: John Carmi Parsons (ed.): Medieval Queenship, Stroud 1994, pp. 93–116, p. 93.

68 Continuationis chronici Guillelmi de Nangiaco pars prima (see note 38), vol. 1, p. 640.

69 Extraits d’une chronique anonyme intitulée Anciennes chroniques de Flandre (see note 8), p. 420; Froissart: Chroniques (see note 21), pp. 54–55; Chronique de Jean le Bel (see note 56), pp. 11–12; Chronicon Henrici Knighton monachi Leycestrensis, ed. Joseph Rawson Lumby (Rolls Series 92), London 1889, p. 435.

70 Thomas de La Moore (see note 8), pp. 308–309.

71 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,2, London 1739, p. 167; Annales Paulini (see note 19), pp. 315, 321, 325–326; Flores Historiarum (see note 41), pp. 233–234; Vita Edwardi Secundi (see note 41), pp. 310–311.

72 On the grievances against the Despensers, see, Shelagh A. Sheddon: Wording and Realities: The Language and Dating of Petitions, 1326–7, in: W. Mark Ormrod, Gwilyn Dodd, Anthony Musson (eds.): Medieval Petitions: Grace and Grievance, Woodbridge 2009, pp. 193–205; Saul Nigel: The Despensers and the Downfall of Edward II, in: English Historical Review 99 (1984), pp. 1–33.

73 Thomas Walsingham: Historia Anglicana (see note 25), p. 179; Cartulary of Winchester Cathedral, ed. Arthur Goodman, London 1927, p. 105.

74 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,2, London 1739, p. 169; Claire Valente: The Deposition and Abdication of Edward II, in: English Historical Review 113 (1998), pp. 852–881.

75 Select Documents of English Constitutional History, ed. George Burton Adams, H. Morse Stevens, New York 1908, p. 99; Roy Martin Haines: King Edward II: His Life, His Reign, and Its Aftermath, 1294–1330, Montreal, London, Ithaca 2003, pp. 343–345; Gwilym Dodd: Parliament and Political Legitimacy in the Reign of Edward II, in: Gwilym Dodd, Anthony Musson (eds.): The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, Woodbridge 2006, pp. 165–189.

76 R. S. Hoyt: The Coronation Oath of 1308, in: English Historical Review 71 (1956), pp. 353–383; John Robert Maddicott: Parliament and the Constituencies, 1272–1377, in: Richard G. Davies, Jeffrey H. Denton (eds.): The English Parliament in the Middle Ages, Philadelphia, PA 1981, pp. 61–87.

77 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,2, London 1739, p. 169; Chronicon Galfridi Le Baker (see note 8), pp. 313–314.

78 The age of the king’s majority varied enormously in the Middle Ages, depending on circumstances and politics. According to Roman Law, however, fourteen was the age at which ceased the tutelage of young men. Frank L. Wiswall claims that the very fact that Prince Edward was already fourteen at this time obviated the need for any special arrangements and allowed him to assume an important symbolic role in the downfall of his father’s regime. See, Frank L. Wiswall: Politics, Procedure and the ‘Non-Minority’ of Edward III: Some Comparisons, in: James L. Gillespie (ed.): The Age of Richard II, New York 1997, p. 10.

79 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,2, London 1739, p. 172.

80 There were persistent rumors about Edward’s mysterious flight and his miraculous escape to Italy as a hermit; the accusation of having been involved in Edward’s escape played a central role in the trial against his half-brother, Edmund, Earl of Kent, on charges of high treason. On the many reports on Edward II’s “afterlives”, see Phillips: Edward II (see note 20), pp. 577–606; Seymour Phillips: Edward II in Italy: English and Welsh Political Exiles and Fugitives in Continental Europe, 1322–1364, in: Michael Prestwich, Richard Britnell, Robin Frame (eds.): Thirteenth Century England – Proceedings of the Durham Conference 2003, Woodbridge 2005, pp. 209–226.

81 Annales Paulini (see note 19), p. 337; Adae Murimuth continuatio chronicarum (see note 41), p. 53–55; Chronicon Galfridi Le Baker de Swynebroke (see note 8), pp. 31–34.

82 Annals of Bermondsey, in: Annales monastici (see note 5), vol. 3, London 1866, p. 472.

83 Chronicon Galfridi Le Baker de Swynebroke (see note 8), p. 88–90; Thomas de la Moore (see note 8), pp. 315–317; Adae Murimuth continuatio chronicarum (see note 41), p. 52. See, also, Claire Valente: The Lament of Edward II: Religious Lyric, Political Propaganda, in: Speculum 77 (2002), pp. 422–439.

84 Josiah Cox Russell: The Canonization of Opposition to the King in Angevin England, in: Anniversary Essays in Medieval History by Students of Charles Homer Haskins, New York, Boston 1929, pp. 279–290.

85 Already in 1327, Mortimer was granted lands in Wales and the Western Marches to be enlarged by the next year at the expenses of the followers of Edward II and the Despensers. By the end of 1328 Mortimer got the offices of justice of north and south Wales and justice of Ireland, as well as the title of earl of the March of Wales.

86 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,2, London 1739, p. 181, vol. 2,3, London 1739, p. 39.

87 Bertie Wilkinson: Constitutional History of Medieval England, 1216–1399, 3 vols., London 1952, vol. 2, pp. 173–174.

88 Calendar of the Fine Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office Edward III (1327–1377), London 1924, p. 24.

89 Isabella expropriated the holdings of the younger Despenser to which she added the county of Cornwall, along with castles, manors and towns, amounting about 130 properties in thirty different counties and north Wales. In less than three years, her annual endowment grew from 6750 marks prior to 1325 to 20,000 marks in 1328. N. Fryde: The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II, 1321–1326, Cambridge 1979, pp. 208–209.

90 Chronicon Galfridi Le Baker de Swynebroke (see note 8), p. 28; Froissart: Chroniques (see note 21), p. 257.

91 Ronald Butt: A History of Parliament (see note 34), pp. 139–141; J. R. Maddicott: Parliament and the Constituencies, 1372–1377, in: R. G. Davies and J. H. Denton (eds.): The English Parliament in the Middle Ages, Manchester 1981, p. 61.

92 On different historiographical analysis in this regard, see in my: Isabella of France, Queen of England: A Postscript (see note 3), pp. 14–20.

93 Louis L. Huneycutt: Female Succession and the Language of Power in the Writings of Twelfth-Century Churchmen, in: John Carmi Parsons (ed.): Medieval Queenship, Stroud 1994, pp. 189–201, p. 201.

94 Foedera conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2, 2, London 1739, p. 172.

95 On the attempts of Isabella and Mortimer to justify their policy at the papal court, see, Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,3, London 1740, p. 40, 43.

96 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,2, London 1739, pp. 185–186.

97 Ibid., p. 172, 176, 198; vol. 2,3, London 1740, p. 3, 5, 58.

98 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 2,3, London 1739, p. 23.

99 May McKisack: The Fourteenth Century, 1307–1399, Oxford 1959, p. 99; John Robert Maddicott: The Origins of the Hundred Years War, in: History Today 36,5 (1986), pp. 31–38.

100 On the composition of Edward III’s faction, see, Caroline Shenton: Edward III and the Coup of 1330, in: James S. Bothwell (ed.): The Age of Edward III, York 2001, pp. 13–34.

101 Mortimer was denied any right to respond to the numerous accusations against him in parliament, being convicted by notoriety. Furthermore, he was hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor (29 November 1330). Adae Murimuth continuatio chronicarum (see note 41), p. 61–62; Annales Paulini (see note 19), p. 352; the most complete rapport appears in Chronicon Galfridi Le Baker de Swynebroke (see note 8), pp. 109–113. See a summary of the charges against Mortimer incorporated in the Rolls of Parliament, in: Haines: King Edward II (see note 75), pp. 346–347.

102 Chronicon Henrici Knighton monachi Leycestrensis (see note 69), p. 454.

103 Henry Knighton: Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden Monachi Cestrensis, ed. by Rev. Joseph Rawson Lumby, 9 vols. (Rolls Series 41), London 1865–1886, vol. 8, London 1882 p. 454.

104 Foedera, conventiones, literae (see note 5), vol. 3,1, London 1740, p. 39; Adae Murimuth continuatio chronicarum (see note 41), p. 155, 231.

105 E. A. Bond: Notices of the Last Days of Isabella, Queen of Edward the Second, drawn from an Account of the Expenses of her Household, in: Archaeologia 35 (1853), pp. 453–469.

106 Ibid., p. 100.

107 Chronique de Richard Lescot, réligieux de Saint Denis, 1328–1344, ed. Jean Lemoine, Paris 1896, p. 21; Froissart: Chroniques (see note 21), p. 185–186; Chronique de Jean le Bel (see note 56), p. 102.

108 Henry Knighton: Polychronicon (see note 103), pp. 447–448, 452; Annales de Bermundeseia, in: Annales monastici (see note 5), vol. 3, London 1866, p. 472; Robert de Avesbury: De gestis mirabilibus regis Edwardi Tertii, ed. G. Thompson (Rolls Series 93), London 1889, p. 283; Froissart: Chroniques (see note 21), p. 183; Chronique de Jean le Bel (see note 54), p. 102; Chroniques de London (see note 57), pp. 61–63; John of Bridlington, ed. Thomas Wright, in: Political Poems and Songs Relating to English History from the Accession of Edward III to That of Richard II, 2 vols. (R. S. 14), London 1859–1861, vol. 1, London 1859, p. 140.

109 Bertie Wilkinson: Constitutional History of Medieval England (see note 87), vol. 2, pp. 173–174.

110 Christopher Marlowe: Edward II, in: H. Charlton and R. D. Waller (eds.): The Works and Life of Christopher Marlowe, New York 1966, p. 184; Barbara Wooding: She-Wolves of France, in: The Marlowe Society 8 (2011), pp. 1–12 (www.marlowe-society.org/pubs/journal; 7 May 2018).

111 Thomas Gray: The Bard, in: Arthur Quiller-Couch (ed.): The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250–1900, Oxford 1919, p. 20. See, also, Bertolt Brecht: Edward II, ed. E. Bentley, New York 1966, p. 14, 46.

112 Alison Weir: Isabella She-Wolf of France, Queen of England, London 2006, p. 2.

113 Charles W. Oman: History of England, New York 1900, p. 179; Caroline Bingham: The Life and Times of Edward II, London 1973, p. 191.

114 Thomas Bertrain Costain: The Three Edwards, New York 1958, p. 240.