The Family of Isabella of France, Queen of England

Today we have a guest post from Kathryn Warner about Edward II’s queen, Isabella. Royal genealogy is very tangled but crucial to understanding bigger political decisions, so one of the best things you can have a is a clear picture of who’s who. Thank you Kathryn!!

Isabella of France was probably born in late 1295, and married Edward II of England on 25 January 1308, not long after she turned twelve.  Isabella was the third but only surviving daughter of the then reigning king of France, Philip IV ‘le Bel’ (the Fair in the sense of ‘handsome’), who was born in 1268 and who had succeeded his father Philip III as king when he was seventeen in 1285.  Isabella’s mother was Joan I, queen of Navarre and countess of Champagne, Brie and Bigorre in her own right, who was born in 1273 and who succeeded her father King Henry I ‘the Fat’ as a baby in 1274.  Philip and Joan married in 1284 when he was sixteen and she eleven.  Queen Joan died in 1305 in her early thirties, and Philip never remarried.

Philip IV and Joan I had seven children, of whom four survived into adulthood and were all crowned monarchs.  The eldest boy was Louis, born in October 1289, who succeeded his mother as king of Navarre in 1305 and his father as Louis X of France in 1314.  The second was Philip V, born in the early 1290s and king of France from 1316 to 1322, and the third was Charles IV, born in 1293/94, who reigned from 1322 to 1328.  Isabella was the sixth child.  She had two older sisters called Marguerite and Blanche, dates of birth unknown, who both died in or shortly before 1295, and a younger brother called Robert, probably born in 1297, who died as a child in 1308.  Her brothers Louis X, Philip V and Charles IV were the last three Capetian kings of France.  As they had no surviving male issue, the throne of France passed in 1328 to their cousin Philip VI, son of Philip IV’s younger brother Charles of Valois; the Valois dynasty would rule France until 1589.

Isabella of France was probably named after her paternal grandmother Isabel of Aragon, queen of France, one of the daughters of King James I ‘the Conqueror’ of Aragon and his second wife Violante or Yolande, daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary and Croatia.  Isabel of Aragon was probably born in 1247, and was queen of France for a mere five months, from the death of her father-in-law Louis IX and the accession of her husband Philip III in August 1270 until her own death in January 1271, when she was thrown from her horse while pregnant.  Two of Isabel’s five children survived: Philip IV and Charles of Valois, born in 1270.  Philip III, who was born in 1245 as the second but eldest surviving son of Louis IX and Marguerite of Provence, married his second queen Marie of Brabant in 1274 and had another three children with her, including Marguerite, queen of England, who married the widowed Edward I in 1299 and was the stepmother of Isabella of France’s husband Edward II.

Isabella of France’s maternal grandmother was Blanche of Artois, whose father Robert, count of Artois (killed on crusade in Egypt in 1250) was the brother closest in age to Louis IX of France.  Blanche married firstly King Henry I of Navarre, and their only surviving child was Queen Joan I.  She married secondly Edward I of England’s younger brother Edmund, earl of Lancaster (1245-1296) and had two sons with him, Isabella’s uncles Thomas and Henry, earls of Lancaster.  Blanche of Artois was, confusingly, the aunt by marriage of Isabella’s husband Edward II as well as her grandmother.  Blanche died in England in 1302, the only one of Isabella’s grandparents still alive when she was born.  Isabella’s great-grandmother Marguerite of Provence, widow of Louis IX, died in December 1295, which was about the time that Isabella was born.  Marguerite’s younger sister Eleanor married Henry III of England and was the grandmother of Edward II, which means that Edward and Isabella were second cousins once removed.

Isabella’s eldest brother Louis succeeded their mother in Navarre in 1305, and in the same year married Marguerite of Burgundy.  She was one of the daughters of Duke Robert II of Burgundy and Agnes of France, the youngest daughter of Louis IX and Marguerite of Provence (which means that Marguerite of Burgundy was a first cousin of her husband’s father Philip IV).  Louis and Marguerite had one child, Queen Joan II of Navarre, born in January 1312.  Marguerite was charged with adultery in 1314 and imprisoned; she died in captivity in August 1315.  Only five days later, Louis – now Louis X of France since the death of Philip IV in November 1314 – married his second wife, Clemence of Hungary.  Clemence was born in 1293 and was the daughter of Charles Martel, titular king of Hungary, and Klementia von Habsburg, daughter of Rudolf I, king of Germany.  Louis X of France died on 5 June 1316 at the age of only twenty-six, leaving Clemence pregnant: she gave birth five months later to King John I ‘the Posthumous’ of France, who died when he was only five days old.  Louis X had recognised Marguerite of Burgundy’s daughter Joan of Navarre as his own child, but the little girl was passed over for the French throne in favour of her uncle, who became Philip V.

Philip V and his younger brother Charles IV were married to sisters, Joan (born c. 1291) and Blanche (born c. 1295) of Burgundy.  Their parents were Othon IV, count of Burgundy (which covered a different area than the duchy of Burgundy) and Mahaut, countess of Artois in her own right.  Blanche was also embroiled in the adultery scandal of 1314 and imprisoned; she was finally released in 1325 and died, her health broken, some months later.  Joan of Burgundy inherited her parents’ counties of Burgundy and Artois, and died in 1330.  She and Philip V had four daughters who lived into adulthood, Joan, Marguerite, Isabella and Blanche of France.  Charles IV, after his marriage to Blanche of Burgundy was finally annulled in 1322, married Marie of Luxembourg, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor and king of Germany.  She went into premature labour with their son in March 1324, and died, along with her baby boy.  Charles married his fourteen-year-old first cousin Joan of Evreux, daughter of Philip IV’s half-brother Louis, count of Evreux, some months later.  Of their three daughters, only Charles’ posthumous child Blanche survived into adulthood, and married Philip, duke of Orleans, second son of Charles IV’s successor Philip VI.

Isabella of France and Edward II had four children: Edward III, king of England, born in 1312; John of Eltham, earl of Cornwall, born in 1316; Eleanor of Woodstock, duchess of Guelders, born in 1318; and Joan of the Tower, queen of Scotland, born in 1321.  Isabella outlived her second son and her elder daughter, and died at Hertford Castle on 22 August 1358, in her early sixties.  She was buried three months later at the Greyfriars church in London; sadly, her tomb was lost at the Dissolution.

– Kathryn Warner’s book Edward II: The Unconventional King is available from Amazon and all good booksellers, and her second book Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen will be published in 2016.

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  1. Kathyn’s book Edward II The Unconventional King is a great read, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking forward to Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen

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