Yolande of Aragon was born on 11 August 1384 to King John I of Aragon and his second wife, Yolande of Bar. She was not only a king’s daughter, through her mother she was also the granddaughter of King John II of France. As a well-dowered and noble bride, she was a marriage prize from the cradle. By the time Yolande was 10, it was clear she was beautiful and intelligent as well as rich, and her father was besieged by suitors.
Among the men negotiating for her hand in 1395 was Richard II of England . Since the last thing Charles VI of France wanted was two enemy states uniting, he quickly offered his own six year old daughter, Isabella to King Richard, which is how Richard married a 7 year old girl in 1396, instead of an 12 year old girl.
Yolande didn’t become Queen of England, but after her father’s death she was unwilling married to Louis II of Anjou, Duke of Anjou and King of Naples (Sicily), on 2 December 1400, at the ripe old age of 16.
In spite of her initial reluctance, she and her husband fell in love, and they had a happy and successful union. After the death of her uncle, Yolande had the strongest claim to the throne of Aragon, but was passed over in favor of a male cousin, Ferdinand, the second son of Eleanor of Aragon and John I of Castile. Nevertheless, Yolande began referring to herself as the Queen of Argaon, in symbolic protest. In that manner, she became the titular queen of four kingdoms – the other three being Sicily, Jerusalem, and Cyprus.
Yolande was everything a Medieval queen should ideally be. She was beautiful, intelligent, cunning, fertile, and loyal. She proved her loyalty repeatedly, backing her mother’s family – the rightful rulers of France – against the English invaders from without and against the rebellious factions causing civil war from within. She was also one of the few people who supported the French Dauphin Charles after King Charles VI was forced to disinherit in favor of Henry V of England in 1420 after the English forces captured Paris.
As Charles’ own mother, Queen Isabeau, worked against his claims, it has been said that Yolande was the person who protected the adolescent Charles against all sorts of plots on his life and acted as a substitute mother. She removed Charles from his parents’ court and kept him in her own castles, usually those in the Loire Valley … [additionally] Yolande arranged the marriage of Charles to her daughter Mary of Anjou, thus becoming Charles’ mother-in-law.
Yolande had thrown everything she had into backing Charles, but even with all her support it would take a miracle to make his a true king by reunite France and drive the English out. That’s when Yolande’s son Rene told her about the rumors he’d heard regarding a peasant girl from Arc, a teenaged nobody named Jeanne, who claimed that God had told her how to save France.
Determined to check out this girl’s claims, Yolande had the illiterate Jeanne brought to her. For two days the queen interrogated the child, trying to determine if Jeanne was hearing from God or was mad as a March hare or was faking it. Finally, Yolande was satisfied that Jeanne was legitimately hearing the voices of saints (or could legitimately pass as someone hearing the voices of saints), and decided to take her into battle. Charles was extremely skeptical, but it wasn’t HIS army that was going to save Orleans – it was Yolande’s.
Never one to cavil, Yolande called the army of Anjou back from their march to fight for her own son in Naples and re-routed them in an attempt to save her son-in-law.
Re-naming them “The Army of Jeanne d’Arc”, she dressed Joan in white armour, sits her on a tall, white charger, a great swirling white banner with the red cross of Lorraine fixed erect to her saddle. Joan, she instructs, is to be placed on a hill opposite Orléans and out of arrow range. There she was to blaze in the sun like a miraculous icon in order to inspire the soldiers fighting both inside and outside the city. Miraculously, nine days later, the city was relieved, and its remaining skeletal inhabitants saved. Yolande’s support of The Maid of Orléans, as the girl became known, was the beginning of France’s steady recovery of her kingdom.
But does Yolande get the credit for saving France by theatrically using Joan of Arc to rally the troops? Nope. Mostly you get the legends that have sprung up about how Joan herself came to Robert de Baudricourt, the garrison commander at Vaucouleurs, and demanded that he bring her to the Dauphin at Chinon. There it is claimed that Charles tested her (no mention of Yolande grilling her first), and how after talking to her the future king became convinced of her authenticity. It is Charles, not Yolande, who is credited to sending Joan of Arc with an armed force to Orléans in March 1429. In fact, it is even claimed that Joan raised the army to break the siege of Orleans, even though it is historically proven the troops were Yolande’s army of Anjou.
Gee, it’s like history has made an effort to elide strong women or something.