Ole Larson's Folks

Well, not as in “raised by wolves,” but the nickname is still an apt metaphor for her life and career. The quintessential femme fatale. I speak of our approx. 20th great-grandmother, Isabella of France (c. 1294-1327). She was the daughter of King Philip IV of France, and in time, sister of three more French kings.

Isabella of France, as portrayed by Sophie Marceau in the 1995 film, “Braveheart”

N.B. In the film, Isabella is the love interest of Sir William Wallace, a historical figure who led a long guerrilla war for Scottish independence during this period. However, although her birth date is uncertain, she would have been impossibly young at the time of the events fictionalized in the movie, and is not likely to have ever been involved with Sir William. Indeed, William Wallace was executed before Isabella even married Edward II (note below her age at marriage).

Edward II

Promised from infancy, Isabella was married at around age twelve to the famously bisexual, inept, and newly crowned King Edward II of England, a young man (only) twice her age. In this way, Isabella was flung into what had every prospect of being a royally dysfunctional marriage.

In the early years (that is, once she reached puberty), things progressed as expected; Isabella bore to Edward four children, including our ancestor, the future Edward III. Her faithfulness is not taken for granted by historians; the couple’s itineraries nine months prior to each birth strongly support the children’s legitimacy.

In time, jealous of her husband’s male lovers, she tried with limited success to rid their court of them. Eventually, she took a lover of her own, at first discreetly, later quite publicly. He was Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March.

‘God Speed,’ by Edmund Blair Leighton (1853-1922)

They had no children together, but in a supreme irony, Roger Mortimer is also our ancestor, through a child of his marriage to Joan de Geneville.

While in hiding in Flanders, Isabella and Roger conspired to rebel against her husband. This they did, successfully, in November 1326. Although they installed the 14-year-old Edward III as king, Roger and Isabella ruled as regents for several years. Accounts vary as to whether they had Edward II gruesomely murdered, or kept him in seclusion after their conquest. Roger and Isabella set about usurping many noble landholdings, by disgracing or executing the owners.

In 1330, supported by many nobles, Edward III, now 18 years old, asserted his independence, and Roger Mortimer was hanged without trial on November 30. Both Isabella “the she-wolf” and Mortimer’s wife Joan were pardoned and lived out their lives in retirement. Isabella was permitted by her son to dote on her grandchildren.

“No man ever excited her resentment who did not perish under its effect; the king himself forming no exception to this fact.” – Unattributed quote

References abound for the lives of Edward II, Isabella the She-Wolf, Roger Mortimer, and Edward III. Many of the articles on the linked search pages were consulted for this post. There is a somewhat controversial, full-length biography of Isabella by the best-selling historian and novelist Allison Wier, which I haven’t got hold of yet, as well as humorous treatments like this badass of the week award, and this hilarious spoof titled, “Support Group for Tragic Queens.”

Next: The fall of the House of Stafford.

A New Batch of Royalty
Fall From Grace: Plantagenet and Stafford