Isabella of France: the rebel queen

One of the most notorious women in English history, Isabella of France led an invasion of England that ultimately resulted in the deposition of her king and husband, Edward II, in January 1327 – the first ever abdication of a king in England. Now, a new book by Kathryn Warner seeks to correct the many myths surrounding 'the she-wolf of France' who continues to polarise opinion...

Illustration of Isabella of France. From the book ‘Our Queen Mothers’ by Elizabeth Villiers. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

Here, writing for History Extra, Warner offers a vivid account of this most fascinating and influential of women…

Isabella of France married King Edward II of England in Boulogne, northern France, on 25 January 1308 when she was 12 and he was 23. She was the sixth of the seven children of Philip IV, king of France from 1285 to 1314 and often known to history as Philippe le Bel or Philip the Fair, and Joan I, who had become queen of the small Spanish kingdom of Navarre in her own right in 1274 when she was only a year old.

Isabella’s two older sisters, Marguerite and Blanche, died in childhood, as did her younger brother, Robert. Her three older brothers all reigned as kings of France and Navarre: Louis X, who died at the age of 26 in 1316; Philip V, who died aged 30 at the beginning of 1322; and Charles IV, who died at the age of 33 in 1328. The three brothers were the last kings of the Capetian dynasty that had ruled France since 987. As they all died leaving daughters but no surviving sons, they were succeeded by their cousin Philip VI, first of the Valois kings who ruled France until 1589.

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