03 December, 2006

Blog Birthday, and Betrothals

'Edward II' is one year old today. Yay!

This post is about Edward II's betrothals before Isabella; the women he might have married had things turned out differently. The first of these was Margaret, the 'Maid of Norway'.

A little background information: Alexander III ascended the throne of Scotland in 1249, aged not quite eight. In 1251, he married Margaret, daughter of Henry III of England; she was almost exactly a year his senior. The couple had three children: Margaret, 1260-1283, Alexander 1264-1284, and David, 1272-1281. Queen Margaret died in 1275. Young Alexander married (yet another) Margaret, daughter of the count of Flanders, in 1282, but had no children. King Alexander's daughter married Erik II, King of Norway, in 1281. (He was known as 'Erik the Priest-Hater'; I love that!) Oddly, he was thirteen and she was twenty-one. Margaret gave birth to the couple's only child, a daughter inevitably named Margaret, and died around 9 April 1283, possibly in childbirth.

In March 1286, King Alexander III died in a bizarre accident when he rode his horse off an embankment in the dark; his body was found the next day. All three of his children had pre-deceased him, and although his second wife Yolande de Dreux was pregnant, her child was stillborn in November 1286. The Guardians of Scotland ruled Scotland during this time. The Queen of Scotland was now little Margaret, the Maid of Norway, aged three - Alexander III's granddaughter and only living descendant. She was known as “dame Margarete Reyne de Escoce” (Lady Margaret, Queen of Scotland).

In 1289 and 1290, King Erik, the Guardians and Edward I of England - brother-in-law of Alexander III and great-uncle of the Maid - signed treaties agreeing to the marriage of the Maid to King Edward's only surviving son, the future Edward II. Lord Edward was six in 1290, a little younger than his intended wife, and a papal dispensation had to be obtained for the marriage, as they were first cousins once removed (Margaret was the great-granddaughter of Henry III, Edward his grandson).

Edward I intended his son to rule Scotland in right of his wife, as well as England (of course, it turned out that Edward II couldn't even rule one country, never mind two, but that probably wasn't obvious when he was only six). In 1284, on the death of his son, Alexander III had signed a treaty with the earls and barons of Scotland that acknowledged the Maid as his heir, but he almost certainly intended her to reign jointly with her future husband, rather than as sole Queen Regnant.

During the summer of 1290, Edward I prepared two ships at Great Yarmouth and sent them to collect the little Queen from Norway. One was loaded with casks of wine, the other with meat, fish, sugar, spices, wine, beer, peas, beans and nuts. Margaret boarded one of the ships to be taken to her new home, but unfortunately for Scotland and the plans of Edward I, she died in the Orkneys shortly after her arrival there. She was seven years old, the Queen who never laid eyes on her kingdom (the Orkneys belonged to Norway at this time). Her body was taken back to Norway, and buried in Bergen, next to her mother. No less than thirteen men arose to claim the throne of Scotland.

It's really fascinating to contemplate what might have happened if the Maid had lived. Firstly, there would have been no Hundred Years War, at least not as we know it, as Edward II and Margaret's son (assuming they had one) would have had no claim to the French throne as Edward III did through his mother Isabella. Would England and Scotland really have been peacefully united three centuries earlier than really happened? And what about the conflicts Edward II had with his barons - would they have been lessened, with no need for Edward to fight in Scotland? And on a personal level, would the marriage of Edward and Margaret have been happier than Edward and Isabella's - and would Edward have ruled longer with no rebellion of Isabella and her lover Mortimer?

In 1294, Edward I arranged another betrothal for his son, with Philippa, daughter of Guy de Dampierre, count of Flanders. Little is known about Philippa, but she was probably a good bit older than Edward, who was ten in 1294; her parents were married in 1265. Her sister Margaret was married in 1282 to Alexander, son of Alexander III (see above. Incidentally, Margaret's son by her second marriage, Duke Reinald II of Guelders, married Edward II and Isabella's daughter Eleanor of Woodstock in 1332. He was almost thirty years her senior).

In February 1297, King Edward and Count Guy swore to uphold the marriage of their children(“covenances de faire mariage entre Edward nostre chere fiuz, e Phelippe fille au dit conte”). Now, however, her sister Isabella was mentioned as a possible substitute. The reason was that poor Philippa was now being held prisoner by Philip IV of France, who was determined that the match should not go ahead (for reasons too complicated to go into here, but there were huge tensions between Count Guy and King Philip, and King Edward was an ally of Guy). Philippa was held in Paris until her death in 1306. Edward I made peace with Philip in 1298 and abandoned Count Guy - and any idea of a marriage alliance between England and Flanders.

In 1299, Edward I and Philip IV signed a treaty, in an attempt to solve the long-standing conflicts between France and England. In September that year, Edward I married Marguerite, younger half-sister of Philip; Edward was now sixty and had been a widower for nine years. Marguerite's date of birth is not known, but might gave been as late as 1282, making her forty-three years younger than her husband and a mere two years older than his youngest child by Eleanor of Castile, Edward II.

Although a marriage between Marguerite and Edward II, instead of Edward I, was never suggested, I can't help wondering how different things might have been if they had married. She was closer to his age than her niece Isabella, and would probably have made him a more understanding and compassionate consort.

The treaty of 1299 also made provision for the marriage of Edward II and Isabella. She was the sixth of the seven children of Philip IV by Jeanne, Queen of Navarre, and her three elder brothers were all kings of France in turn; Louis X, Philip V and Charles IV. Isabella also had a younger brother, Robert, who was probably born in 1297; he died in July 1308, six months after Isabella married Edward II.

It's a little known fact that Isabella also had two elder sisters: Marguerite and Blanche. As with all Philip IV's children, with the exception of Louis X (who was born on 4 October 1289), their dates of birth are not known. Marguerite was the eldest daughter, born perhaps 1288 or 1290, and Blanche was probably born about 1293. The dates of their deaths are not known either, but both were certainly dead by 1299, or one of them may well have been betrothed to Edward II instead of Isabella. Probably Blanche, as Marguerite was promised in 1294 to Fernando IV, King of Castile. Again, it's interesting to consider whether Edward II's reign would have turned out differently; or would Isabella's elder sisters have taken the same actions that she did?

Isabella herself was probably born sometime between July 1295 and January 1296, so she was more than eleven years younger than Edward and only three years old when her marriage was arranged (Edward was fifteen). Their formal betrothal took place on 20 May 1303. On 27 November 1305, Pope Clement V, eager for the union of Edward and Isabella, and the peace between England and France he assumed would follow it, tried to arrange their proxy wedding. On this day, he signed a dispensation to allow Isabella to marry despite her young age - she was ten, or close to it, to Edward's twenty-one. On 3 December, in the presence of notaries at the Louvre, Isabella appointed her uncle Louis of Evreux to act as her proxy. However, King Edward rejected the proposal.

The wedding finally took place in Boulogne on 25 January 1308, six months after Edward II succeeded to the throne. He was twenty-three and nine months, Isabella almost certainly only twelve. Edward showed no interest in Isabella until years after the wedding - understandably - and even before it, never seems to have sent her any letters or gifts, though he communicated often with her uncle Louis of Evreux.

If Edward II had married another woman, would the rebellion of 1326 still have taken place, or something like it? Would Edward still have been forced to abdicate? Would the Hundred Years War have still taken place, if Edward II had lived to the 1340s? There's no way of knowing, but I find it fascinating to speculate...

13 comments:

Susan Higginbotham said...

Fascinating! I'd forgotten all about Isabella's sisters and the Philippa engagement (if I ever heard of it in the first place).

Interesting to think what would have happened if there'd been no Battle of Bannockburn!

Carla said...

The Maid of Norway betrothal is a fascinating might-have-been, isn't it? Like the scheme for marrying Mary Queen of Scots to Edward VI when they were both children (aka The Rough Wooing because of Henry VIII's characteristic coercive negotiating tactics). The Scots weren't keen on the idea because the female partner (their Mary) was subordinate to the husband (Engish Edward and by extension Henry VIII) and married Mary into France instead - but in the early 1300s, before the Wars of Independence embittered relations between the cuntries so much, it might have been much more acceptable. (Though Edward I was as coercive as Henry VIII, so maybe not). The similarity in age might have made the marriage more likely to work - it's always seemed to me that marriages where one party is old enough to be the other's parent or even grandparent are asking to be an instant personal disaster.
Happy blog-anniversary!

Alianore said...

Thanks, both! Carla, there are some interesting similarities between the two sets of Edwards and Marys, aren't there? I suppose a big difference is that, in 1290, the Scots had little if any say in who Mary married - although she was their Queen, her guardian was her father King Erik, and if he chose to marry her to the English heir, there wasn't a lot they could do about it. (Funny that Erik was only 14 or 15 when his daughter was born!)

It fires my imagination, to think of Edward, married to Margaret, king of England and Scotland, no Bannockburn, no billions (in modern money) poured into an endless unwinnable war...but his character and deficiencies would have been the same, so his reign might have ended in disaster anyway! Of course there's no way of knowing what kind of person Margaret would have grown up to be - she might have made Edward a loving consort, or she might have detested him even more than Isabella did in the end.

There's a great 'what if' thread about Margaret and Edward, which has some good ideas.

Susan - yes, Isabella's sisters aren't at all well known. The Philippa of Flanders story always sticks in my head, because I feel so sorry for the poor girl.

I should have pointed out in the text that there's some dispute whether Queen Yolande had a stillbirth in November 1286, or if it turned out that she'd never been pregnant after all.

Gabriele C. said...

Happy Bloggiversary.

The Maid of Norway scenario is an interesting one, but in case of Isabella's sister I don't think things would have been any different - they had lovers, too, as I recall.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.Loved reading it

Alianore said...

Thanks, Gabriele! In fact, it was Isabella's sisters-in-law who took lovers - the wives of her brothers Louis and Charles (Philip's wife was cleared of adultery). Isabella's sisters died in childhood. And maybe another wife of Edward would have taken a lover, fed up with him, but never thought to take things as far as Isabella did.

And thanks, anonymous, for the kind comment - glad you liked it.

Madeleine said...

The Maid of Norway is an interesting possibility to consider. Scotland during that time is interesting in general, and I really enjoyed "Quest for a Maid", a young adult historical fiction that discusses both the problems in Scotland after Alexander's death and the Maid's effect on everything. The focus is mainly on the Scots, as all the main characters are Scottish, but the Maid is a character as well. It's not entirely accurate - the ending has something of an alternate take on history, but it's very interesting.

I can't help laughing at the conversations where Meg (the main character) tries to convince the Maid that Edward will be really nice to her once they're married, though.

Alianore said...

I've been considering buying that book, Madeleine! It's available on Amazon.com for 1 cent at the moment. I've used the 'search inside' function, and the first sentence is pretty eye-catching, to say the least.

Recently I've been getting into the Scottish history of the period a lot more - it certainly is very interesting. Another great 'what if' is 'what if Alexander III didn't ride off into a storm in 1286, but lived another 20 years?'

Susan Higginbotham said...

That is quite an opening sentence! (Not to mention an eye-grabbing cover.)

Carla said...

I've always wondered if there was more to Alexander's death than an accident.... Great conspiracy theory material for a spy thriller :-)

Alianore said...

It really is intriguing! Do you know Paul Doherty's Crown in Darkness, Carla? Hugh Corbett, who crops up in a lot of Doherty's novels, investigates Alexander's mysterious death...I'd love to write something about it, too - plotbunnies everywhere! :)

Carla said...

It sounds familiar but I can't bring the details to mind - I wonder if I read it a long time ago, or perhaps noticed it in a shop or library but decided on something else? I'll have another look for it.

Alianore said...

It's not a great book - it moves very slowly, and I've spotted quite a few inaccuracies, especially regarding the French situation - but still worth reading, I think.