12 January, 2008

Seven Random Facts About Queen Isabella

Recent searches that brought readers to this blog:

unknown to him, mortimer has summoned a hit man from abroad Completely irrelevant to this post, but I loved that one.

What did Queen Isabella do for a job? Believe it or not, she was emperor of England (see below).

critical comments on queen isabella of edward the second Critical of Isabella? Moi?

18th century princesse to be the next queen isabella Actually, I think one was enough.

why did queen isabella believe it was important to give a tall bed as a gift rather than a short bed? I'm afraid I have no idea, but if anyone knows the answer, I'm on tenterhooks.

what did queen isabella want The question that Edward II couldn't or wouldn't answer, and Roger Mortimer could and did.

"cuckolding me" Closely related to above.

eduard 11 of england and Isabella of france now emperor of the kingdom

And lots, lots more searches for her. Given that Isabella seems to be very much in demand at the moment, here are seven random facts about the lady herself, Eduard II's wife, emperor of the kingdom of England...;)

- Isabella was the third daughter of Philip IV of France and Queen Jeanne of Navarre, but the only one to survive early childhood; her sisters were Marguerite (1288 or 1290 to 1294) and Blanche (circa 1290/94 to 1295). Both Marguerite, and then Blanche after Marguerite's death, were betrothed to Edward II's first cousin once removed Fernando IV of Castile (born 1285), who eventually married Constança of Portugal. Isabella also had a younger brother Robert, who died in July 1308, probably aged eleven, six months after Isabella married Edward II. Her three elder brothers all reigned as kings of France.

- Like her husband, Isabella was an avid reader*, and owned more than thirty books by the time of her death, a large number for the fourteenth century. Among them were: at least ten romances, two history books, a book on the genealogy of her family, an encyclopedia, and numerous religious volumes including a Bible, several Books of Hours and a book of sermons. Edward II was also a history fan, owning a Latin history of the kings of England and a French biography of Edward the Confessor. (Wonder what he'd make of people reading about him 700 years later, in English?)

Edward II founded King's Hall at Cambridge University (which was later refounded by Henry VIII as Trinity College) in 1317, and gave books on canon and civil law, worth ten pounds, to the Master. During her regency, Isabella, ahem, 'borrowed' the books, and never returned them.

[* it was usual in the Middle Ages for royalty/nobility to be read to by their clerks, rather than to read silently by themselves. However, it's highly likely that Isabella was indeed literate.]

- On a visit to France in 1313 (the one where Edward spent vast sums on clothes and wine), the pavilion where Edward II and Isabella were staying in caught fire. Edward scooped up Isabella and ran outside with her, both of them naked. However, poor Isabella suffered burns to her hand and arm, which her physician was still treating with olive oil, rosewater and lead plasters (lead plasters?) some time later.

- During the same trip, Edward and Isabella were late for a meeting with her father Philip IV, as they had overslept. (You'd think someone could have woken them up.)

- Both Isabella and Edward II revered St Thomas Becket, and made frequent pilgrimages to Canterbury. In October 1311, Isabella made an offering to the saint's shrine of a gold nugget, worth four pounds, six shillings and eight pence.

- For Isabella's churching after the birth of her second child John in 1316, her tailor Stephen Taloise made her a robe out of five pieces of white velvet. Edward II gave her lands and jewellery in gratitude for bearing him another son.

- Isabella had a household of around 180 people, double the size of previous queens' households, thanks to Edward II's generosity in providing for his wife. They included: three cooks; two apothecaries and a physician; an almoner; two watchmen; thirty-nine grooms; twenty-five palfreymen; twenty-two sumptermen; five messengers; twenty-eight squires.

16 comments:

elflady said...

*Laughing her heart out*
I liked the one about Roger unknowingly summoning a hitman, too. So he was a wizard, LOL!
And the "imperial" pair, WOW!
What a great medieval version of "Spaceballs"!!!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Isabella gave only tall beds because she realized the importance of a tall bed for the manly men she preferred.

Loved the bit about Isabella oversleeping.

Gabriele C. said...

Hehe, that makes one wonder what they did in all night that they overslept *naughty grin*

Jules said...

Wow - thanks for the welcome! (Jules blushes like Rudolph's nose). I will endeavor not to disappoint.

Love the searches - laughed so much at those. What are people on???? I also loved the bit about Isabella and Ed oversleeping. Maybe their households thought it was... ahem... undiplomatic to 'wake' them. Or perhaps they were sleeping on one of Isabella's tall beds and had trouble getting down from it.

As for the number of Isabella's household - it reads a bit like an alternative Twelve Days of Christmas!

Alianore said...

Elflady: *giggles*. Maybe you should write a novel about Roger the wizard...;)

Susan: *smacks forehead*. Obviously that has to be the reason, silly me...;)

Gabriele: *very naughty grin*. After all, they were naked when their pavilion caught fire...;)

Jules: you're welcome! Have you seen my post on Ed II's household? So many hundreds of people - what the heck did they all do??

Some of the searches that bring people here are deeply weird. Mind you, someone's just come here looking for "6 facts why edward II was good king", and I can't complain about that one. :-)

elflady said...

*puts the pointy hat on and starts brooding on the subject*

Roger the Wizard, hehe!

Hmm, I thought he was King Arthur and he turned out to be Merlin?!

*Revelation* Or maybe he was both...

Folks, through the unexpected intervention of a bot and at the search request of the public, a new race of wizard warriors emerges. And so, the legend begins!

Alianore said...

You so have to write that book. It'll probably sell a million. ;)

elflady said...

You bet! LOL, LOL, LOL!

Tarun Tapas Mukherjee said...

Dear Friend,
I came to know of the site through Google Alerts. When I am visiting this site, I feel delighted to know many things regarding Edward II. Your unusual posts on the rare facts make this blog a must-read one for enthusiasts of history and literature. I have some posts on Marlowe's Edward II (http://freehelpstoenglishliterature.blogspot.com). I invite you to visit my blog and expect your comments.
Looking forward to your visit,
Wishing all well...

Alianore said...

Thank you, Tarun. Your blog looks fascinating, especially the one about Marlowe's Edward II as a 'sexual misfit' - I'm looking forward to reading it!

Carla said...

Wonder if the numbr of searches reflects the start of academic term somewhere?

"During her regency, Isabella, ahem, 'borrowed' the books, and never returned them." I wonder what happened to them, and what she wanted them for - why would she need books on law, when she could command any lawyer she liked? Just imagine the library fines by now :-)

How did Isabella's household compare with Queen Philippa's, by the way? Just curious as to whether Isabella was a one-off, or set a new standard for the size of a queen's staff.

Alianore said...

Maybe there's a course on Isabella somewhere - it's amazing to see that about fourth person who comes here at the moment is searching for her!

I'd imagine that Isa liked the books for their great value, rather than their subject matter. ;) It's hard to believe that she found much enjoyment in legal books. And haha, the library fines by now would take up most of the vast income Isa awarded herself. :-)

Afraid I don't know offhand how big Philippa's household was. However, the tendency in the Middle Ages was for royal/noble households to get bigger and bigger, so I'd guess that Isa's set the new standard.

elflady said...

I don't know if there is a history course on Isabella, but I do tend to believe that most of the people who used such search terms are foreigners who understand a bit of English but find it hard to speak it. At least I hope it is so, or else we should rather cry than laugh...

Alianore said...

Yeah, I assume some of the searches are entered by non-native English speakers, so any mistakes there are understandable, but I have a horrible feeling that many of the misspelt words are entered by native speakers, who really have no excuse for not knowing the difference between 'rein' and 'reign'. :-)

(Now I've written that, the word 'misspelt' looks wrong. ;)

Anonymous said...

re: size of Philippa's household, Chris Given-Wilson states about eighty or ninety in his 'Royal Household and the King's Affinity'. I think he is referring to the point at which her household was combined with that of her husband (1361) by which time most of her children had grown up and she herself was physically unwell (after her riding accident in 1358). So a direct comparison with the physically active, young Isabella, who also was maintining her strong diplomatic ties with France, is not all that helpful. Also note that household sizes grew smaller after the Black Death. None to my knowledge beats the 708 members of the earl of Lancaster's household.

Hope that helps.

elflady said...

Perhaps it's not 'misspelt', maybe it's just 'mistyped'. Or "a steadier rein / would've saved the reign", LOL!

Now, this is a great (verification) word: "qcbpuxci". Wonder what it means!