30 August, 2018

A French Cartoon about Edward II and Isabella of France

A friend of mine on Facebook recently drew my attention to a series of French comics about Edward II's queen Isabella, which are, inevitably, called Isabelle, La Louve de France or 'Isabella, The She-Wolf of France'. (This nickname, incidentally, was first applied to Isabella in 1757, in English, and has no historical basis whatsoever. La Louve is simply the French translation of the name and also has no historical basis whatsoever.) In particular, my friend commented on a bizarre sex scene with Edward, Isabella and Hugh Despenser the Younger she had read in the comic. See here for the comic; the sex scene is available via the Amazon 'look inside' function. I have no idea what the rest of the comic is like, but I have some serious problems with this bit. Here are the images; my translation into English is below.

First image:

Isabella: I am not your pet!

Edward: Right! You're nothing but a belly. I need heirs. It's your duty as queen! You should be grateful to my dear Despenser that he knows how to get me in the mood instead of whining. On all fours and turn over!

Second image:

Despenser: Now that the chore is over, my Edward, we'll finally be able to entertain ourselves!

Edward: Give me time to cleanse myself first. I can't stand the stink of French mare any more!

Isabella: *sad face*


Yowza. This is very reminiscent of Maurice Druon's Les Rois Maudits or The Accursed Kings series of novels, which feature a scene where Isabella states that she wrote to the pope to complain that Edward brought Hugh Despenser into their bed to, errrm, help him conceive his and Isabella's children. Given that Edward and Hugh's relationship began in late 1318 or 1319, before the conception and birth of all but one of Edward and Isabella's children, this seems incredibly unlikely. I know it's fiction, but the whole idea strikes me as blatantly homophobic. Edward II loved Isabella and their relationship worked perfectly well for many years until it all went horribly wrong in and after 1322. The idea that he would have treated her like this, insulted her to her face, brought another man into their bed, would be laughable if it wasn't so horrible, misogynistic and homophobic.

In the comic Hugh is called Edward's mignon, which in modern French means 'cute' but historically refers to the male 'favourites' or 'minions' of kings, whereas - of course! - Roger Mortimer is called Isabella's amant, 'lover'. This almost always happens in modern accounts of Edward II and Isabella, even now near the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century when we're supposed to live in a tolerant and progressive era. Heterosexual people have 'lovers'. Homosexual or bisexual people have 'minions' or 'favourites' or 'friends'. 'Friends' they love for most of their lives and bring their kingdoms to the brink of civil war over on several occasions, but yeah, they're just friends.

Edward himself is said to be a homosexuel notoire, 'notorious homosexual'. I wonder why only gay people are 'notorious' for their sexuality? Have you ever seen the words 'notorious heterosexual'?

And yes, I know it's fiction. I've had the 'but it's FICTION!!!' crowd bellowing that at me for over a decade. Braveheart is 'just fiction' but a gay man gets thrown out of a window for cheap laughs and another is cuckolded by the manly virile straight hero. A romance novel I reviewed a few years ago is 'just fiction' but refers to a gay man as a disgusting perverted worm. Funny how this 'but it's just fiction' argument so often seems to be used to defend and perpetuate offensive stereotypes and prejudices. 


sami parkkonen said...

Yes, this rubbish is fiction but it is still rubbish. It is homophobic and historically inaccurate. If you wish to make up stuff, do it. Invent your own kings and queens and events.

Homophobia has little room these days but it can be brought up in "fiction" quite nicely. And what these authors seem to forget is this: what ever you write or draw in this case, is about you and your thoughts. All the characters, their actions and words come from you as an author. That is the deeper level of fiction. No matter what you come up with it is you that is showing up. Thus, who ever came up with these lines and drawings is shown here. And that is the most disturbing thought here.

I wonder have these people ever heard of bi-sexuality?? It seems to me that they can not twist their heads around the fact that, yes, some people really can have relationships with both sexes.

Besides, what was the norm and how these things were seen in medieval times we do not know. There are thousands of letters in which men profess their love to one another all across the social spectrum. Where they all lovers? We do not know. Did they have sex? Don't know.

BUT we know with absolute certainty that Edward and Isabella DID HAVE SEX AND MANY TIMES. The french commentator even noticed that they were undressed when the house they were sleeping in burned down BECAUSE THEY HAD HAD A STEAMING HOT NIGHT IN BED the previous night.

So there you go.

Plus. This comic is rather poor on artistic merits. It is not so well drawn nor set. But that is only my opinion as some one who has graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts of Finland as a painter after the classical education with the anatomy classes etc.

Anerje said...

Oh dear - it's rubbish fiction, and stereotyped old fiction as well. The problem is that for some people, it sticks and becomes 'fact', or even 'there must be some truth in it' at the best. Tired, lazy writing. Btw have you caught up with Knightfall on UK History? Isabella is a mature older teenager in it, and has already seen off one husband as she prepares to marry 'Longshanks' son . We just know what's going to happen, right?

Amanda said...

What I really object to is 'picking on' Edward; some articles are abhorrent about his so-called private behaviour - no-one knows exactly what his sexuality was. To be honest I really don't care about that but of course to some it makes his story more exciting. I know Kathryn you have mentioned many times the film 'Braveheart', I have seen it but found the historical inaccuracies (Isabella meeting Wallace; Edward I lying on his deathbed whilst Wallace was executed etc) really annoying. The worst thing was the portrayal of Edward II as an effeminate idiot and Edward I throwing his son's 'friend' out of the window to his death. Yawn. Apart from those things the film was quite good! Why is it though, that if someone wishes to portray a king as possibly homosexual they usually select Edward?

In my understanding, Richard I is now thought to have been homosexual (married but NO children), a strong handsome man (ring any bells?) whose sexuality is not put under the spotlight. How about James I (married and children) who now some think was possibly bisexual, no-one questions that assumption and writes about that.

In my opinion, Edward was a disaster as a king (for many reasons, not all his own) but his marriage and affairs (if any) were no different to any other monarch.

I like Edward immensely and believe at heart he was a kind, funny and caring man who was unfortunately placed on the throne by birthright not competence.

sami parkkonen said...

After going through this again I think that the people who make these sensationalist poops are not interested in anything else but money. Sex sells and perversions sell too. The thing is, if they would check out the REAL people behind these twisted stories, they would most likely feel embarrassed.

Edward II was not a good king, a ruler, in medieval sense. He didn't know or care what he was supposed to be. Instead he was what he was and went on more on gut feeling than cold calculating and strategic thinking. Battle of Bannockburn is a prime example. Instead of directing the battle from behind and letting his captains take care of the action, he dove straight in to the worst melée fighting bravely personally but that was not the place for a king. In the Anglosaxon times that would have been the norm but in his times he should have been a general not a rambo.

As for his cruelty, yes, he could be cruel and when he hated someone he really did. Once again not a kingly way of dealing with things. But as a medieval king he was not that cruel. His own son, one of the most celebrated kings of England of all times, Edward III was much much more cruel. Edward Jr. could and did kill thousands of civilians when it suited for his plans or when he saw it necessary for the advancement of his agenda. He killed civilians in Scottland, in the Lowlands, in France etc. and felt no remorse about it.

And where as Edward II could not forgive anyone connected to the death of his loved Piers, Edward III looked at those involved the downfall and assumed murder of his father with cold and calculating mind. He executed some but forgave some. It was all politics and Edward II was never too strong in politics. On the contrary. When Piers mocked some of the barons Edward thought that was hilarious as it sometimes was but politically that was very bad move and alienated some of the barons from the throne.

The worst mistake I believe Edward II did was being so cozy with the commoners. In medieval times the king was semi-divine being. He was anointed by the God via the church. It was widely believed that the hands of a king could heal people and that the king could not make mistakes etc. Thus the king could not associate with the commoners. But Edward II did. And not only he was at ease with these low born subjects, he actually enjoyed their company, laughed with them, joked with them, played games with them, made bets and even lost to them, worked with them etc. It is obvious that he liked the company of the ordinary people.

BUT once again: that was not what the king was supposed to do. That was not what a king was supposed to be. His good rapport with the commoners meant that in the eyes of those who believed in the sacrosanct nature of the kingship he was a living blasphemy and profane man who was dragging the divinity to the mud and muck of the streets and fields of the serfs.

That was his biggest failure as a medieval king.

Anonymous said...

Great post, but I am curious -- wouldn't words like "favorite" or "friend" be used at the time? IIRC, there was one contemporary who made one reference to the "king and his husband", but would most of them be willing to accuse the king of what was then regarded as a serious sin?

Also, I'm not sure that Edward's biggest mistake concerned the so called "lower (or working) classes" -- they weren't the ones insulting the nobility (as Piers's nicknames did) or stealing their property or power (as they saw Hugh) IMO, Edward took the idea of delegating too far.


Kathryn Warner said...

I was talking about the double standards of modern writers calling an opposite-sex pair 'lover ' and a same-sex pair 'friend' when there's no more evidence Roger and Isabella had sex than there is for Edward and Piers or Hugh.

sami parkkonen said...

I think being cozy with the commoners itself was an insult against the sanctity of the office of the king in the eyes of many noble men. These being both in baronial class and among the church nobles. The commoners and serfs were truly second class citizen in medieval world, so much so that we have difficulties to wrap our heads around it.

If you think that say Victorian class society was strict or that Indian caste system is stiff those are nothing compared to the class system of medieval world. Stepping over the boundaries of this system was an insult in itself. The commoners did not insult the barons but Edward did with his behavior. I believe this was the tipping point for many not to support him when Isabella and Mortimer came over from France.

How strong these concepts can be? Well, there is one good example: when Paul Castellano was the boss of the Gambino mafia family in 1980's New York he was known as the Pope or the Boss of bosses because of his stature among the mafiosi. One of his capos, captains who run the crews which form the structure of a mafia family, was John Gotti. Gotti knew that Castellano was coming after him because he had broken many of their rules and decided to kill the Boss of Bosses. How come not one other capo in the family tried to kill him after the fact?

It turned out that Castellano had had an affair with his maid in his home and for the mafiosi this was a blasphemy. You can have as many lovers you want BUT never ever put your wife and blood family in shame. So even though Gotti had murdered their boss the other capos chose not to take revenge or anything because in their eyes Castellano had shamed his wife and children by having an affair under the same roof his wife lived. And this happened in 1980's USA.

They talk about Honor in the Mafia. Paul Castellano had no honor and Honor is a big thing. If you don't have it, you die. Countless of mafia murders have been done for this simple reason. And this is in our times. What about the medieval society, then?

The medieval king was supposed to be way above everyone else. The royalty were a breed apart. They were not mere mortals. They were supposed to live high above everyone else, rule regally from the earthly heaven and not to deal with low born subjects unless they were showing their benevolence by healing them or granting pardons etc. Other than that a king or a queen would not have anything to do with Those people. Now, Edward did and liked it and had not even decency to hide it. It was an insult to the very system of a medieval society. So when he called his barons and knights to help him to stop Mortimer and Isabella, very very few even bothered.

Of course it was a complex situation and Despenser was hated and there was politics of all kinds involved but for those who sat on a fence otherwise Edward deserved what was coming simnply because he had not behaved like a king should. So, I won't lif a finger to save him because he has done things a real king never should. Just like Paul Castellano.

This also the same reason why I don't believe Isabella and Mortimer where ever lovers. Isabella was born and raised royal. She even informed her own sister when she had an affair with a common knight. She was a semi divine being, of pure royal blood which was not to be tainted with a blood of a commoner. And compared to her, Mortimer was just a knight. But look at what Edward did?