29 April, 2007

Queen Isabella's Pregnancies and Children

Edward II and Queen Isabella married in January 1308, and conceived their first child a little over four years later. The long delay was because of Isabella's youth - she was only twelve years old at the time of her wedding. Exactly when the royal couple first consummated their marriage cannot of course be known, but may not have taken place before Isabella was fourteen. Early marriage, and a gap of several years between marriage and first conception, was normal in the royal family at this time. Edward II's de Clare nieces all married at thirteen, and didn't conceive for several years: Eleanor was fifteen or sixteen, Elizabeth sixteen, and Margaret seventeen or close to it. Edward's grandmother Eleanor of Provence married Henry III when she was twelve or thirteen, and didn't give birth to her first child for three and a half years.

It's very likely that Edward delayed consummating his marriage until Isabella was old enough to carry and give birth to a child without danger to her developing body. John Carmi Parsons, biographer of Eleanor of Castile, believes that Eleanor gave birth to a stillborn daughter in 1255, seven months after her marriage, when she was only thirteen years old. If Edward had heard that story - of a sister twenty-nine years his senior - it may have encouraged him to delay consummation. Rather than condemn him for 'ignoring' and 'neglecting' his young wife in favour of Piers Gaveston, as many novelists and historians do, perhaps we should be applauding him for taking his wife's youth and physical immaturity into consideration, although, like all kings, he desperately needed a son and heir.

The future Edward III was born on 13 November 1312. A full-term pregnancy is thirty-eight weeks from the date of conception, which takes us back to Monday 21 February 1312. On that day, Edward II was in York with Piers Gaveston and Margaret de Clare, celebrating the birth of Piers' and Margaret's daughter Joan. Isabella's Household Book shows that on the 21st, she was at Copmanthorpe or Bishopthorpe, three or four miles outside York, where her belongings were put on a barge to be taken along the river Ouse into the town. She had been travelling the approximately 210 miles from Windsor since early February, to join her husband; on 17 February, she sent him a basket of lampreys from Doncaster, and the two kept in close contact via messengers. [Four days to travel the forty miles from Doncaster to just south of York: an interesting illustration of the slowness of medieval travel.]

Edward III was probably conceived within a week or so of Isabella's arrival in York on the 21st or 22nd. I'm pointing all this out in detail to make it perfectly clear that Edward and Isabella WERE together at the right time to conceive Edward III - although many people still try to argue that their marriage can't have been consummated, as this silly thread from the 2003 archives of the Richard III Society Yahoo group shows. Even if Edward III was premature, Edward and Isabella were together in York until the beginning of April 1312. Easter Sunday fell on 26 March that year, so they evidently conceived their son during Lent, when intercourse was forbidden. Tsk.

I'll also point out that there isn't even the most oblique hint in any contemporary or later source that Edward II might not have fathered Edward III; as far as I can tell, it was the late twentieth century before that occurred to anyone. Whatever Edward II's contemporaries thought of his sexuality, nobody ever doubted that Edward III and his siblings were Edward's children. And to put paid to the theory that Roger Mortimer was Edward III's real father (also put forward in Paul Doherty's Death of a King), Roger was in Ireland in 1312, a country Isabella never visited. Neither was she in Scotland in 1312, abandoned by Edward, as in Edith Felber's 2006 novel Queen of Shadows - which constantly drops coy hints that some mysterious Scotsman fathered Edward III without ever revealing who it was, a plot device I find pointless and irritating. [Robert the Bruce? The ghost of William Wallace? Who knows?]

Isabella was four months pregnant when Piers Gaveston was killed in June 1312 - proof, if nothing else, that whatever the nature of Edward's close relationship with Piers, it wasn't an impediment to his marital relations with Isabella (or to Piers' with Margaret, for that matter - or to both men's relations with other women, as they both fathered illegitimate children).

Edward III was born on Monday 13 November 1312, at Windsor Castle. Edward spent a few weeks at Windsor with Isabella late in her pregnancy, from mid-September to 25 October. He left, then returned on 30 October, and left again on 9 November for Sheen, another royal palace, about twenty miles away. He hurried back on 12 November, probably because he'd received a message that Isabella had gone into labour. The ecstatic Edward rewarded John and Joan Launge, who brought him the message, with £20 and the vast sum of £80 a year for life, which gave them a higher income than some knights.

Isabella sent a letter to the Mayor and aldermen of London proclaiming the birth (it's quoted in the sidebar on the left) and the Londoners went mad with joy. The Mayor himself led the dancing in the streets and ordered tuns of free wine to be provided for the citizenry. The festivities continued for a full week.

Isabella was probably just seventeen, or close to it, and Edward II was twenty-eight. The birth of his son helped to assuage his terrible grief for Piers, while for Isabella, becoming the mother of the heir to England dramatically enhanced her status. The young Edward, created Earl of Chester when he was eight days old, had six godfathers, including Isabella's uncle the Count of Evreux and Hugh Despenser the Elder. A little less than fourteen years later, young Edward would watch his godfather executed at Bristol.

The fortunate survival of an apothecary's account of November 1313, which mentions two purchases of pennyroyal for Isabella, tells us that the Queen had probably suffered a miscarriage. The traditional medicinal use of pennyroyal is to stimulate uterine activity; it increases uterine contractions and menstrual flow, and can be used to induce abortion. [In modern times, pennyroyal is considered too dangerous to be used in this way, because of the adverse side effects.]

Alison Weir says that Isabella suffered no known miscarriages or stillbirths, but she doesn't mention the pennyroyal purchases, and besides, it suits her purposes to say that Edward rarely visited Isabella's bed, to portray the Queen as a long-suffering and neglected wife. But certainly the long gap between Isabella's and Edward's first and second children - November 1312 to August 1316 - suggests that a miscarriage or stillbirth, or even more than one, is possible. Poor Isabella was in a bad way in 1313: when she and Edward were visiting France in June that year, the silken pavilion where they were sleeping caught fire one night, and Edward had to scoop up Isabella and rush outside with her to safety. She suffered burns to her arm, bad enough that they were still being treated two years later. All their possessions were destroyed.

On Friday 15 August 1316, Edward and Isabella's second son John - the 'spare' part of 'the heir and the spare' - was born at Eltham Palace south-east of London, which Edward had given to Isabella. Again, approximately thirty-eight weeks prior to the birth, in November 1315, Edward and Isabella were together, at the royal hunting lodge of Clipstone in Sherwood Forest. [Roger Mortimer was in Ireland.]

Edward was in York when his son was born, and rewarded Isabella's steward Ebulo de Montibus with the huge sum of £100 for bringing him the news. He paid £40 for the boy's baptism, which took place on 20 August, and gave Isabella gifts of jewellery and land. She and the little Lord John joined Edward in York in late September.

On Sunday 18 June 1318, Edward and Isabella's elder daughter Eleanor was born at Woodstock Palace near Oxford. Edward arrived at Woodstock on the day of Eleanor's birth, and spent ten days there. The likely conception date of mid to late September 1317 puts Edward and Isabella together at Lincoln, Tickhill Castle and York; in fact, they spent most of 1317 together, and Roger Mortimer was in Ireland for the entire year. Edward paid £333 for a feast to celebrate the birth, his first daughter after three sons (including his illegitimate son Adam).

Isabella and Edward spent most of the year 1319 in York. The chronicler Robert of Reading claims that Isabella gave birth to a daughter, Joan, sometime this year. No other source mentions this birth, and it's likely that the chronicler made a mistake and placed the birth of their later daughter Joan during this year. Although it's possible that he was correct, and a daughter was born who presumably died shortly after birth, given the absence of any commemoration for a dead child, it's more likely that Robert made a mistake.

Isabella gave birth to their second (third?) daughter Joan on Sunday 5 July 1321, at the Tower of London, in the middle of the Despenser crisis. Edward was thirty-seven at the time of his youngest child's birth, Isabella probably twenty-five. The Tower was rather run-down and dilapidated, and rain came in on Isabella's bed while she was in labour - a furious Edward later dismissed the Constable of the Tower from his post.

Edward's son Adam is presumed to have died in 1322, as he never appears in any records after this year. That Edward and Isabella had no more children after 1321 is probably indicative of the breakdown of their relationship after the younger Despenser's return from exile and piracy, but it's also possible that Isabella miscarried, or suffered stillbirths. Despenser himself certainly fathered several children after 1321: Eleanor de Clare is known to have given birth in 1323 and late 1325, and may also have borne Hugh's posthumous child after November 1326. [At least four or five of Despenser's ten children by Eleanor were born after he became Edward's favourite. Nicholas de Litlyngton, Abbot of Westminster 1362-1386, may have been his illegitimate son.]

Isabella's affair with Roger Mortimer began in Paris in late 1325. The chronicler Jean Froissart reports that, not too long before their downfall in October 1330, "it was reported that she was with child by Mortimer". Froissart wasn't even born in 1330, and his chronicle is often unreliable and heavily based on hearsay, but he knew Edward III and Queen Philippa very well, so it seems unlikely that he would have written down scurrilous unsubstantiated gossip about Edward's mother if he wasn't sure it was true.

Froissart's allegation is given substance by Isabella's making a kind of will that settled some of her properties on Roger in September 1329, and again in July 1330 - something she had previously done only once before, when pregnant in 1312. Ian Mortimer postulates that Isabella gave birth in December 1329, when she and Roger spent many weeks at Kenilworth; Alison Weir's theory is that she was pregnant at the time of Roger Mortimer's arrest in October 1330, and either miscarried, suffered a stillbirth, or the child died shortly after birth. It's unclear, but certainly there was no living child of Isabella and Roger, which was probably a source of great relief to Edward III; any son would be his half-brother, and Roger Mortimer would be linked to the King by blood. Given Isabella and Roger's five-year relationship, perhaps the only surprising aspect is that she hadn't conceived earlier (again, it's possible that she did, but no records survive.)

In conclusion, there's no reason at all to doubt that Isabella's children were Edward II's. Although she had a relationship with Mortimer, this happened in France when she was beyond Edward's reach, and after she had already borne Edward's children. Anyone who believes that Isabella took a previous lover must explain how the Queen of England, with a household of 180 people and surrounded by servants and courtiers every minute of her life, with a lack of privacy modern Western people can scarcely comprehend, could have conducted an affair without anyone noticing. Amusingly, in Queen of Shadows, Isabella 'escapes' from court and manages to have sex with Mortimer, her husband's enemy imprisoned in the Tower, by the simple expedient of wearing a hood - apparently a magical hood that renders her invisible. Two of Isabella's sisters-in-law in Paris did commit adultery, but inevitably they were found out - they were imprisoned for life, and their lovers grotesquely executed. If Isabella had taken a previous lover, we would know all about it, because it would be one of the great scandals of the Middle Ages.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you could be a great detective (I suppose all historians are good detectives). Either that or an excellent defense lawyer!

I always enjoyed Alison Weirs books. Although I have not read "She Wolf", I plan to do so, just so I can judge for myself.

Thanks for the great post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great post.
It strikes me that if your detective work is correct, and Edward was having forbidden sex with Isabella during lent, then surely this flies in the face of the theory that Edward avoided sex with his wife at all costs due to his homosexuality.
What better excuse would Edward have had from refraining form sex than a religious ban?
I am no expert, but I think Edward’s sexuality is a red hearing. Production of an heir would have been his priority. This would have had little to do with this sexual preference.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Kate! Weir's bio of Isabella is well worth a read, though she's rather biased and overly indulgent towards Isabella. I wrote a couple of posts on the book - in the March 2006 archives.

Gary: thank you for dropping by and commenting. I totally agree that even if Edward didn't enjoy intercourse with women - and given that he had an illegitimate son, presumably he did, at least on occasion - he knew full well that he needed heirs and would have 'done his duty'. I think one problem nowadays is that Edward is mostly seen as a 'gay icon', who therefore wouldn't have been capable of intercourse with women. However, rumours were flying around in the 1320s that he was engaged in an affair with none other than his niece, Eleanor de Clare (I'll come back to that in a future post). Whether that's true or not, some of his contemporaries evidently believed that he was capable of conducting an affair with a woman.
(Having said that, I think it's beyond all doubt that Edward loved men, rather more than he loved women! :)

Anonymous said...

I think that one constant that can be applied to medieval kings is that they didn’t marry for love!
It appears Edward was no different.

Is there any evidence for Edward being romantically connected with any men other that Gaveston?

Kathryn Warner said...

No, Edward definitely didn't marry Isabella for love! ;) They were betrothed in 1299, at the ages of fifteen and three or four respectively.

Infatuation with men was an important part of Edward's make-up, though the precise nature of his relationships with them can't be determined for certain. Around two or two and a half years after Gaveston's death, Roger Damory came to prominence at court - Edward bestowed many lands, gifts and honours on him, and in 1317, married him to his (Edward's!) niece Elizabeth de Clare. Hugh Audley was another court favourite, married to Elizabeth's sister Margaret (Gaveston's widow) at the same time.

Around 1318/19, the infamous Hugh Despenser the Younger began his rise to power as Edward's latest favourite, a position he held until his execution in 1326.

Whether, or to what extent, Edward's relationships with these men were sexual and/or romantic is hard to say for sure. However, his habit of choosing male favourites, making them rich and powerful, and heeding their advice to the exclusion of others, was strongly criticised at the time (and ever since).

Daphne said...

Great post - as always full of interesting information!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, Daphne!

suburbanbeatnik said...

Hi there! I just discovered your site while randomly looking for info about Edward II. Since I saw "Braveheart" ages ago, I've had a soft spot for the guy- I always felt he got a raw deal. I'm looking to expand my knowledge about medieval history, since I know more about the 1600s and 1700s, and I find your posts very informative. :)

In fact, if I have time, I'm thinking I'd like to do a portrait of Edward and Piers (I'm an illustrator). Here's a few pics I've done for a friend of mine who's a Wars of the Roses junkie: http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/49068336 <--- Richard III
http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/49068890 <--- Elizabeth Woodville

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, Neroville - glad you're enjoying the site! Part of the reason I set it up was to correct the misinformation about Edward II, as in Braveheart, etc (though the fact that I'm totally obsessed with him was a major factor, too. ;)

I really like your work! Please let me know if you do decide to draw Edward and Piers - I'd love to see it.

suburbanbeatnik said...

I especially like your reviews of novels- esp. the Virginia Henley one. (God, she's such a hack!) Have you ever read Isolde Martyn's "The Knight and the Rose"? It's set against the rebellion against the Despensers, who are major characters in it. And what's more, they're not evil- just smart, unscrupulous oppurtunists. I don't remember if Edward's in it, though; I'm pretty sure Isabella is. Martyn's writing is fine, although I remember scanning through all the tedious bickering between the hero and heroine to get to the cool political stuff- which at least is done reasonably well.

I'm glad you like my work- I've been trying to bone up on medieval history, because not so long ago I was pretty much completely ignorant. Now I even know what a chaperon is! :P

--neroville (aka Joanne)

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi, Joanne! *Waves* I must write another book review sometime, actually - haven't done one for months.

I'm currently waiting for Henley's Notorious, even though I'm pretty sure I'm going to hate it (Wolf Mortimer, indeed!) Her earlier books about Simon de Montfort, Roger de Leyburn etc are better, I think, and much more historically accurate - it'd be hard to be less accurate than Infamous.

Yes, I've got Knight and the Rose, though like you I skimmed it for the meaty bits with the Despensers. I think her characterisation of the younger Hugh is great. And I especially love the bit where Gervase says to Johanna (this is from memory so maybe not totally correct): "They say all the Despensers are charming. They sit at table with you and smile into your face while the servants cut the legs off the stool you're sitting on." LOL! I think that's the best description of the Despensers I've ever read.

Isabella does appear near the end. A while ago, I read extracts (I think on Martyn's website) that she had to cut out of the finished book because her editor thought they were 'too historical' and not relevant, and Edward appeared in those. So did Eleanor de Clare, and there was more about Mortimer's escape from the Tower. I can't find it at the moment, unfortunately. :(

I'm good on the 14C, less so on the 13 and 15C, and am pretty ignorant about all the rest, I'm afraid! :-)

Gabriele Campbell said...

Too historical and not relevant? Arrgh, I think if an editor said that to me I'd withdraw the book and self publish.

This celebrating and gift giving looks like Edward was glad about all his children, not only the heir. I can imagine he would have been a good father if times had allowed him to spend more time with his kids.

Kathryn Warner said...

I seem to remember reading an interview with Isolde Martyn once, where she said that she'd wanted to be a straight historical novelist, but couldn't get published, so went into historical romance.

I think Edward was probably an excellent father, insofar as his duties allowed him to see his children. He was close to his sisters, too.

Susan Higginbotham said...

You can find the Isolde Martyn excerpts here:


They're not on her current site, but if you get on Internet Archive, you can go back to the 2003 site.

Susan Higginbotham said...

Or try the Tiny URL:


Unknown said...

Sorry, I'm something of a latecomer into this discussion! I enjoyed the post Alianore, very informative and easy to read. There's virtually nothing I can add (as usual!) except that the giving of presents of money to the bearers of news of a royal birth seems to have been something of a kingly tradition, at least for some kings. James II was so delighted to hear of the birth of his son James Francis Edward that he rewarded the mindwife with 100 guineas (figure might be wrong, this is from memory!). Likewise, when Queen Charlotte was in labour with her first child, George III promised £500 to the bearer of news if it was a boy, £100 if it was a girl (again, figures might not be precise). For the record, it was a boy, the future George IV. ;)

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Liam. That's quite a discrepancy in payments! :)

suburbanbeatnik said...

I liked the characterization of Hugh Jr. a lot in "Knight and the Rose"- it was the best part of the novel, I think. (I love the Despensers- they're so like medieval Gordan Geckos!) Anyway, I just tried to read Martyn's "The Lady and the Unicorn," her first novel, but I found it pretty boring. The whole "I hate you but I find you soooo hawt!" can get old fast. I'd love to see her do a straight historical; IMO her attempts to fit in the romance genre fall pretty flat.

I'm not sure why I find Edward so intriguing, but I'm already working on sketches for a larger Piers/Edward painting. What did the two guys look like? I'm so used to working with later periods, it's hard for me to get used to a century where the visual sources are few and far between. Also, I keep picturing Stephen Billington from "Braveheart" as Piers, even though he only played a Piers stand-in named "Phillip"...

Kathryn Warner said...

Yes, Hugh Jr gets all the best lines in Knight and the Rose - he does in Edith Felber's Queen of Shadows too! I haven't tried any of Martyn's other romances - don't think I will, now...;)

Henley's Notorious arrived yesterday - it's as inaccurate as I expected. A really good romance set in Ed II's reign is Mary Ellen Johnson's The Lion and the Leopard, BTW.

Ed II was tall (about six feet or a little more), well-built and strong. He had curly or wavy fair hair to his shoulders, and a moustache and beard - later on in life, anyway. Unfortunately, there's no physical description of Piers - I see him as dark, slender but strong, handsome and 'glittering', somehow! :) Stephen Billington does the job pretty well, I think (though I see Piers as considerably more masculine than 'Philip' was in the film).

This is Ed's effigy at Gloucester cathedral, though it's not certain how accurate a depiction of him it is, or if it's stylised.

Edward effigy

suburbanbeatnik said...

Mainly, "Lady and the Unicorn" had interesting background, but the plot was really contrived. For example, when Margery discovers that her father, the Earl of Warwick, has engaged her to the man who, earlier, had kidnapped and humiliated her under an alias, she- for some mysterious reason, although strenuously (and shrilly) objecting to the marriage- does not take the simple step of telling her dad who her fiancee really is. She's already told him about the kidnapping. At no point does the idea of simply spilling the beans about her fiancee's true identity even occur to her. Huh?

Oh yeah, and Martyn also mentions syphilis. GAH!

Thanks for the picture of the effigy, and the nice description of Piers! :) What did Isabella look like? All the pictures I found of her were so generic they could be of anyone. Was she a blond, a brunette? I've heard over and over again she was fantastically hot, but I wonder how much of this was truth, and how much was the usual royal flattery. I really doubted she looked like Sophie Marceau... it was so silly how she was such a dewy-eyed, swooning maiden in that movie.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Joanne! That's what annoys me about romance novels sometimes - the ridiculously contrived plots, as well as the 'I hate you I hate you I hate you I love you' style! ;) But I do like them sometimes...

Although Paul Doherty describes Isabella in his Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II as having 'beautiful blonde hair' and 'slightly arabic features', no contemporary description of her actually exists (I'm sure he's just making it up and stating it as fact). She was said to be extremely beautiful, 'the fairest of the fair'. The 14th century considered blonde, plump women to be the standard of female beauty, which might mean that Isabella fitted the standard, but I'm really not sure. I think it's quite likely that Isa really was extremely good-looking, although it was common to describe any and every royal woman as beautiful - both her father Philip IV and brother Charles IV were called le Bel, the Handsome.

I think Sophie Marceau is stunningly beautiful, but her Isabella in the film annoys me sooo much!

Baddog said...

Great story on Edward and Isabella. My family has passed down a story for generations that we are the descendents of Isabella and Mortimer. True or not I have know idea, but the story has stayed true with cousins that have not had contact with each other and live around the globe for a hundred years, until just recently. Supposedly the last name "Dallow" is a Saxonized form of the French name given the baby. True or not i have know idea.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Baddog! That's fascinating about your family! As far as anyone *knows*, any child of Isabella and Mortimer did not survive...but if one did, that would make a fantastic story...Wow, you could do so much with that!

If you do find out anything more, please let me know!

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm a child of Isabella and Mortimer! So are hundreds of thousands of others. But of course not the blend of DNA that the last poster meant. I'm descended from Isabella and Edward II through Edward III and son John of Gaunt/Katherine Roet. And I'm descended from Roger Mortimer and his wife Joan de Geneville, through their daughter Katherine who married Thomas Beauchamp, Earl Warwick.

So by some genealogy research, you may discover that the family rumors are true but a bit dented over the 700 years!

It's funny to be me, working my way through Sharon Kay Penman, Alison Weir, or Elizabeth Chadwick books, seeing that EVERY major character, royal and noble, is my direct ancestor.

Thanks for the very interesting website, by the way. I've bookmarked it and will visit regularly.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Christy! Great to see you here.

Wow, that must be fantastic to read about all these people and know that they're your twenty greats grandparents, or something. I'm working on my own family tree, too, but haven't got back that far yet. Given that a huge percentage of all English people today are descended from Ed II, I assume I am, but I'm dying to prove it. (Oh, please, please...! ;)

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's great to know your genealogy. Keep working: it gets way easier once you get back 5 generations. My mom got me started as a teenager, 30 years ago, before the Internet made it easy. We studied books and microfiche in Mormon libraries. Admittedly, she did the most difficult work of the near generations. But I struck it lucky on a hunch that proved right, and the world ante-1600 just exploded before us.

The research never ends. (Which is how I found your blog -- Googling Edward's sisters, also my ancestors!)

You know, if enough people died, I could be Queen of England! But no one wants that: not me, and certainly not the current royal family.

I started a photo album of ancestor effigies at http://community.webshots.com/user/Edatur that you and your readers are welcome to view. I've found some carvings that may be Isabella of France at Bristol Cathedral and Hereford Cathedral. I haven't mined even 10% of your site yet, but if you want the images from me, I'm happy to share them. You can leave a comment on my Webshots photos which will be forwarded to me. And then I'll contact you from my gmail account. (Don't want to put my private address out here in the open.)

Kathryn Warner said...

You have some great pics, Christy. I'll put in a link to them in my next blog post, or in the sidebar!

That's good to know that the genealogy gets easier. I've found an ancestor who died in 1544, the farthest back I've got, so he was probably born in the Middle Ages - yay!

If you'd like to get in touch, my address is: mail(at)edwardthesecond(dot)com.

Florence said...


Thank you for this very interesting website!

but I have to destroy your sweet illusion about the care that Edward had of Isabella, care that would explain the late birth of the future: Edward the third.

You said that Isabella was 12 years in her wedding, that happened in 1308 - as you know.
So, for you, she was born in 1296!!!
But, it's not the case! She was born in 1292 (it's written in each biography I had the occasion to read, in novels, in wikipedia,...)
So she was 16 at her wedding and she was perfectly able to care a child. Because at this time, the women were wedded (i don't know if you say it in English, sorry) where they were able to become pregnant.

It makes me sad, because I liked a lot your version that is almost romantic (almost so romantic that the moment when he saved her during the fire of Maubuisson in 1313 *o*) But well... That's life T_T

Have a good day!!!!


PS: sorry for the mistakes, English is not my mother language!

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Florence!

No need to apologise for your English; it's fantastic! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Old, outdated secondary sources claim that Isabella was born in 1292, but they're wrong. Research since the 1970s proves beyond reasonable doubt that she was born in the second half of 1295 or the beginning of 1296 (see for example Paul Doherty, ‘The Date of Birth of Isabella, Queen of England’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 48 (1975), pp. 246-248).

Isabella was certainly 12 when she married Edward in January 1308 - this is 99% certain. Please do not take old novels as a historical source, or Wikipedia (it's utterly hopeless and cannot be relied on). More recent biographies of Isabella, such as Alison Weir's from 2005 and Paul Doherty's of 2003, as well as Seymour Phillips' biog of Edward II published last year, will all tell you Isabella's true age when she married - 12 - and her true age when she became pregnant with her first child in 1312 - 16. I assure you it's not my 'sweet illusion'!

Florence said...


You're welcome, and thank yoi for your formation in historical critisism, but as student in History, in MA2, my teachers harrass (?) me a lot with that since 5 years^^

I repeat myself, I know, but I swear that in the french biographies I read, written by french medievists extremely serious, it is still written 1292!

(Amazing the differences between two countries separated only by a Channel XD)

So now that you make me doubt, I truly don't know, so perhaps it is 1292, perhaps it is 1296...
It depends on the sources, and when you know how it is kept sometimes T_T
I hope you're right because I adore your version of the story, like I said *o*
It makes me adore Edward so much more (I didn't know it was still possible, but yes, it is!!!!^^)

But for the rest I totally agree with you about the children -that the main point of the article indeed (I don't know if that word can be used in this ocntext?)XD
(how can some people reasonably think that they are not Edward's children?
God! She is the daughter of Philippe le Bel, king of France and Navarre! Not a whore!!!)


Kathryn Warner said...

Hi again Florence! How strange that French historians say Isabella was born in 1292, when it's French sources that make it apparent that she must have been born in 1295/96. You know that she had two older sisters, Marguerite and Blanche, who both died in infancy? (One of them, it's not clear which, was betrothed to Fernando IV of Castile in Nov 1294 but died not long after.) That alone makes it impossible for Isabella to have been born in 1292. She was the sixth of Philippe IV and Queen Jeanne's seven children - she had a younger brother, Robert, who died in 1308 aged about eleven. Her three elder brothers were all kings of France.

It's also apparent from the way Isabella and Edward behaved in 1308 after she arrived in England that she was far too young to play any role in politics.

I'm really glad you adore Edward! :-)) Thanks for your interest and your comments - please do feel free to comment on other posts any time you like - I'd love to hear more from you.

Florence said...


Yes, I heard about her brothers and sisters, even if her biographies, or her parents' and elder brothers biographies are not very precise(?) and complete
about Blanche, Marguerite and Robert.

Well, if the french sources are so clear, why the question of her birth's year is asked since only 20 years? Why did/do historians think that she was born in 1292 and not in 1296, if it is so obvious?

About the political role, I'm not sure that a teenager of 16 could have a political part so soon, except if her husband permits it.
(And even in this case, there is always someone to reduce the political influence of the queen...). The queens have a political part generally only after the birth of a heir. Because, at that moment they proved their utility, and they are in charge of the education of the heir (choosing who will take care of the kid,...).
By exemple Marie-Antoinette: she was married at 14, she had a real political power only 10 years later at the birth of her first child (and her husband truly loved her and trusted her BUT sha had no children, so she was accused to be sterile (?) so it was out off the question to let her having a strong influence. Specially with the tension between France and Austria at that time... And in the 13-14th centuries this tension existed between France and England. So let a young french woman, daughter of the King of France, who had not giving yet a heir to the throne of England having a political power... So for me the changing of her statut is note linked with her age but with the birth of the little Edward)

Well, Edward is Edward, how could it be possible to not love him?

Have a nice day!!!


PS: the (?) are there because I don't know if those expression exist in englih and i have not english dictionnary with me^^

Kathryn Warner said...

It's probably best if you do some reading on the subject - Seymour Phillips' 2010 biog of Edward, Weir's 2005 biog of Isabella (but use with extreme caution as she's incredibly biased) and Doherty's article I cited - I really don't have time to sit and type out all their findings, I'm afraid.

Agnes Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England, volume 2, page 231, published in 1840 (1840, not 1940!), says "Isabella was born in the year 1295," so it's certainly not in the last 20 years that her date of birth has been questioned! It is absolutely beyond my comprehension that supposedly serious French historians insist that she was born in 1292. Probably one of them made a typing error and the others have just copied it without checking. It happens all too often, sadly. Bizarre that French historians can't read the French chronicle and the papal letter to Philippe IV which say that she was twelve when she married.

BTW, Wikipedia, that you mentioned in your first comment, gives her date of birth as c. 1295, at least in the English one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabella_of_France

Florence said...

Well, a new proofe of misunderstanding and the different ways to work in England and France:
In the french version of Wikipedia you can read:

So well...
Welcome in the wonderful world of historical debates...
Some will say: but in that book it is written this and it is very well demonstrated
And others will say: in that book too and it is very well demonstrated too!
By example: about the papal letter, have you seen the original in the bnf? Can you really be sure that is 1296 and not 1296 knowing that it is written in very elaborate calligraphy, that it is probably a copy, because a lot of archives where lost during centuries (after all there were a lot of wars on the french ground and a revolution...)?
I don't know it is impossible, it is just not totally sure, it is an estimation.

The french historians have historical criticism too...

So, you are a partisan of the authors that you cited. It is your right!
And their demonstration can be pertinent, but it seems to me strange that good and extremely competent historians, aren't competent about the biog of a woman from their territory and who was extremely insulted in Great Britain (She-wolf of France is one of the most famous example, thanks Thomas More)...
So I don't judge but put on the side the date of 1292, no... For me it is a theory that can stay possible.

So if we are sure that the birth's year is 1296 since 1840 why is the theory appeared that she was born in 1292?

So it is the clash of Titans lol

I don't pretend to convince you but it is the type of debate that cannot be resolved with certitude.

Have a nice day!


Florence said...

Hi again!

I just saw a typing error that I made in my previous post, sorry!

Instead of reading:

"Can you really be sure that is 1296 and not 1296 knowing"

"Can you really be sure that is 1296 and not 1292..." must be read.

I didn't want to offend you with my previous post, you know, you make a wonderful job!
It is just really surprising for me to see that even for a birth year historians cannot agree between them!!! O.o

Have a nice day!


Anonymous said...

the post is really very interesting,,
bt i think william wallace was executed in 1305,, right???

Kathryn Warner said...

Yes, August 1305.

Anonymous said...


Moira. ford@ hotmail.co.uk said...

Great blog as per usual,you pics are on hol are good
The Yesterday channel on the 17th November have a programme about medieval murders all about Edward.On at 9pm.

Unknown said...

Awesome article with great facts. And I have read only a few b99is by Alison Weir and after that stopped entirely. You said it perfectly. She and a few others suit theirselves and story by changing the facts or leaning towards what they like to be biased. I did not like many things she portrayed about Anne Boleyn. Basically, what she said was more of "her" opinion rather than what was actually a fact. I completely understand many things about Anne are mystery so yes we have to make l due with what we have.. Anyhow, thank you. I love how you thoroughly researched this and proved their absurd theories wrong. I believed this as well but had no evidence to substantiate with. Great job.

Unknown said...

Awesome article with great facts. And I have read only a few b99is by Alison Weir and after that stopped entirely. You said it perfectly. She and a few others suit theirselves and story by changing the facts or leaning towards what they like to be biased. I did not like many things she portrayed about Anne Boleyn. Basically, what she said was more of "her" opinion rather than what was actually a fact. I completely understand many things about Anne are mystery so yes we have to make l due with what we have.. Anyhow, thank you. I love how you thoroughly researched this and proved their absurd theories wrong. I believed this as well but had no evidence to substantiate with. Great job.

Audrey said...

Wow! I just found this and plan to place in my favorites. A few years back I was able to have my 6th great grandfather's link to the Colonial Farrars certified by ProGenealogist. This links me back to Edward I through both his children, Joan of Acre and Edward II. I become physically ill when I see artistic license used to distort historical facts. Thank you for such a well researched and amazing accomplishment with this piece.

anonymous said...

Hi, I just wanted to ask if you know if Edward III cared about his father and the way he was kicked off the throne. Did he feel sad, did he want to find a way to help his father or was he indifferent to it all? By the way I love your blog.

anonymous said...

Hi, I just wanted to ask if you know if Edward III cared about his father and the way he was kicked off the throne. Did he feel sad, did he want to find a way to help his father or was he indifferent to it all? By the way I love your blog.

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi, thank you! It's hard to say for sure, but at first Edward III refused to take the throne until he knew for certain that his father was abdicating of his own free will. I feel sorry for Edward III; he was an adolescent boy caught between his parents. And he surely recognised his father's ineptitude as a ruler, even while he loved him as a parent. There's very little record of the months between Jan and Sept 1327 while the former Edward II was in captivity, though we do know that Edward III sent him a gift of wine, and there might have been letters and other gifts we don't know about.