26 May, 2015

Yolande de Dreux, Queen of Scotland, Duchess of Brittany and Countess of Montfort (c. 1263-1322)

A post today about a French noblewoman whose father was the the count of Dreux, who succeeded her mother as countess of Montfort in her own right, and who was both queen of Scotland and duchess of Brittany by marriage.  She married firstly the widower of Edward I's sister Margaret, and secondly the son of Edward I's other sister Beatrice.  (My eye has improved enough so that I've been able to write a blog post! Woooo!)

Yolande (or Joleta or Violante or Violette) de Dreux was born in about 1263, or perhaps as late as 1267, as the daughter of Robert IV. count of Dreux (d. 1282) and Beatrice de Montfort, countess of Montfort l'Amaury in her own right and great-niece of the famous Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265.  (Just to clarify, Earl Simon was the younger brother of Yolande de Dreux's great-grandfather Amaury de Montfort.)  Yolande was one of five children, four girls and a boy; her brother was named Jean or John, and her sisters were Marie, Jeanne or Joan and Beatrice, an abbess.  John succeeded their father Robert as count of Dreux, and passed the title on to his only surviving child, a daughter Joan; he was also the great chamberlain of France, and died in 1309.  Yolande's mother Beatrice de Montfort, countess of Montfort, died in 1311 or 1312, and because her brother John was already dead and she was Beatrice's eldest surviving daughter, Yolande succeeded her as countess in her own right.  Yolande de Dreux was a first cousin of Margaret Fiennes, mother of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March, and Joan Fiennes, mother of Margaret Wake, countess of Kent; Yolande and the Fiennes sisters were all granddaughters of  Jeanne de Châteaudun, lady of  Château-du-Loir.

Yolande de Dreux married comparatively late, when she was in her late teens or early twenties: on 14 October 1285 at Jedburgh Abbey, she married Alexander III, king of Scotland, the widower of Edward I's sister Margaret of England and then aged forty-four.  The match had probably been arranged with the aid of Alexander's mother Marie de Coucy, also a French noblewoman who died this year.  Queen Marie's second marriage, after her first husband Alexander II of Scotland died in 1249, was to John de Brienne, son of the titular emperor of Constantinople and the king of Jerusalem, and a first cousin of Edward I's queen Eleanor of Castile; John de Brienne had previously been married to Jeanne de Châteaudun, Yolande de Dreux's maternal grandmother from Jeanne's first marriage to John de Montfort.  (Which, if I've worked this out correctly, means that John de Brienne was both the stepfather of Alexander III and the step-grandfather of Alexander's second wife Yolande de Dreux.  John and Jeanne de Châteaudun were also great-grandparents of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March.)  Alexander III's three children Alexander, David and Margaret of Scotland, queen of Norway, were all dead by 1285, and his only heir was his two-year-old granddaughter Margaret 'the Maid of Norway'.  He desperately needed a son, but it was not to be: only five months after his wedding to Yolande, on 19 March 1286, Alexander III rode his horse off a cliff during a storm and was found the next morning with a broken neck.  It is possible, though not certain, that Queen Yolande was pregnant with Alexander's child; it wasn't until some months later that the Guardians of Scotland acknowledged the little Margaret of Norway as the late king's heir, and it may be that Yolande had suffered a miscarriage or even a phantom pregnancy.  Had she given birth to a boy, he would have become king of Scotland immediately on birth, but sadly, Yolande de Dreux was not destined to be the mother of a king.  Had she given birth to a girl, that leads to an interesting 'what if?' scenario - presumably Alexander III's posthumous daughter would have taken precedence over his granddaughter Margaret of Norway, and become queen of Scotland, even though the granddaughter was some years older?  Not totally sure.

Queen Yolande remained a widow for some years, and in 1292 or 1294 married Arthur, the future Duke Arthur II of Brittany, born in 1262 as the eldest son of Duke John II and Beatrice (d. 1275), one of the two sisters of Edward I and thus also the sister of Alexander III of Scotland's first wife Queen Margaret.  Arthur had previously been married to Marie, viscountess of Limoges (d. 1291), with whom he had his son and heir John III, born in 1286, and a younger son Guy.  Arthur attended Edward II - his first cousin, both of them being grandsons of Henry III - and Isabella of France's coronation at Westminster on 25 February 1308, having succeeded his father as duke of Brittany in 1305 when the unfortunate John II died in the strangest freak accident of the era: a wall fell on him as he led the new pope Clement V's horse around Avignon.  Yolande de Dreux, having been queen-consort of Scotland for a mere five months, was duchess of Brittany for seven years: Duke Arthur II died on 27 August 1312, just past his fiftieth birthday, to be succeeded by his son John III, Yolande's stepson.  In the same year as her husband's death, Yolande's mother died, and she succeeded as countess of Montfort.  Arthur and Yolande had half a dozen children: one son John, born in about 1295, and daughters Beatrice, Jeanne, Alix, Blanche and Marie.  John, who inherited his mother and grandmother's county of Montfort, is often known as John de Montfort to distinguish him from his older half-brother Duke John III.

John III was married three times, to Charles de Valois's eldest daughter Isabella, to King Sancho IV of Castile's eldest daughter Isabel, and to Joan, countess of Savoy, but left no children on his death in 1341.  His half-brother, Yolande's son John de Montfort, would reasonably have expected to inherit the duchy, but John III had disliked him, and favoured the succession of his niece Jeanne de Penthièvre, only child of his full brother Guy (d. 1331) and married to Charles of Blois, nephew of Philip VI of France.  This led to the War of the Breton Succession, and the involvement of Edward III of England.  John de Montfort, Yolande's son, was the father of Duke John IV of Brittany (d. 1399), who was briefly married to Edward III's daughter Margaret and whose third wife the decades-younger Joan of Navarre later married Henry IV of England as his second wife.

Yolande de Dreux, dowager queen of Scotland, dowager duchess of Brittany, and countess of Montfort, died on 2 August 1322, probably in her late fifties.  On 30 October 1323, an entry on the Patent Roll in England records a "[s]afe-conduct until Christmas for Theobald de Denysi, knight of France, going to Scotland for the dower of the duchess of Brittany for the time that she was queen of Scotland, and to treat of the deliverance of John de Brytannia, earl of Richmond, a captive of the Scots." (Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-4, p. 347)  John of Brittany, earl of Richmond, was Edward II's first cousin and Yolande de Dreux's brother-in-law, being the younger brother of Duke Arthur II, and had been captured by Robert Bruce at the battle of Byland on 14 October 1322.  Yolande was already dead, so I'm not sure why the Scottish dower to which she was entitled from her brief marriage to Alexander III was being sought at this time.  It was due to her for her lifetime only and her entitlement to it didn't pass to her son and heir John de Montfort, unless John was claiming back-payments on it from during Yolande's lifetime from Robert Bruce.


Anerje said...

Glad you are feeling better. Yolande seems to have led a bit of a marital complicated life to me - trying to work out her relationship with Edward II:)

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Anerje! Yeah, these family trees are madly complicated :D Yolande and Edward were only distantly related by blood - I think fourth cousins or so - but much more closely by marriage.

chris y said...

I never cease to be astonished at how inbred the European aristocracy was in this period. But, I suppose there were so few of them to begin with, and they kept killing each other.

Sami Parkkonen said...

Once again, stunning amount of information. Thanks.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Chris, it wasn't any better in later centuries. I've just tried to sort out some geneaological messes of the Welfen of Braunschweig and Hannover, and their intermarrying between the various branches is a hopeless tangle. Add the branches of House Sachsen (Coburg, Altenburg, Gotha, Hildburghausen, etc.) who intermarried among themselves and with the Welfen more times than you can count, and it turns out there is more German blood in the English royal house than in my own family, lol. The difference is that I can figure out a few generations of ancestors without tying my brain into a knot. ;-)