- Seriously, I had to cut out… a lot for this entry, and it’s still probably too long. Isabella deserves her own graphic novel, but you’ll have to sett
le for these 35 pages for now. ↩
- An anonymous Parisian writer from 1393 summed up the cultural attitude: “Cherish your husband’s person, give him plenty of attention, and the cheer of other delights, privy frolics, lovings, and secret matters. Do not be quarrelsome, but sweet, gentle, and amiable. And if you do all this he will keep his heart for you, and he will care nothing for other women.” The writer made no mention of caring for other men, however. ↩
- This may be a slight embellishment on my part – there’s records of Edward I (E2’s dad) having people size up Isabella’s mother to figure out how Isabella would turn out, but not as much survives for Isabella. Nevertheless, I maintain the spirit is intact. ↩
- There’s still some die-hard historians who assert they weren’t lovers, but… given the preponderance of talk about them, and the way they behaved with each other, I find that incredibly unlikely. ↩
- Among the insults Gaveston slung at the barons: “Burstbelly,” “Churl,” “old Hog,” “the Player,” “the Fiddler,” and “the Black Dog of Arden.” This became such a problem that Gaveston was actually exiled for a while, but came back. ↩
- As she was still pretty young at this point, it is more likely Philip IV, her dad, arranged most of this through her. Still, it dipped her toes into politics. At the time, Edward was not providing for her much at all – giving her almost no money, confiscating her jewelry, and redirecting her rents. He stopped a lot of that after Philip IV came on board. ↩
- When Gaveston was captured, the plan was originally to have been treated well – but the “black dog of Arden” he’d earlier insulted kidnapped him, put him through a sham trial, and executed him. He was stabbed twice and left for dead on a hill. Several people tried getting him buried, but various churches refused to perform the rites. The guy was a real asshole. ↩
- The main family opposing Edward throughout this was the Lancasters. His main opponent at this time was Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who was Isabella’s uncle. She helped smooth things over with Lancaster several times, but as she threw her lot in more with Edward, the two became enemies. ↩
- To be fair to Edward, he actually rescued her from the burning tent, carrying her out. The two were completely naked at the time. ↩
- There were actually two Hugh Despensers – older and younger – who allied with Edward. I’m talking about the younger one here, as he was more of an influence (the older was just a political ally, not a lover). ↩
- This was Leeds Castle in Kent, where a political enemy named Badlesmere was holed up. Isabella was out traveling, and made a detour to visit the castle. She was met by Badlesmere’s wife, who was holding the fort. She refused to let Isabella in, and after some tense words, the Badlesmere archers opened fire on Isabella’s forces, killing six. Isabella retaliated shortly thereafter and overran the castle. ↩
- The reign of terror is brushed over here, but it was an extensive and brutal campaign of violence. The Earl of Lancaster was killed in brutal fashion. 118, mostly knights and barons, were either killed, imprisoned, exiled, or fined into poverty. It was a horrific rearrangement of the political landscape. ↩
- It was also around this time that Roger Mortimer turned on Edward, and was imprisoned. He then escaped and fled to France, making him the first person in over 200 years to escape the Tower of London. ↩
- Let’s be clear: Isabella was not, by our standards, a model mother. She didn’t spend a ton of time with them initially, but she was fond of them, and only grew more so, especially towards the end of her life. ↩
- According to later testimony, Edward actually began carrying around a knife and threatened to kill Isabella at this point. That may have been propaganda, or at least embellishment, that Isabella came up with later – but their relationship was in dire straits. She was afraid for her life. Historian Alison Weir found a passage that may even implicate Despenser in sexual violence towards Isabella, but that would be reading a lot into it. Bottom line: things were not good. ↩
- He also abandoned her again during this round of wars against the barony (the Despenser Wars, historians call them), and she had to escape on a ship, dodging hostile Flemish vessels. ↩
- One of Isabella’s last big attempts to placate, or at least distract, Edward (and the angry nobles) was to bring forward the idea that she was heir to the throne of France. Due to a quick succession of other claimants, she actually had a strong case – one that France summarily dismissed. Edward began warring against France to reclaim the lands of Gascony, ancestral holdings of Isabella’s. These wars would continue under Edward III and become known as the Hundred Years War – which would bring us the stories of Joan of Arc, Jeanne de Clisson, and many more. ↩
- This is figurative, based off her following actions. She didn’t actually go burning tapestries. ↩
- Okay, so. Philippa of Hainault is the subject of some hot debate, as some historians think she was black. There is evidence to this – a contemporary account describes her as brown-skinned all over, like her father. However, ideas of race have shifted remarkably over the years. I find it more likely that what we think of as black (an African person) would have been described by terms that are, ah, impolitic in modern discourse. To be clear: I don’t know! I’m not an expert in this. But she was hardly pale and white, so I tried to hit upon an ambiguous skin tone here. I hope she was black, that would have been rad. But hell if I know. ↩
- Edward II had originally put forward the idea of Philippa marrying Edward III, but Isabella put it into action. Edward II was furious, writing endless letters demanding return with Edward III. He cut off Isabella’s funds, and started blaming all their troubles on her. ↩
- At the same time, Isabella was talking with the Scots. She’d arranged for Robert the Bruce to not invade after she toppled Edward II. Smart lady. ↩
- I can’t stress how big a deal this was. Most of her retinue left in disgust. At this time, adultery was basically sanctioned for men, but one of the gravest sins imaginable for a woman. Hard to tell if it was hated more or less than homosexuality. ↩
- When Edward was caught, he had eight men with him. He may have surrendered. ↩
- Despenser was first dressed in a tabard with his family crest and paraded through town on the shittiest horse they could find. Then he was given a crown of nettles, had his skin roughly tattooed with biblical verses on arrogance and retribution, and dragged in a chest around town. Then he was stripped naked, half-hanged, and had his penis and testicles cut off – which were then thrown into a large fire they’d built underneath him. He asked forgiveness of the bystanders, then let out a “ghastly, inhuman howl” and died. They split open his belly, cut out his heart and entrails, and tossed them in the fire. His head was cut off and sent to London, and his body sawn into quarters, each sent to the four next largest cities in England. He was not a popular man. ↩
- First off, just deposing him was an unheard-of feat. It had never been done before. She arranged a vote with all major social organizations on board for his removal – so nobody could be directly blamed. She got many clergy to speak out against him. She got the people on her side and they almost unanimously wanted him out. She was a master at PR. ↩
- The narrative that holds that Edward was murdered usually mentions that he had a red-hot poker rammed up his anus. This is almost certainly false. ↩
- Historians Alison Weir and Ian Mortimer both put forward an argument that Edward II was helped to escape by some of his supporters, that he hopped from hideout to hideout for a bit, and eventually reestablished himself as a man named William the Welshman. As evidence to this, they cite a letter from a priest who took confession with him that provides specifics on his capture and imprisonment that were not public knowledge at the time. Furthermore, there were rumors he was still alive for decades thereafter, and some even plotted to overthrow Isabella and Mortimer and reinstate Edward II, despite possibly not knowing his whereabouts. If it was true, Edward III actually met his dad in his Welshmen guise near the end of Edward II’s life, and reinterred his body to be in the correct grave. ↩
- The peace with Scotland was a huge problem, as it declared Robert the Bruce king of Scotland, a concession far beyond what any English king had been willing to make. Moreover, Isabella married her daughter Joan to the Scottish heir, David II, who was a real shitweasel. Not only was this an unpopular move with the English, it was even somewhat with the Scots as well – they derisively referred to Joan as “Joan Make-peace.” ↩
- There were a lot of things they did to outrage people. Mortimer started gathering titles like they were going out of style. They spent crazy amounts of money and seized even more. There’s also evidence that Isabella got pregnant, possibly twice, from Mortimer, although neither were carried to term. None of these were popular moves. ↩
- Roger stabbed a guy to death before he was taken down. Another guy who was in the tower with them was caught while trying to escape down the privy chute. Bad way to go. ↩
- Mortimer was paraded around in a tunic that said “quid glorians”: “where is your glory?” before being hanged. ↩
- She spent a lot of time hunting and training hawks, which I think is awesome. ↩
- So let’s qualify “happy” here – they were by all accounts quite happy, but Edward did cheat on her, seemingly in secret, towards the end of her life. Given that the standards of the time said that men were basically genetically predisposed to cheat on their wives, it’s about the best she could have hoped for, I guess? ↩
- And replaced it with the Hundred Years War, to be fair. Edward III excelled at war, and delivered one of the most crushing military defeats in history at the Battle of Crecy. The humiliation suffered there (and in other battles) sank the French king into such deep depression that it would take the fulfillment of a legend to pull him out of it and defend the country. Thankfully, Joan of Arc came along to do just that. ↩
- She spent a lot of time with her grandson Edward, the Black Prince, as well as Roger Mortimer’s descendants (one of whom was also named Roger Mortimer). She helped Joan get out of her terrible marriage with David II, and she instilled some real fire into her other daughter, Eleanor. Also trapped in a shitty marriage, Eleanor was accused of having leprosy by her husband, so he could get rid of her. In response, she showed up to court in practically nothing, displaying she did not have leprosy. She had some real chutzpah. ↩
- It’s also worth noting that she was buried with Edward II’s heart, a practice which, as described in the primary book I read on the subject, was not entirely uncommon, and not as big a deal them as it would be now. Said book mostly focused on the possibility that Edward II survived his ordeal and became an itinerant wanderer, though, so the mentions of his heart was mostly in the context of constructing a timeline for its re-burial. According to the claims made, the initial heart would have been for the fake body swapped out for Edward II’s, and once the real Edward was found (and he died), his remains were reinterred. Regardless, from my understanding as the book laid it out, her burial with his heart and her burial with her wedding cloak hit the same emotional story-beat, and the cloak required less explanation, so it stands in for both in this telling. ↩
- Seriously, fuck Braveheart. That movie said that William Wallace – who died when Isabella was nine – had an affair with her and was the father of Edward III. That movie could have been so much better. ↩
- I’m serious, fuck Braveheart. I hate it. ↩
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This is going to require an entire other post to get into – which I’ll have to do early next week, most likely. Things to look out for:
- The whole story goes in cycles. Almost everything is an echo of something that happens elsewhere.
- Butterflies symbolize the happiness she’s never able to touch (they’re on the tapestry, formed in embers from various fires throughout, and all over her dress).
- Fire and burns symbolizes her turn from the social contract.
- White + gold = the social contract.
- Green + orange = greed and avariciousness.
- Purple = royalty.
- Red + fur = passion, anger, her as she-wolf.
- Black = death of the soul.
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