Isabeau of Bavaria (1371–1435)

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Isabeau of Bavaria (1371–1435)

Queen of France. Name variations: Elizabeth of Bavaria; Isabeau of France; Isabel, Isabelle, Isabella. Born around 1371 (some sources cite 1369) in Bavaria; died on September 29 (or 24), 1435, in Paris, France; daughter of Stephen III, duke of Bavaria (r. 1375–1413), and Thaddaea Visconti (d. 1381); married Charles VI (1368–1422), king of France (r. 1380–1422), on July 17, 1385; children: Charles (d. 1386 in infancy); Joan (1388–1390); Isabella of Valois (c. 1389–c. 1410, who married Richard II of England); Joan Valois (1391–1433); Charles (d. 1401); Marie (1393–1438, prioress of Poissy); Michelle Valois (1394–1422); Louis, duke of Guienne (d. 1415); John, duke of Touraine (1398–1417, who married Jacqueline of Hainault ); Catherine of Valois (1401–1437, later queen of England married to Henry V); Charles VII (1403–1461), king of France (r. 1422–1461); Philip (1407–1407).

Isabeau of Bavaria was one of France's most despised queens. She was a German princess

born in 1371, the daughter of Stephen III of Bavaria and Thaddaea Visconti . In 1385, Isabeau married the French king Charles VI as part of a political alliance between Bavaria and France. Isabeau succeeded in the primary duty of a queen, to provide heirs to the throne, by having 12 children with Charles. However, she had the misfortune of marrying the king called "Charles the Mad," who suffered long bouts of insanity for several decades. This caused confusion and intense power struggles at the French court; the queen contributed to these struggles by allegedly having an affair with one of the contenders, Duke Louis of Orleans.

With her husband disabled, Isabeau attempted to administer the government in his name but was largely unsuccessful. However, this failure may have been more due to the chaotic conflicts and wars which were brewing before Charles became incapacitated than through any fault of her own. As regent, Isabeau signed the notorious Treaty of Troyes with the invading English which proved unpopular with the French people; it dispossessed her son Charles and agreed that Henry V of England would succeed Charles as king of France. It also provided for the marriage of Isabeau's daughter Catherine of Valois to King Henry. With this treaty looming over them, the French began to see Isabeau as a curse laid on them, for she had supposedly lost their kingdom to their longtime enemies (although the monarchy did remain in French hands since the Treaty was broken when Charles died).

Much of Isabeau of Bavaria's poor reputation also stemmed from the fact that she was a foreigner; her Bavarian customs and entourage seemed quite bizarre to the French court, and her excessive interest in luxury goods for which she spent great sums of money did not aid her image. On the positive side, Queen Isabeau was recognized as an important patron of artists and writers, among them the celebrated Christine de Pizan . Unpopular and not much mourned, Isabeau died at age 65.


Anderson, Bonnie S., and Judith P. Zinsser. A History of Their Own. Vol. I. NY: Harper & Row, 1988.

Echols, Anne, and Marty Williams. An Annotated Index of Medieval Women. NY: Markus Wiener, 1992.

Tuchman, Barbara. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century. NY: Ballantine, 1978.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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Isabeau of Bavaria (1371–1435)

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