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Isabella of Valois (1389–c. 1410)

Isabella of Valois (1389–c. 1410)

Queen of England. Name variations: Isabella de France; Isabella of France; Isabel Valois. Born on November 9, 1389, in Paris, France; died in childbirth on September 13, 1410 (some sources cite 1409), in Blois, Anjou, France; buried at the Church of the Celestines, in Paris, around 1624; second daughter of Charles VI the Mad, king of France (r. 1380–1422), and Isabeau of Bavaria (1371–1435); became second wife of Richard II (1367–1400), king of England (r. 1377–1399), on October 31, 1396; became first wife of Charles Valois (1391–1465), duke of Orléans and count of Angoulême, on June 29, 1406; children: (second marriage) one daughter Jeanne de Orléans (c. 1410–1432, who married Jean II d'Alencon).

Became child bride of the king of England (1396) who was deposed and imprisoned three years later; led rebel army against husband's foes, but was unsuccessful; returned to France; wed her cousin (1406).

Isabella of Valois was known as the Little Queen, for she was still a child when she arrived in England to become the wife of its king. She was born in Paris in 1389, second daughter of the French king, Charles VI the Mad, and Queen Isabeau of Bavaria . Arranged marriages among Europe's contentious royal families were common at the time, and it was hoped that the latest conflict, in an ongoing series of battles between England and France that became known as the Hundred Years' War, would be resolved by the marital alliance of Isabella to Richard II, king of England and ruler of the House of York.

Isabella of Valois was only seven when she wed Richard II at the English-controlled port of Calais (now France) on October 31, 1396. A year later, she was crowned queen in Westminster Abbey; allegedly, several people died in the crush to get a glimpse of the famous young bride. Richard II was by then around 30 years of age, and the pair did not live together. Isabella instead grew up in Windsor Castle, where her husband visited her and brought gifts. There was conflict within his extended royal family, however, and the throne was coveted by his cousins in the House of Lancaster. It is said that Richard II's last gift to Isabella was a dog to be her companion throughout her upcoming hardships, of which she was probably unaware; soon afterward, his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, deposed him and took the throne as Henry IV.

Isabella never saw her husband again after that last visit. He was imprisoned, and she, barely entering her teens, was moved to Sunninghill along with her court. Factions loyal to Richard II saw her as a valuable ally, however, and told her that he had escaped, and that she should lead an army of rebels to victory against the House of Lancaster and Henry IV. She complied, but the mayor of a town called Cirencester was loyal to the Lancasters, and informed Henry IV of the plot against him. Isabella's two cohorts, the earls of Kent and Salisbury, were executed for their role in the insurgency; she was lucky to be judged too immature, and little actual threat, to be charged with any crime.

Isabella was, however, still an attraction as a royal spouse, and Henry IV wished to marry her to his son who was near her own age. That boy would become Henry V, and also the inspiration for the "Prince Hal" in Shakespearean drama. To Isabella, however, the idea was abhorrent, and she refused to cooperate or even speak at court. She assumed Richard II was dead, which was indeed true by 1400; he had either been murdered or had died after a self-imposed hunger strike while imprisoned at Pontefract Castle. Isabella's family in France campaigned for her return, but Henry IV would not allow it for several years. Eventually she was allowed to leave England, and was married to her cousin, Charles Valois, the duke of Orléans and count of Angoulême, on June 29, 1406. Supposedly, the marriage was against her wishes, and she cried throughout the ceremony. Isabella died after giving birth to a daughter in September of 1410 (one source cites 1409 as her date of death), in Blois, Anjou, France. She was either 20 or 21 years of age. Later her husband fought "Prince Hal" at the infamous Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Charles Valois lost the battle, however, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for 25 years, where he wrote poetry. Isabella of Valois is buried in Paris.

Carol Brennan , Grosse Pointe, Michigan

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