Move over, Shakira, there’s a new BAB (badass bitch)™ in town. And by “new” I mean she was born roughly 700 years ago, and by “town” I mean medieval England, but still, potato/potabo. Enter Isabella of France, wife of King Edward II of England. Gurl had some mad haters in her time, and the shade they were throwing in the 14th century casts a longass shadow. Even though she was noted for her beauty, intelligence, and diplomacy, just because, like *one* time, she usurped her husband’s throne, probably had him murdered, and co-ruled with her lover, she has forever been labeled as The She-Wolf of France, and drawn as a manipulative, sadistic, vain, femme fatale. Whatever. Fuckem. Bitches Get Stuff Done.
So our weebaby scandalite is born probably in 1295, daughter of King Philip Eye-Vee of France, ruler of the most powerful state in Western Europe at the time. All of her brothers became kings, and, as was customary, Isabella was promised as an infanta to Edward II (New Moon) of England. Edward’s father (Edward Twilight, whom you know from the 1995 pre-meltdown Mel Gibson classic, Braveheart as “that old guy in the crown”), for some reason which Wikipedia did not make clear to me, tried to dissolve the union several times before his death. But, once he kicked it in 1307, the 23-year-old Edward and the 12-year-old Isabella were free to pursue wedded bliss.
Why? Because Edward was gayer than Christmas, that’s why.
Well, no—Edward was most likely bisexual, as he and Isabella did eventually have four children, and he had at least one illegimate son by an unknown woman (which I like to imagine means she was a ghost, kind of like Patrick Swayze was that one time), and there is considerable scholarly debate over whether Edward actually had romantic relationships with men (fueled not least by issues of interpreting concepts of medieval sexuality, homosexuality, and male friendship [and for an awesome introduction to these queries, plus a bit of academic titillation, check this nifty volume]). But still, the warning signs were there right from the start that Edward’s spankbank wasn’t filled exclusively with sweet, sweet ladybits.
Just quick, let’s have a tidge of context about Edward: though he was a strapping young buck, the heir apparent apparently shied from traditional kingly pursuits such as jousting, hunting, warfare, bloodshed, mayhem, and dick-measuring contests, in favor music, poetry, and “rural crafts.” Edward had a special little hole (in his heart) that was plugged by a nobleman named Piers Gaveston. Apparently, “as soon as the king’s son (Edward II) saw him, he fell so much in love that he entered upon an enduring compact with him”—which is sweet and all, but hanging on the arm of another dude like you’re the hottest wife in Stepford is 200% not cool in 1300. Edward I banished Gaveston a bunch of times to try to unhook his whore talons from Edward II, but I guess as soon as the king kicked it, Jr. saw this as an opportunity to not only marry his supahrich child-bride, but also debut his boytoy in one big ol’ “fuck you, dad, you’re dead” fell-swoop.
At her marriage banquet, Izzie watched all her presents given to Gaveston (I mean really, one man can only use so many chip n’ dips), and at her coronation, the halls were hung with custom tapestries bearing the coats of arms of Edward and Gaveston. …If TLC had gone all Four Weddings on that biznass, I’m pretty sure even Isabella’s sister wives would have given her pity points. That shit’s rough.
Isabella apparently resigned herself to a life of neglect and humiliation in the wake of her husband’s brazen hussiness. She befriended Gaveston’s wife and I assume they spent lots of hours bitching about their sham marriages in their finely illuminated Burn Book of Hours.
BUT, after merely four winters of discontent, in 1312, tensions between Edward and his barons over Gaveston’s power in court had reached a boiling point. After being banished once again by the peerage, and recalled once again by Edward, Piers was finally kidnapped by a couple of earls, who handed him over to a couple of Welshmen, who promptly rid the world of that turbulent puff.
Sidenote: This is in direct opposition to what I remember of the
stunning, delicate, cinema vérité death of a character based on Gaveston in the aforementioned Braveheart, in which Edward I pushes his son’s lover out a window, squealing like a piglet. No, now I find there’s a dignity in truth afforded to the poor soul, knowing he was in fact taken out to the ass end of Wales and beheaded by a couple of sheepfuckers.
Anyway, Edward was so distraught by Gaveston’s murder that he went all Norman Bates and kept his corpse around for a while before the Church finally forced him to bury it (Ew. Ew. Ew. EwewewEW.). But, with his lover gone in an arguably tragic turn of events, Edward had to pull it together. He put on his big-boy jerkin and favorite Bobbi Brown lipstick, and knocked up the wife he suddenly remembered he had. For England; for the Plantagenets; for something to do on a Thursday night.
So Isabella and Edward had a son in 1312, the future Edward Eclipse, but despite producing a healthy male successor, the political situation in England was increasingly unstable: ties between France and England were weakening, Edward had his ass decidedly handed to him with a side of tatties and neeps by the Scots at Bannockburn, a royal pretender showed up claiming to have been switched at birth with Edward (though he brought very little charming, lesson-learning, folksy-wisdom, and good-old-fashioned-adventure to this Twainesque episode, and thus totally deserved his eventual execution), and the barons were still having a hissy fit about how Edward threw around his power—particularly in light of his new advisor/bum-chum, Hugh Despenser the Younger.
(Also, there was a famine—which I would say was like the cherry on top of a shit sundae, but it’s probably more apt to say it’s like the restaurant never bringing you the sundae to begin with, charging you twice, then giving you a plague blanket rather than a mint on your way out.)
Isabella hated Hugh the Younger, because, in all honesty, he sounds like a total, utter, certified, signed-sealed-delivered, midnight-train-to-Georgia douche. Hugh had campaigned against Gaveston and actively displaced Edward’s rebound after Gaveston, a man named Roger d’Amory (Dare I say they engaged in amorous rogering? No? Too much? Ok.), so he could get into the king’s affections. He held huge political sway over who was in favor at court, and he and Edward instituted massive programs of land confiscation, large scale imprisonment, execution, and the persecution of the widows of their enemies. Hugh in particular wrongfully seized a bunch of land from female nobility (including his wife and his sister-in-law)(!!!!??!!1!), and apparently had one woman’s arms and legs broken until she went insane. *teethsuckholyshitfuckthatdude* It has been hypothesized that because Hugh so clearly hated women, and that because Isabella hated Hugh with such a passion, he had sexually assaulted her at some point, but either way, he was horrible, even by medieval standards.
He and Edward made like a shitload of enemies between 1320 and 1326 who plotted a myriad ways to kill them, including—I’m not kidding—voodoo. In response to a brewing war between Edward and the English nobility spurred on by Hugh, Isabella forcibly took a greater role in politics, and attempted to get the Despensers exiled several times, but Edward always manged to bring them back, like a bad penny, or herpes. Edward finally gave her one of his trademark kissoffs by confiscating all her lands, imprisoning all her staff, and taking all her kids. He wanted her to sign an oath of loyalty to Hugh, but she was rightfully like, “fuck that noise,” and in 1325 she returned to France, gathered an army with the help of her brother, Charles IV, and the really pissed off English nobles, and a hot little slice named Roger Mortimer.
Disclaimer: Mortimer and Isabella might have been having an affair back in England, but either way, once in France, the queen finally got the crowning she deserved (that doesn’t make sense, sorry, whatever, they boned a lot, let’s move on).
In 1326, this mediaeval Bonne y Clyd invaded with a very small force, but such was the state of Edward’s unpopularity that the country essential descended into mob rule at the news of her arrival. She laid siege to Bristol and retrieved her daughters, and soon captured Edward and Hugh as they tried to flee the country. Isabella or her followers essentially killed every higher-up still allied with Edward, with Hugh given a particularly humiliating public castration and disembowelment (Ew. Ew. Ew. EwewewewEW). Edward was placed under house arrest rather than executed, since he was legally still Isabella’s husband, and her legal basis for deposing him was minimal (even though bitch showed mad restraint for sitting it out as long as she did, if you ask me). Her son was confirmed as Edward III, with Isabella acting as regent. Somewhere along the way, Edward II dies—it’s unclear whether he was assassinated or simply died in prison, but the most sensational story is that he had a heated fire poker shoved up his butthole (EWWWW).
Now Edward really was a first class tit, but I don’t know if anyone really deserves to have the last of the red hot pokers nonconsensually inserted into their ass. But, you know, Middle Ages, anything goes.
Isabella and Mortimer co-ruled for about four years until her son came of age and promptly deposed his mom’s main squeeze. She had a nervous breakdown, and was briefly arrested, but eventually was give a massive pension and remained in close contact with the court and her grandchildren. And, like many retirees and shut-ins, she developed an interest in astrology. So, all’s well that ends well in the land of Medieval Times: where women who engage in the same shitty, philandering, power-obsessed activity as their shitty, philandering, power-obsessed husbands are forever remembered as despicable SeeYouNextTuesdays.
I know what you’re probably thinking. “LHB, how do you even know about Dude week? You didn’t even write one of those hilarious intros. Poor KAB and MRG had to do all of them.” First of all, listen to yourself, you sound like a bitch. Second, I have a great excuse this time. And no, it’s not “finals are hard” or “I’m graduating.” This time, I moved. States. Coasts, actually. And you know what happens when you move? You ask your boyfriend to deal with Comcast and then he puts it off for three weeks and then you never have internet. It’s really fun. I’m being sarcastic. It fucking sucks. But it makes you really productive and good at, like, setting up your house. I also started reading a book but then we got cable so I was like, “Fuck that.”
Now, you may have read the title of this post and been a little suspicious. “Isadora?” You thought to yourself, “They’ve already written about this slut. I’m going to go read some other less funny blog.”
You know what I say to that? I’d say that you’re really sounding like a bitch today. But you would also be correct if not a little bit of a bitch. We have written about Isadora before. Twice, actually. Once in our first Lesbian post ever (we were so young!), and then once in KAB’s guest post before she came over to the dark side.
The thing is, Isadora’s so scandalous she deserves a post of her own. She didn’t have two children out of wedlock, numerous lesbian and non-lesbian affairs, and a death that English teachers could use to teach ninth graders the concept of irony to merit peripheral sentences in posts about other people. So today, Isadora Duncan, you’re going to get your own post. People only dream about this kind of publicity. You’re welcome.
Going into this post, I was trying to find a Californian in honor of my move. (For Shame! loves relevance.) I was shooting for sort of the Gold-Rush, frontier-era Californian, but I was having zero luck (if you have an idea, please suggest it.) But then MRG did some research on the “internet” and was all, “Isadora Duncan is from San Francisco.” And I was like, “REALLY? OK!” And now here we all are.
Isadora Duncan left northern California pretty early to become a slut in Chicago. I mean, a dancer. She joined a company in Chicago that eventually brought her to New York. But, in the big city, she felt limited and repressed. Americans just “didn’t get her.”* Eventually, the dancer Loie Fuller, who also was “misunderstood”* by Yankee bumpkins showed up at Duncan’s studio and was all, “Girlfriend, let’s get your ass to Paris.”
Fuller was a famous American dancer and actress, known for the way she used flowing silk costumes when she danced. But she spent most of her time in France because they didn’t hate fun as much as they did in the States. (Side note for theatre nerds: she was also a pioneer in stage lighting and held numerous patents for the “technology” and “science” behind making colored gels.) No doubt her love of billowy costumes rubbed off on Isadora, who is known for her use of long scarves in her choreography. (We’ll come back to that.)
But more importantly, IsaDORA did a lot of EXPLORING ifyaknowwhatimsayin’. She had a lot of sex with a lot of people is what I’m saying. Let’s start with the two baby-daddies, shall we? (DISCLAIMER: I should say that I don’t believe any of her affairs were particularly scandalous because she was in Paris and she was an artist and it was the early 20th century, so everyone was all, “Eh, whatever.”)
The father of Isadora’s first child, Dierdre, was famous English scenic designer Edward Gordon Craig. What? Never heard of him? Yeah, me neither. Anyway, fun fact: Baby-daddy numero uno was an illegitimate child himself! Runs in the family, I suppose. I might do a post on him at a later date, so that’s all I’ll divulge for now…
SO, they did it and had a kid. And then four years later, she did it with Paris Singer (yes, son of sewing machine magnate Isaac Singer) and had a son named Patrick. Three years later, when Pat was three and Dierdre was seven, the kiddos (along with their nanny) were on their way back from meeting Mommy for lunch at some swank-ass Parisian cafe, when their driver stalled the car. (Driving was really hard then.) The driver got out to hand-crank the engine, but forgot to put the parking break on and the car, along with the Duncan kids and the nanny, rolled into the Seine! And they drowned!!
Shit just got real, didn’t it?
Duncan was still with Mr. Singer at this point, but after the accident she left him in order to recuperate on the Italian coast with one of Europe’s most famous bisexuals, Eleonora Duse. Isn’t that what you would do? Eleonora had just come out of a two-year lesbian relationship with THE famousest lesbian this side of the Atlantic, feminist writer Lina Poletti. So, when Eleonora and Isadora were sitting in a tree, everyone was like, “They must be K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”
In 1922, a good long time after her post-drowning tryst with the Italian actress, Isadora met and married the Russian poet, Sergei Yessinin who was 18 years younger than her. Get what’s yours, girl. Unfortunately, she only got what was hers for like a year or so, before he was like, “I need to go write about my feelings,”* and went off to Moscow to commit suicide.
Isadora didn’t skip a beat before shacking up with our favorite Lesbian to the stars, the ex-lover of Greta Garbo, Mercedes de Acosta. They wrote each other really nice and kind of explicit letters for a number of years. Most of them involve nipples, but this one doesn’t:
Mercedes, lead me with your little strong hands and I will follow you—to the top of a mountain. To the end of the world. Wherever you wish. (1926)
A year later, in 1927, Benoit Falchetto, a hot mechanic picked Isadora up in his Amilcar to go for a ride, in more ways than one. The 50-year-old dancer turned to her friends before she left and said, “Je vais à l’amour,” which translated into English means something like, “I’m going to go have sex with this hot mechanic now.” On the drive, her scarf got tangled in the open spoke wheels of the early 20th century automobile and broke her neck! And then she died!
Wanna know why she was wearing a scarf? Probably you remember from earlier in the post when I was talking about flowy fabric but I’ll remind you: It was her thing. She practically trademarked scarves. She danced with them, she played with them, she wore them on car-rides. Bitch LOOOOVED scarves. And then they fucking killed her. Watch out, people. Your favorite clothing items will turn on you when you least expect it. It’s only a matter of time.
But here’s what’s really cool about Isadora Duncan. Aside from the fact that the woman could not have cared less what people thought about her (she had illegitimate babies and affairs with lesbians, and was a known communist, and wore that ridiculous tunic around all the time), she was also kind of the undisputed founder of modern dance. When she started dancing, dance was either ballet or, like, vaudeville showgirl type stuff. When expressionist theatre and art and modern literature all started to take off in the early 20th century, dance was about to be left behind. But her innovations in style and technique elevated dance to the status of art.
No small FEET. (Because in dancing you have to use your feet.)
*Indicates direct quote.