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.