Isabella Capet of France was Queen Consort of England, wife to Edward II. She was called the “She Wolf of France” by her enemies, and “Isabella the Fair” by those who loved her. She is most popularly know as the beautiful French Princess that had an affair with William Wallace in Braveheart. However, this is most untrue. Isabella was a child when William Wallace was… doing his thing. He actually dies when she was nine years old. So let’s put some of these fabrications to rest, shall we?
Isabella was a world renowned beauty. She was engaged to her future husband (Son of Edward I) as an infant, and was raised to be a Queen of England. The engagement was on and off again, depending on which way the political tide blew. Eventually Edward I died and Edward II went ahead with the marriage. It is believed that Edward II did not actually care who he married and that he was, if not homosexual, at least bisexual. When Isabella arrived, her handsome, unconventional, and flamboyant husband had a favorite at court. Another handsome lad by the name of Piers Gaveston. There was little animosity between the Queen and the Kings favorite however. They seemed to have an understanding, if one was needed. All three seemed to get along nicely for the most part.
Edward had many issues within his Kingdom. Edward was a Plantagenet King. The rival House of Lords in England were the Lancasters. These two rival houses would fight generation after generation in what would become the War of the Roses; they would do so all the way up until Henry VII. Not only was Edward struggling with the Lords of his realm, but he also had issues with Scotland, which was ongoing as well. Edward’s questionable behavior, (for a King), only fueled the fire of those who wanted to revolt and cause disturbances. Gaveston was a target and it was not long before he was hit and brought down.
Sometime during the madness, Isabella and Edward managed to do their duty as King and Queen and give birth to a few babies. With Gaveston gone, perhaps the King was focused a bit more on securing his throne. This was short lived, for the King found a new favorite in Hugh Despenser the Younger, and this time he seemed a lot more involved. Things were very different with this one. Isabella and her husband’s lover could not come to any understanding or middle ground. Isabella was born to be a Queen, and Queen she would be. Despenser wanted the King for himself. Eventually the Kings heart and desires ruled his mind and Isabella was forced to flee to France.
In France she allied herself with the Lancasters. Most notably with Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. They became lovers and together, they invaded England and won. They imprisoned the King and executed Hugh Despenser. Eventually the King met a untimely end while imprisoned and Isabella ruled as reagent for her son Edward III. Isabella’s story ends when her son comes of age and takes his power. Sick of Mortimer’s influence, he has his mother’s lover executed. Devastated Isabella lives without him, yet still with dignity as the King’s mother. Some people have said she went through periods of madness because of the loss of her lover. She never remarried, nor is said to have taken another lover. She took the nuns habit of the Poor Clares before her death.
Isabella gave birth to 4 children, with her husband Edward II, King of England and had at least one miscarriage…
Edward III, King of England (1312-1377)
John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall (1316-1336)
Eleanor of Woodstock, Duchess of Guelders (1318-1355)
Joan of England “Joan of the Tower,” Queen Consort of Scotland (1321-1362)
Isabella of France can be seen in two films. The 1991 film “Edward II,” and the 1995 film, Braveheart. Neither film is very historically accurate. In Edward II, Isabella is portrayed as a scorned woman. It is known that Isabella seemed to not be bothered by her husband’s homosexuality as long as her position and influence as Queen Consort remained secure. She only fought against her husband’s second male lover, as he was over stepping his place. If anything, I think Queen Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones must have been inspired by Isabella of France. Braveheart is the worse when it comes to historical accuracy, as this film depicts an adult Isabella of France as the lover of William Wallace. This is utter nonsense since Isabella was about 9 years old when William Wallace was executed.