Isabeau of Bavaria (c. 1370-1435) – The Woman Who Swore Away France – House of Wittelsbach – Historical Femme Fatale


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Isabeau of Bavaria

Isabeau of Bavaria, Queen Consort of France was born Elizabeth of Bavaria-Ingolstadt from the House of Wittelsbach, and was a descendant of Charlemagne. Bavaria was also one of the most powerful German states at that time, which meant that she was an ideal match for any king or prince. Daughters of princes were born to build powerful alliances among the greatest kingdoms or duchies around the World. So when Isabeau was about twelve or thirteen years old, she was shipped off to France to marry its young King, Charles VI. That is of course if he liked her.

Charles VI was a strong, athletic, and passionate; Isabeau was very beautiful and eager for marriage. It is said that they immediately liked each other, and it was love at first sight for the French King. They were married three days after their first meeting. Immediately, their passions began to produce children. About a year after marriage, Isabeau presented the king with a prince. They would have 12 children (6 princes and 6 princesses). However, only three son and five daughters would survive into adulthood. This was very common at the time and infant mortality was extremely high. Eight surviving children was commendable.

The happy marriage actually began to become a sad one almost immediately. The King began to slip into periods of madness. Modern historians believe that Charles VI suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia. These episodes were terrifying to Isabeau, because her loving husband did not even recognize her. Sometimes he would accuse her of sorcery and order her to be kicked out of the palace. Once at a public event her turned to one of his men and said, “Who is this woman obstructing my view? Find out what she wants and stop her from annoying and bothering me.”

During these fits, the Lords of the realm struggled for power over the King. Isabeau had to constantly ally and break with the two rival factions, the Orleanists and Burgundians, just to protect herself and her princes. This back and forth shifting would cause others to wrongly label her as too indecisive, weak, and blame her for the civil war that would break out. In the beginning, she immediately allied herself with her husband’s brother, the Duke of Orleans. Together, they took over the Kingdom whenever the King became indisposed. However, it became often and the fits became more erratic.

Isabeau was a foreign queen consort, which means she was already considered untrustworthy and not for the interests of France. Foreign consorts were assumed to be working for the interest of their native country. This is usually not true for the most part, because as a mother of princes, Queens (foreign they may be) would be fully invested in their children and their rightful inheritance. They may be ambassadors of sorts, but for any mother, their children always come first.

Soon rumors began to surface that the Queen was having a love affair with the Duke of Orleans. These rumors are believed to be unfounded, as they began circulating from the Burgundians. As the Kings brother, not only was this considered treason, it was also considered incest. Christians of the age considered relations with a husband or wife’s siblings the same as relations with ones own siblings. After these rumors spread, the Duke was set upon by a mob men of the enemy lords and assassinated.

By this time all Isabeau’s older sons had died, leaving the youngest, Charles, heir. Charles would become the future ineffectual King Charles VII that the famous St. Joan of Arc would help fight to regain lost territory annexed by the English. The English King, Henry V, taking advantage of the civil war, invaded France and was annexing territory after territory. When the Dauphin, Charles, murdered one to the Burgundian Lords, the King of France disinherited his own son. So technically, France was without an heir, and the King was once again indisposed to his madness. He was so far gone this time, that Isabeau had to contend with Henry V on her her own. This is how the Treaty of Troyes was implemented. Henry V would marry Isabeau’s daughter, Catherine of Valois, and they would rule England and France together. Henry V was to be declared heir to the French throne and he would quit France for the time being.

This treaty is what really vilified Isabeau, Queen Consort of France. She was responsible for handing the French Crown to the English. This crown the English would continue to claim (even if only in verbal proclamation) for centuries to come. Because Henry VI of France outlived Henry V by a few months, the English claim to France could never be enforced. Henry V’s son, Henry VI could only claim to be King of England and France, as did many Kings after him. It was more annoying to the French than anything. England did however have control of the annexed territories that Henry V gained. This would be the cause of political strife between France and England for many years. This entire period was known as the 100 Years Wars, and in which a heroine by the name of Joan of Arc would rise up out of.

Isabeau died surrounded by her German ladies that followed her to France.


Isabeau of Bavaria had twelve documented children with Charles VI, King of France…

-Charles, Dauphin of Viennois (1386-1386). He died just a few months after birth.
-Princess Jeanne (1388-1390). She died of a childhood illness.
-Isabella of Valois, Dowager Queen Consort of England and Duchess of Orleans (1389-1409). She died giving birth to her daughter, but her second husband.
-Jeanne of Valois, Duchess of Brittany (1391-1433).
-Charles, Dauphin of Viennois (1392-1401). Died of a childhood illness.
-Marie of Valois, Prioress of Poissy (1393-1438). Died of Plague.
-Michelle of Valois, Consort Duchess of Burgundy, Countess of Artois and Flanders, Countess Palatine of Burgundy, and Charolais (1395-1422). Possibly poisoned.
-Louis, Dauphin of Viennois and Duke of Guyenne (1397-1415). Possibly died of dysentery.
-John, Dauphin of Viennois and Duke of Touraine (1398-1417). Rumored to die from poisoning, but more likely an illness.
-Catherine of Valois, Queen Consort of England (1401-1438). Died shortly after childbirth during her second marriage.
-Charles VII, King of France (1403-1461). Died of a wasting illness.
-Dauphin Philip (1407-1407). Lived almost a day.

The same enemies that fired up rumors that Queen Isabeau was a German agent and that she was an adulteress, also claimed that she was a bad mother who neglected her children. There is evidence that this was completely untrue. Isabeau lavished her children with affection and gifts. They had the best toys, clothing, and educations money could buy. Loving and concerned letters that she sent to her children (as children and adults) still survive. It was also said that she always wanted her children near her, and always protested when they had to be sent away into the homes of the nobility, which was the tradition of the times for royal children. This is but another reason why modern historians believe that all the evil rumors about this Queen are most likely slander. According to them she is one of histories femme fatales.


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