Isabelle of Bavaria (c. 1370 – 1435)

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Isabelle of Bavaria

Isabelle “Isabeau” of Bavaria, was baptized Elizabeth Wittelsbach. She was a descendant of Charlemagne and came from a very noble house. Bavaria was also one of the most powerful German states at that time. She was an ideal match, for any King or Prince, for daughters of prince’s were born to build powerful alliances among the greatest Kingdoms or Duchies around the World.

When Isabelle was 15 or 16, she was sent to France to marry the young French king, Charles VI. Charles was a strong, athletic, and passionate; Isabelle was beautiful and eager for marriage. They immediately liked each other and were married about 3 days after their first meeting. Immediately, their passions began to produce children. About a year after marriage, Isabelle presented the King with a Prince. They would have 12 children (6 princes and 6 princesses), but only one son survived into adulthood, and five daughters. This was very common at the time and infant mortality was extremely high. 6 surviving children was commendable.

The happy marriage actually did not last very long. The King began to slip into periods of madness. During these fits, the Lords of the realm struggled for power over the King. Something the strong willed and shrewdly intelligent Isabelle would not allow. She immediately allied herself with her husband’s brother, the Duke of Orléans. Together, they took over the Kingdom whenever the King became indisposed. However, it became often and the fits became more erratic. It is documented that the King would not even recognize his own wife and once demanded that she be arrested and charged with witchcraft, ranting and raving that she was trying to use black magic on him and take over the Kingdom. This was dangerous, and some of the Lords who did not like Isabelle or the Duke wanted to feed that insanity into the King so they could gain control of governing of the Kingdom. The thing is, foreign women who married foreign men had their own agendas. They were their fathers (or brothers, uncles, or cousins) most able ambassadors. They were almost always working for the interest of their family. This caused many Queen reagents or Queen mothers to be disliked or seem untrustworthy with the running of their husband or son’s Kingdoms. Women had to fight, and fight hard to maintain their power and positions in these type of situations.

Soon rumors began to surface that the Queen was having a love affair with the Duke of Orléans. As the Kings brother, not only was this considered treason, it was also considered incest. It is not certain if those were just rumors started by the enemy Lords. It is very likely, but it is also possible the Queen took comfort in the strength and protection the King’s brother provided her. The King most of the time verbally abused the Queen and treated her most vile due to his illness. However, devout Christians of the age considered relations with a husband or wife’s siblings the same as relations with ones own siblings. It’s kind of hard to tell, not knowing just how devout Isabelle and the Duke were. Most likely they were, so the rumors seem most likely just rumors. Even so, the Duke was set upon by a mob of some men of the enemy Lords and assassinated. Isabelle was now on her own to deal with a civil war that broke out within the realm.

By the time all Isabelle’s older sons died, leaving the youngest Charles heir, the rumors about her and the Duke as lovers began to haunt her. Even the King was convinced or manipulated into believing that Charles was not his son, but his brother’s. He disinherited his son after he caused much trouble in a Civil War. When Henry V invaded France, the chaos that was taking place within made it easy for him to gain control. It was at this time that the famous Treaty of Troyes was drawn up that would set England and France against each other for centuries. It is Queen Isabelle who is held responsible for it, as she was acting for her mentally disabled husband.

Her son had been disinherited and the next heir by the law at the time was the Duke’s oldest son, the King’s nephew. However, the Duke’s son was a prisoner in London. Henry V stepped into a country that had no heir and an insane King who was incapable of producing more children. Instead of surrendering France completely to Henry V, Isabelle agreed to give her daughter, Catherine of Valois, in marriage to him. Then, if the King of France died without any legitimate heir, Henry V, will be the next rightful heir to the throne of France. Basically all Henry V had to do was wait. The King of France actually outlived Henry V, dying few months after him. However, Henry V had a son with Catherine of Valois, who became Henry VI, King of France and England. This was the reasoning behind the English King’s claim to the Crown of France up until the 19th Century.

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