Queen Isabella of Valois

Born: November 9, 1389

Paris, France

Died: September 13, 1409

Blois, France (Age 19)

Queen Isabella in History

Isabella of Valois was a daughter of King Charles VI of France and was thrust into the royal spotlight at a very young age. In 1396 she became Queen of England at the age of seven when she married King Richard II (Richard's first wife, Anne of Bohemia, had died two years earlier). The newly crowned queen was given an immense dowry, and a lengthy truce was procured between the two countries as a result of the marriage. Over the next several years Isabella developed a liking for her new husband, and it is believed that the feeling was mutual. In 1399, Richard departed for Ireland in an attempt to put down rebellions occurring in the region. When he returned, his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, had returned illegally from his exile to reclaim the inheritance of his recently deceased father (which Richard had seized to fund the journey to Ireland). It became clear that Bolingbroke also meant to take the throne when he captured Richard and had him imprisoned. Richard was formerly deposed, and Bolingbroke became king as Henry IV. Isabella, who was still only ten, was kept under close watch by the king but was most certainly treated kindly. When Richard's death was reported in February 1400, King Charles of France demanded that Henry send back his daughter immediately with her full dowry. Henry most certainly did not have the money that Charles was after, so negotiations were held, and it was finally agreed that Isabella would be sent back to France with all her jewels; the dowry was never paid back. In 1406, Isabella was remarried to her cousin Charles (the future Duke of Orleans) and died at the age of nineteen in 1409 while giving birth to her only child Jeanne. Most contemporaries of Elizabeth and historians alike will agree that she did not deserve to die at such a young age. Throughout her life she had been treated as a bargaining tool between two feuding nations. In the end, there was no clear winner, but Isabella certainly suffered the ultimate loss.

Isabella in Shakespeare

Appears in: Richard II

Within Richard II, Isabella is portrayed as a mature, yet innocent, adult. Considering the fact that Isabella was only ten during the latter events in the play, it is safe to say that the queen that Shakespeare created is meant to be a sort of composite figure (created for dramatic purposes) of Richard's first queen, Anee of Bohemia, and Isabella. The king and queen are staunchly loyal to one another, and there is a sad parting scene between the two, an event that would undoubtedly been impossible had Shakespeare decided to portray the queen as a ten-year-old girl. At the conclusion of the scene, Richard is taken to Pontefract Castle and Isabella is sent back to France. 


Kirby, J. L. ‘Isabella (1389–1409)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/14486, accessed 20 Oct 2009]

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