Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Isabella of Angouleme, Queen of England

Below you will find an encyclopedia entry about Isabella. Because her descendants by both husbands intermarried over the next three hundred years, I am related to her in maybe a dozen ways. The most direct relationship makes her by 24th Great Grandmother. Read the article and tell me if you believe personality traits persist in families?

Isabella of Angoulême was the daughter and heiress of Aymer Taillefer, Count of Angoulême and Alice of Courtenay, who was sister of Peter II of Courtenay, Emperor of Constantinople and granddaughter of King Louis VI of France.

Isabella had been betrothed to Hugh de Lusignan, Count of La Marche, although the marriage had been delayed because of her extreme youth. A renowned beauty, reputed to have had blonde hair and blue eyes, it is said that King John of England became infatuated with Isabella, then twelve years old. The unprincipled John stole the enchanting Isabella from under Hugh's very nose, which resulted in King Philip II of France confiscating John's French lands, and the entire de Lusignan family rebelling against him.

His first marriage to Isabella of Gloucester had been declared invalid, since they were related within the prohibited degrees. Isabella's marriage to King John took place on 24th August 1200, at Bordeaux. She was crowned Queen of England on 9th October at Westminster Abbey. It was said that John was so besotted with his young bride that he refused to rise from bed until well after noon. Isabella was far younger than her husband but was possessed a volatile temper to match his own, resulting in a tempestuous marriage. Both took lovers and Matthew Paris referred to Isabella as 'more Jezebel than Isabel'.

Hugh de Lusignan, Isabella's slighted fiancée, had sought redress from his overlord Phillip Augustus, who promptly summoned John to the French court to answer for his actions. John refused to comply and accordingly, Phillip, acting under feudal law, claimed those territories ruled by John as Count of Poitou and declaring all John's French territories except Gascony forfeit, he invaded Normandy. Chateau Gaillard, Richard the Lionheart's impregnable castle, fell to the French after a long siege in 1203, it was followed by the rest of Normandy. John, his resources exhausted, was forced to flee the smoking rubble of his father's once great French Empire.

Isabella became Countess of Angoulême in her own right on 16 June 1202. She gave birth to a son and heir, Henry, seven years after her marriage to John, on 1st October 1207 at Winchester Castle. Another son, Richard, later Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans was born on 5th January 1209. Three daughters were to follow, Joan, later Queen of Scots, was born on 22 July 1210, Isabel, later Holy Roman Empress in 1214 and Eleanor, later Countess of Pembroke in 1215.

John died at Newark on the wild stormy night of 18th October, 1216, leaving England in a state of anarchy and civil war. Isabella and John's nine-year-old son Henry, described as being a "pretty little knight" was crowned King Henry III at the Abbey Church of Gloucester with a circlet belonging to his mother since his father had previously lost the royal treasure in the Wash.

The highly capable William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, was appointed Regent along with Hubert de Burgh. At the time of King John's death, London and most of the channel ports were held by the French. In a popular move, Marshall announced his intention to rule by the terms of Magna Carta, the French invaders were driven out and peace restored in England. Less than a year after his coronation, still a young woman, Isabella left her son in the care of William Marshal and returned to France to assume control of her inheritance of Angoulême.



  1. An occasional reader12:08 PM

    I'm afraid my knowledge of the Plantagenets is limited to occasionally looking at the dust jacket when Mrs O was a Jean Plaidy fan many years ago.

    Personality traits persisting in families? Hmmm. Is it nature or nurture? I would say a little bit - but we can't blame our ancestors too much for how we behave and think. We can rise above them or sink below them - personality traits can change for better or worse. Feel free to disagree of course.

  2. I don't know. I think we all are a mixture of family traits, experiences, milieu, etc. We all are unique. You are unique Rachael.

    I am enchanted by your family history.