21 Mar 2020

Historical Saturday: Princess Isabella Plantagenet, A Medieval Love Story

Whenever we think of Medieval marriages, especially among the nobility we always think of forced or arranged marriages. I've said a few times that forced marriage is something of a misnomer. 

Although its a common trope in fiction, it was actually forbidden under Medieval canon (church) law, and the church officially taught that a marriage could not be valid unless it was entered into with the free consent of both parties. 

Even leaving aside forced marriage, one of the major tropes about Medieval marriages is that they were always arranged for political or socio-ecomonic reasons, and were always unhappy.  We've all read novels that feature them, admit it. 

You see I don't believe all Medieval marriages, nor all arranged marriages were unhappy. There are actually a number of historical examples of such matches in which both parties found contentment, even love.

One such example was that of Edward III of England, who ruled from 1327-1377. He was married as a teenager to Philippa of Hainault, a Dutch princess of roughly the same age. According to accounts from the time, and even some of their own correspondence, Edward and Phillipa's marriage, which lasted over 40 years, was very happy and the two seem to have genuinely loved one another.
(Although Edward did stray towards the end of her life) and the couple had 9 children who survived infancy. 

One of these children was their daughter Isabel. Named after Edward's own mother, the controversial Queen Isabella of France, she as the eldest of their four daughters.  Like most Medieval princesses, Isabella's parents entered into negotiations for her to marry when she was a teenager. First to the son of the Duke of Flanders, who reneged on the arrangement, defected to the French side, and then married another girl humiliating Isabella and her father. Eventually, they settled on Bernard d'Albret, the son of a French nobleman.

Yet that was where the normality ended. The marriage never took place. Evidence from the times suggest that Isabella initially favourted the match, going along with her parent's wishes like a good princess.
Until the last moment when she changed her mind. One story says that he 19 year old princess refused to get on the boat to France to meet her betrothed.
Isabella's father didn't mind. Not in the least. Isabella it seems, was known for being rather spoiled
Isabella's father, King Edward III of England
and indulged by her parents. Perhaps this was just a chronicler's reaction to her later behaviour, but King Edward himself referred to her as his 'very dear eldest daughter, whom we have loved' in letters. Its even been suggested that she was Edward's favourite daughter and remained much closer to her father than her mother throughout her life.

A close relationship with her father, and a reluctance to leave her homeland to go to a country she did not know (and which her country was by then at war with) might well have explained Isabella's refusal to marry Bernard. 
What is known is that after French marriage failed to take place, Isabella went back to live with her parents for another 14 years.  During that time 2 of Isabella's sisters died leaving her the only surviving daughter of King Edward.

Despite this, there is no evidence that her father put any pressure on her to marry, or indeed arranged an advantageous match for her. Her parents seem to have been quite content to have her live with them at their various castles and palaces in England. Indeed, they spent lavishly on her comfort and amusement. At one point paying for a balcony to be added to her room so she could enjoy a better view of the gardens. 

Eventually, in 1365 at the age of 33 (positively ancient for the daughter of a Medieval King), Isabella did marry, but to a man of her own choice. Enguerrand de Coucy was another French nobleman, 7 years younger than her. The young and dashing French adventurer had ended up in the English court, as hostage for the King of France.  It was there that he and Isabella met. 

Always eager to indulge his daughter, King Edward did not just approve of the match, he waived Enguerrand's ransom and even gave him an English title, Duke of Bedford.

Chateau de Coucy, France
Isabella did, ultimately, travel to France with her new husband, and after King Edward's death  in 1377, Enguerrand renounced all his English titles. 
Its possible that his involvement in the Hundred Years war on the side of the French as well other military campaigns separated him and Isabel for long periods, during which she went back to England.
 It was there that she died in 1379, just two years after her father, and was buried  in Greyfriars Church, Newgate in London.*

Isabella's older Brother 'The Black Prince'
Isabel and Enguerrand had only two children, both daughters, named Marie and Philippa. Their later lives  reflected their parents' dual national origins. Marie was born in France, and married a French nobleman, but her sister Philippa who was only about a year younger was born in an English royal palace called Eltham, located in Greenwich.
She was named after her maternal grandmother, and went onto marry an English nobleman, Robert de Vere Earl of Oxford.

Princess Isabella, the 'most beloved' daughter of King Edward III was not the only one of the King's
children who chose to marry for love. His eldest son, Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales followed a similar course.
As heir of the King of England who vanquished the French King in the Hundred Years War, Prince Edward could have had his pick of European royalty. Instead, he married his English cousin Joan of Kent.


* Isabella's tomb sadly, does not survive. The Medieval Greyfriars church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Then the church rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren was bombed in the Blitz.

Her father's tomb however, can be seen in Westminster Abbey and her brother's viewed in Canterbury Cathedral.

11 Mar 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Medieval Research Books

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday  the group Hosted by the Artsy Reader Girl 

My post today is live from the UK, which is now in a state of semi-lockdown.  Although some people still don't seem to be taking this seriously.

I should be using this time to do more reading and studying. Today's post is sort of a homage to that.

Medieval Research Books 



My followers will know I'm slightly obsessed with Medieval History, especially that of Britain. I don't just read novels set at this time though. I also read quite a lot of non-fiction and Literature. 

I think both these genres are excellent learning tools, especially Literature. I do believe that the best way to really familarize yourself with a period in the past is to read books actually written at the time, rather than just about the time.

Some of my readers might be familiar with the works of the late American historians Joseph and Frances Gies.They're great, well researched and very readable. Life in A Medieval Castle and Life in a Medieval Village are still basically classics.

Some of their other books include these two:


Yet, I've gotta say they're not my only favourites and they're kind of out of date. Which sounds crazy, but lets just say there's been more research since they were written and more sources examined. 

Here's a pic of the 'three white books' I have on my shelf. Three of my favourite go-to research books. 

 The titles, in case you can't see them in the photo are 

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer

This is also one of my favourites. The title is intended to be controversial.

Its actually translated from French, and was written by an excellent French historian called Regine Pernoud. She refuted the thoroughly discredited a lot of popular misconceptions about this time period, with humour, common sense and lots of evidence. I'd thoroughly recommend this book if you can get hold of a copy. 

On Medieval Women, a much misunderstood group there's this classic: 


and a work of Medieval Literature. 


There are several other favourites, but this is Top 10, not Top 20. If I included all of those as well as the books in this genre I have not read yet, it would be well up to 20. 
What do you think of my selection? Have you read any of these?

6 Mar 2020

First Line Fridays: On Wings of Devotion by Roseanna M. White

Its been so long since I've done a First Line Fridays post. Far too long in fact.

So without further ado, here's a post for the group hosted by Hoarding Books. 

I finally recieved my copy of On Wings of Devotion, the second book in Roseanna M. White's Codebreakers  series last month when I returned from the Welsh borders. 

I haven't started it yet, but mean to very, very soon. 

Isn't the cover pretty? Bethany House to good ones now. 

All of England thinks Phillip Camden a monster—a man who deliberately caused the deaths of his squadron. But as nurse Arabelle Denler watches the so-dubbed "Black Heart" every day, she sees something far different: a hurting man desperate for mercy. And when their paths twist together and he declares himself her new protector, she realizes she has her own role to play in his healing.

Phillip Camden would have preferred to die that day with his squadron rather than be recruited to the Admiralty's codebreaking division. The threats he receives daily are no great surprise and, in his opinion, well deserved. What comes as a shock is the reborn desire to live that Arabelle inspires in him.

But when an old acquaintance shows up and seems set on using him in a plot that has the codebreakers of Room 40 in a frenzy, new affections are put to the test.

I've made a graphic for the First Line. 

Sounds intriguing doesn't it? 

I shall go back to making more regular FLF posts so come back soon and don't forget to comment with your own First Line. 


3 Mar 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Single Word Titles

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday post, a group hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl blog.

Today's topic is Books with single word titles. 

I've got to say I struggled to think of enough, but then remembered some titles I've recently read, and some which are part series. I might not have read all of them yet, but I needed to get to 10.

I'm lucky enough to have a couple such books in my TBR pile right now. Two are from Tamara Leigh's Age of Conquest series, a series of Historical Romances set during the aftermath of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.

Since the fourth book is due out sometime around April (probably) I figured I ought to get the second and third books, which have been waiting on my Kindle for months, read. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44282781-fearless48339664. sy475
 Oh and here's the cover for Book 4, which can be my third Single Wold title. From Goodreads but no synopsis or pre-order link- yet. 


Simply because I need to bump up the number for this post (which is Top Ten Tuesday of course, not Top 5), I'm included another book, this time from my er, quite extensive Netgalley backlog. 


It's also the second in a series, The Sugar Baron's Daughters. I'm aiming to get done with this by the end of the month so I can decide whether to buy the Kindle Edition which is currently on sale.
I've gotta say I normally avoid anything set during the American Revolutionary War like the proverbial plague. Its really not my thing and annoys the crazies out of me, but I decided to give this book a chance because I've read the first book entitled Keturah

I read this next book, Duty by Rachel Rossano a couple of years back. Its the first in her Fantasy series The Novels of Rhynan. I really ought to buy the second one, since the third has now been released.
Its rather annoying actually, since by library used to have both of these in its Ebook collection, but last year they moved from Overdrive to Borrowbox, and half the books disappeared from their catalogue. Including these, all their Cadfael audio-books and their extensive selection of Bethany House titles. Can you hear my disapproval?


The 3rd and recently released novel is very pretty too. 

50657441. sy475

Its also included in my annual Medieval Christian Fiction Goodreads List.
So go take a look.

My final two books are also from a Fantasy series that was recently completed with the release of the final two titles. Did I cheat with the last one? I shall leave that for the reader to decide.


That's my Top Ten for today. Made it in the end. I regularly write review and post for another Group called First Line Fridays.

If you like my posts and this site, please Follow this blog. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...