Synopses & Reviews
Isabella arrived in London in 1308, the spirited twelve-year-old daughter of King Philip IV of France. Her marriage to the heir to Englands throne was designed to heal old political wounds between the two countries, and in the years that followed, she would become an important figure, a determined and clever woman whose influence would come to last centuries. But Queen Isabellas political machinations led generations of historians to malign her, earning her a reputation as a ruthless schemer and an odious nickname, “the She-Wolf of France.”
Now the acclaimed author of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Alison Weir, reexamines the life of Isabella of England, historys other notorious and charismatic medieval queen. Praised for her fair looks, the newly wed Isabella was denied the attentions of Edward II, a weak, sexually ambiguous monarch with scant taste for his royal duties. As their marriage progressed, Isabella was neglected by her dissolute husband and slighted by his favored male courtiers. Humiliated and deprived of her income, her children, and her liberty, Isabella escaped to France, where she entered into a passionate affair with Edward IIs mortal enemy, Roger Mortimer. Together, Isabella and Mortimer led the only successful invasion of English soil since the Norman Conquest of 1066, deposing Edward and ruling in his stead as co-regents for Isabellas young son, Edward III. Fate, however, was soon to catch up with Isabella and her lover.
Many mysteries and legends have been woven around Isabellas story. She was long condemned as an accessory to Edward IIs brutal murder in 1327, but recent research has cast doubt on whether that murder even took place.
Isabellas reputation, then, rests largely on the prejudices of monkish chroniclers and prudish Victorian scholars. Here Alison Weir gives a startling, groundbreaking new perspective on Isabella, in this first full biography in more than 150 years. In a work of extraordinary original research, Weir effectively strips away centuries of propaganda, legend, and romantic myth, and reveals a truly remarkable woman who had a profound influence upon the age in which she lived and the history of western Europe.
Engaging, vibrant, alive with breathtaking detail and unforgettable characters, Queen Isabella is biographical history at its finest.
From the Hardcover edition.
A portrait of the notorious and charismatic English queen Isabella of France describes her marriage to the English king Edward II, the king's homosexual affairs, her flight back to France, and her alliance with her husband's arch-enemy, Roger Mortimer, with whom she launched a revolution that forced Edward II to abdicate and placed her son Edward III on the throne. Reader's Guide available. Reprint.
The acclaimed historian and bestselling author of "Eleanor of Aquitaine" turns her expert eye on the dark reign of another notorious and charismatic medieval monarch, Queen Isabella of France.
In this vibrant biography, acclaimed author Alison Weir reexamines the life of Isabella of England, one of history’s most notorious and charismatic queens. Isabella arrived in London in 1308, the spirited twelve-year-old daughter of King Philip IV of France. Her marriage to the heir to England’s throne was designed to heal old political wounds between the two countries, and in the years that followed she became an important figure, a determined and clever woman whose influence would come to last centuries. Many myths and legends have been woven around Isabella’s story, but in this first full biography in more than 150 years, Alison Weir gives a groundbreaking new perspective.
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About the Author
Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, and several other historical biographies. She lives in Surrey with her husband and two children.
Reading Group Guide
1. How far do you think the author has succeeded in rehabilitating Isabella? Do you think she set out to write a revisionist view of her? Or did that come about as a response to the historical sources that she studied?
2. Do you think our modern moral values allow us to take a more sympathetic view of Isabella than that of her contemporaries? Do you think she deserves our sympathy for her “moral” failings?
3. How would you account for Isabella`s transition from a model queen-consort and acknowledged peacemaker to a notorious femme fatale who became known as a jezebel and a she-wolf ?
4. Did you like Isabella? If you have read Eleanor of Aquitaine, did you ﬁnd her as charismatic a character as Eleanor?
5. Were the authors arguments for Edward IIs survival convincing? If so, what was the most powerful evidence in favor of that theory? If not, why not?
6. Did you ﬁnd anything to like about Isabellas husband, Edward II? Would you agree with the view that he was one of the worst kings in English history? What makes a good or a bad king?
7. Do you think that the issue of homosexuality is sensitively and objectively handled by the author? How should we allow modern politically correct views to inﬂuence the study of history?
8. It could be said that Isabella was a victim rather than a villainess. Would you agree with that view? And how far should we apply modern feminist perspectives when studying women of the past?
9. Isabella appears as a character in the ﬁlm Braveheart. What is historically inaccurate about that portrayal? Should she have been in the ﬁlm at all?
10. If you were asked to choose an actress to portray Isabella, who would it be? Were you convinced by the authors theories as to what Isabella looked like? Should ﬁlmmakers always try to ﬁnd actresses who look like historical characters?
11. How do you account for Roger Mortimers transition from a staunch supporter of the Crown to an exiled traitor, and then to a tyrant? What do you think was the true nature of the relationship between Isabella and Mor-timer? Who was the dominant partner?
12. Did Isabella have blood on her hands? If so, whose?
13. What was Edward IIIs attitude toward his parents? Do you think the troubles between them caused him great anguish? And was he caught up in a conﬂict of loyalties?
14. Contrast Piers Gaveston and Hugh le Despenser the Younger. Were both villains? Whose was the worst inﬂuence on Edward II, and why? Are you convinced that his relationships with both were homosexual? Did both deserve to be put to death? Was Despenser`s execution unnecessarily cruel?
15. Would you agree that Isabella`s reputation had been restored by the time she died? To what extent was Edward III responsible for this? Why do you think Isabella was so concerned about penitence and redemption in her last years?