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French queen Isabella of Bavaria - a libertine and a monster or a victim of intrigue
French queen Isabella of Bavaria - a libertine and a monster or a victim of intrigue

Isabella of Bavaria, or Isabeau, is an ambiguous personality. On the one hand, this woman from her youth regularly performed the functions of the wife of the French king, bore him children, tried to reconcile the clans of the English, French and German parties in the struggle for state power. On the other hand, she became the object of the most serious accusations, from countless love affairs to the collapse of France and the murder of her own children. Why is Isabella of Bavaria so unpopular in the country where she lived most of her life - is it because the French have always been inclined to blame women for the troubles of their kingdom?

Isabella's marriage and life at court

Isabella was born in Munich in 1370 during the Hundred Years War between England and France. Due to the tense political situation for the young French king Charles VI, the guardians were looking for the "right" bride, primarily from the point of view of benefits for the state. True, the choice to the groom was nevertheless given, sending the artists to several eminent families of Europe, who returned with portraits of candidates to the king's heart, and the image of Isabella seemed the most attractive to Charles.

Unknown artist. Portrait of Charles VI

Contemporaries described her as a pretty pretty girl, though not quite consistent with the ideals of beauty of the Middle Ages. Isabella was short, her eyes, nose and mouth were large, her forehead was high, her skin was dark and very delicate, her hair was dark. Her father was Duke Stephen III the Magnificent, and her mother was Taddea Visconti, from a family of Milanese rulers.

So, at the age of fifteen, Isabella turned out to be the bride, and then the wife of the French king. By the standards of her native Bavaria, she is quite wealthy, at first she was lost from the splendor of the French court, feeling ashamed of her outfits. However, the bride did not manage to sew a real wedding dress - the king, impressed by the appearance of Isabella, insisted that the wedding take place in a few days, in Amiens, where the young people met for the first time.

J. Fouquet. Isabella of Bavaria's entrance to Paris

The first years after her marriage, Isabella spent a series of festivities, feasts and entertainment. The first child, born in 1386, died after only a few months, and the king spared no expense to amuse the queen with New Year's balls, tournaments and weddings. During the second pregnancy of the queen, a special tax was introduced - the “queen's belt” - which gave additional funds for the leisure of the crowned couple. Charles VI did not seek to rule the state - from childhood he enjoyed the rights of the king without the burden of his duties, while France was ruled by several of his regents-guardians, and therefore power in the kingdom was now distributed between different politicians, including the party of "marmuzets", to which the king entrusted a number of powers to govern the state.

The queen spent time talking with maids of honor and holidays

During this period, the influence of the younger brother of King Louis, Duke of Orleans, increased. Evil tongues said that his relationship with the young queen began in the early years of her marriage. He himself was married to Valentina Visconti, the daughter of a French princess and a duke of Milan, who enjoyed love and respect at court, raised her husband's illegitimate son, "Bastard Dunois", who became Jeanne d'Arc's main associate years later.

Valentina Visconti, wife of Louis Orleans

Mad king

The main factor that determined the policy and fate of Charles VI was his mental illness, the attacks of which he was susceptible to since 1392. The condition of the king was aggravated by a tragic event on January 28, 1393 called "the ball in flames." True to her passion for entertainment, Isabella threw a masquerade ball in honor of the wedding of her maid of honor, to which the king appeared, along with his companions, smeared with wax with a hemp glued on top. All, except for the king, were chained to each other and depicted the "wild people" popular in medieval mythology.

J. Rochegross. Ball on fire

As the story goes, Louis d'Orléans, to see the mummers, brought the torch too close to them, and the hemp caught fire, causing a fire, panic began, and several people died. The king was saved by the young Duchess of Berry, who threw her train over him. After what happened, the mind of Charles VI became clouded for several days, he did not recognize his wife and demanded to send her away, and until his death, the king increasingly found himself in the grip of seizures, when he refused to eat, wash, clothes, and could rush at people with weapons.

The "randomness" of the incident was immediately called into question, seeing in what happened the desire of Louis in the company of Isabella to get rid of the weak and no longer quite healthy king. There is no evidence for these accusations, however, and the Duke of Orleans, in atonement for his deed, ordered the erection of the Orleans chapel.

E. Delacroix. Charles VI and Odette are not Shamdiver

Isabella left her deranged husband, settling in the Barbett Palace, which, however, did not prevent her from continuing to bear and give birth to children - as announced, from the king, with whom she still maintained a relationship during periods of his clear mind. Nevertheless, at the behest of Isabella, Odette de Chamdiver was assigned to Charles VI as a nurse and concubine, and it was this woman who kept the king's company for sixteen years, until his death, and gave birth to a daughter from him. It is not surprising that on the basis of all these events, Isabella was accused of both adultery and the fact that the cause of the king's illnesses is some kind of cunning poison, the use of which was famous for the Italian relatives of the queen.

A cast of a statue of Isabella of Bavaria from the Palace of Justice in Poitiers

Currently, scientists put forward two versions of the causes of Charles VI's illness, one of them is schizophrenia or another mental disorder, the other is systematic ergot poisoning, the queen was quite reasonably suspected of being carried out.

Isabella and politics

Leaving the king, Isabella plunged headlong into politics, intervening in the struggle between two parties - the so-called Armagnacs and Bourguignons. Initially supporting the first, led by Louis of Orleans, she later went over to the side of his killer, Jean the Fearless.

Jean the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy

Isabella was also accused of disliking her own children. She sent her daughter Jeanne to a monastery as a child - in the name of the king's recovery. At the age of ten, the unloved Karl was exiled to marry Maria of Anjou and was brought up by his mother-in-law, Yolanda of Aragon. Isabella was accused of the death of Charles's other son, the Dauphin of Vienne (now believed to have died of tuberculosis), and Michelle's daughter, married to the son of Jean the Fearless, is believed to have been poisoned by her mother for not following her orders.

Fouquet. King Charles VII

The main fault of Isabella before the French was her participation in the conclusion of a "shameful" treaty with England in Troyes. According to him, France actually lost its independence, the king of England Henry V was proclaimed heir to the mad Charles VI, and the Dauphin Charles, the son of Isabella, was declared illegitimate and lost the right to the throne.

Subsequently, this treaty became a bone of contention between countries for centuries, and Charles VII had to fight for the crown with arms in his hands, and his main inspirer and companion in this was the Maid of Orleans, Jeanne d'Arc.

J.E. Lenepwe. Coronation of Charles VII in Reims

After the death of her husband in 1422, Isabella lost her influence on the political life of France - she was already useless to all groups.The dowager queen spent the rest of her life alone, suffering from lack of funds and poor health.

Tombstones of Isabella of Bavaria and Charles VI in Saint Denis

There are more negative memories of Queen Isabella of Bavaria. Nevertheless, there is an opinion among historians that she was still a faithful wife and an attentive mother, and her "reputation" was created by political opponents, as well as popular rumor, which did not forgive the queen for a treaty with the British. Isabella stood on a par with Marie-Antoinette, who was prone to excessive luxury and thus aroused the dislike of ordinary French people. And like Marie Antoinette, she became famous for innovations in fashion - thanks to Isabella, a dress with deep neckline and Annena's hats, completely covering the hair, the beauty of which, as they say, the queen could not boast.

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