For all film fans, Princess Isabel of France will always have the features of Sophie Marceau, the beautiful actress who played this role in Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart.
The royal story of Queen Elizabeth of France
However, the historical reality of this character has little to do with the story told by the film.
The princess, for example, could never meet William Wallace, because he did not arrive in England until 1308, when he was only twelve years old, three years after Wallace was executed, and he did not meet his father-in-law (his great nemesis in the film). because he married Eduardo II when his father had already died.
However, the real story of Queen Elizabeth of France is also, without a doubt, worthy of a film.
The French She-Wolf
What would become known in England as “the wolf of France” was born in 1295. She was married at the age of twelve with the young King Edward II, who was immersed in a growing conflict with the nobility seeking greater power and fall of his favorite, Piers Gaveston, with whom the tradition has defended that he maintained a loving relationship.
Isabel soon learned that the fastest road to power and her husband was Piers, so she formed an alliance with both against the nobility, using the power and influence of her French relatives to become strong in the English political scene .
In an unstable kingdom and dominated by civil strife, Isabel was gaining more and more power, which increased after the murder of Gaveston at the hands of rebellious nobles and the birth of an heir in 1312, the future Edward III.
As the years passed, the situation of Edward II on the throne became increasingly precarious.
His impossibility to dominate the nobles, his defeats against the Scots and the great famine that descended on the kingdom between 1316 and 1317 made the popularity and power of Eduardo were progressively disappearing, making the clever and intelligent Isabel the main political figure of the kingdom.
Hugh of Despenser
However, Eduardo, took a new favorite, Hugh de Despenser, whom Isabel hated with passion. The feeling was more than mutual, so both factions, the one of Isabel on the one hand, and that of Despenser on the other, fought for the favor of the king while the nobles, led by Thomas de Lancaster, tried to wrest more and more power from the monarch. .
Between 1321 and 1322, Eduardo II finished with the nobiliary rebellion and initiated a long repression against the rebels, getting to say the chronicles that persecuted to the widows and their children by simple revenge.
Despenser, as favorite and lover, secured his place next to Eduardo II, while the faction led by Isabel was losing strength.
In 1322, Isabel effectively abandoned Eduardo and the hatred that her husband’s favorite professed caused her to confiscate all of her land and take away her youngest children, who ended up in the direct custody of Despenser’s family.
But Isabel was not willing to let herself be defeated without a battle and when Despenser took these radical measures against her, the queen was convinced that it was necessary to cut it off.
He went to France and, with the help of his brother and the opponents of Edward II, put together an army with which to fight his husband.
Keeping his lover, Roger Mortimer, at his side, he took the reign of Edward II in a “lightning” campaign.
The whole Despenser family … executed
Isabel ordered the entire Despenser family to be executed, including her husband’s hated favorite and forced Eduardo II to abdicate in 1327. Isabel and Mortimer locked the king in, but they were aware that, while the legitimate monarch was still alive, his position would be in danger.
There were several escape attempts on his part and many other attempts to free him on behalf of his supporters, until the couple decided to put an end to the problem it represented.
Several months after the beginning of his confinement, the king was assassinated in the castle of Berkeley, supposedly by orders of the queen and his lover, according to the legend, introducing him a red-hot iron through the anus, so that he did not leave paw print.
Isabel rose as regent of her young son, Edward III, keeping Mortimer by her side.
However, in 1330, Eduardo decided to take the reins of power and forged a conspiracy to wrest power from his mother and her lover. He succeeded in his endeavor and, despite Isabel’s entreaties, he ordered Mortimer executed.
After this episode, Isabel retired from the court, enjoying a comfortable position and an important wealth.
Edward III had kept his relationship with Mortimer in the dark, declaring her innocent of all the excesses of which the latter was accused and continued to enjoy a great position and respect among the most important members of the English nobility and being greatly appreciated by the royal family, especially by his grandson, the famous “black prince”.
While never regretting the loss of her Mortimer, Isabel became increasingly religious and died in 1358.
However, although in life she continued to be appreciated, the later story reminded her as an intriguing woman who ended her husband’s life in cold blood with the help of her lover and who did practically anything to retain power.
Her fame as “French wolf” continues to pursue her beyond the grave, obscuring her true portrait as a woman and as a queen, in which nothing was only black or white, but in which everything is full of nuances waiting to be discovered.