One of the most notorious women in English history and her son, the model of a medieval monarch
Isabella was the daughter of Philip IV of France. She married Edward II of England in 1308, with whom she had a son, the later Edward III, in 1312.
The so-called She-Wolf of France, Isabella led an invasion of England that ultimately resulted in the deposition of her king and husband, Edward II, in January 1327 – the first ever abdication of a king in England. She became queen of England through marriage to Edward in February 1308. Edward was not a devoted husband, spending more time with his male favourites – first Piers Gaveston and then later Hugh Despenser.
Isabella returned to France, falling for the dashing Roger Mortimer, a powerful lord from the Welsh borders. In September 1326, they returned to England with an army to depose Edward II. The people of London rose in support of the queen, and Edward fled. After wandering helplessly for some weeks in Wales, the king was taken prisoner and was compelled to abdicate in favour of his son. He died less than a year later in captivity – some say murdered on the orders of Isabella and Mortimer by having a red-hot poker inserted somewhere rather painful.
Young Edward was installed as king aged just 14 with his mother and her lover acting as his advisers and de facto rulers of the country. Nottingham was one of their favourite castles and it was here that their three-year proxy-reign came to an end, slightly ironically considering how Edward II was possibly dispatched, via an unguarded dark hole beneath them.
On the 19th October 1330, a small group of heavily armed supporters of the king stormed Nottingham Castle using the caves beneath the building. They captured Queen Isabella and Mortimer whilst still in their bed! Mortimer’s best-friend, the Bishop of Lincoln, was found trying to escape down a privy chute (a medieval toilet!). Mortimer was tied up and bundled out of the Castle through the caves to be taken to London and executed! After this night, Edward could be king in his own right without interference.
Edward III would often return to Nottingham, holding Parliament here in 1337. It was here he passed the sumptuary laws, which controlled who could wear certain types of cloth or fur based on their social class and forbade the wearing of foreign made clothes!
Connection: Isabella and Edward both regularly stayed at Nottingham Castle, including on the bloody night of 19th October 1330…
Born: Isabella – between May and November 1295 & Edward – 13th November 1312
Died: Isabella – 22nd August 1358 & Edward – 21st June 1377
Did you know? It was during Edward’s reign that we get the earliest mention of the name Robin Hood, which appears in the poem The Vision of Piers Plowman by William Langland around 1377. A long ballad, Piers Plowman was a protest against the harsh conditions endured by the poor in the Fourteenth Century. It includes the line: “I do know rhymes of Robin Hood”.