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Isabella of France (c. 1295-1358), who married Edward II in January 1308, is one of the most notorious women in English history. In 1325/26, sent to her homeland to negotiate a peace settlement between her husband and her brother Charles IV, Isabella refused to return to England. She began a relationship with her husband's deadliest enemy, the English baron Roger Mortimer, Isabella of France (c. 1295-1358), who married Edward II in January 1308, is one of the most notorious women in English history. In 1325/26, sent to her homeland to negotiate a peace settlement between her husband and her brother Charles IV, Isabella refused to return to England. She began a relationship with her husband's deadliest enemy, the English baron Roger Mortimer, and with her son, the king's heir, under their control, the pair led an invasion of England which ultimately resulted in Edward II's forced abdication in January 1327 in favour of his and Isabella's son. Isabella and Mortimer ruled England during Edward III's minority, until he overthrew them in October 1330. A rebel against her own husband and king, regent for her son, Isabella was a powerful, capable, intelligent woman who forced the first ever abdication of a king in England and changed the course of English history. The Rebel Queen examines Isabella's life with particular focus on her revolutionary actions in the 1320s, corrects the many myths about her, and provides a vivid account of this most fascinating and influential of women.


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Isabella of France (c. 1295-1358), who married Edward II in January 1308, is one of the most notorious women in English history. In 1325/26, sent to her homeland to negotiate a peace settlement between her husband and her brother Charles IV, Isabella refused to return to England. She began a relationship with her husband's deadliest enemy, the English baron Roger Mortimer, Isabella of France (c. 1295-1358), who married Edward II in January 1308, is one of the most notorious women in English history. In 1325/26, sent to her homeland to negotiate a peace settlement between her husband and her brother Charles IV, Isabella refused to return to England. She began a relationship with her husband's deadliest enemy, the English baron Roger Mortimer, and with her son, the king's heir, under their control, the pair led an invasion of England which ultimately resulted in Edward II's forced abdication in January 1327 in favour of his and Isabella's son. Isabella and Mortimer ruled England during Edward III's minority, until he overthrew them in October 1330. A rebel against her own husband and king, regent for her son, Isabella was a powerful, capable, intelligent woman who forced the first ever abdication of a king in England and changed the course of English history. The Rebel Queen examines Isabella's life with particular focus on her revolutionary actions in the 1320s, corrects the many myths about her, and provides a vivid account of this most fascinating and influential of women.

57 review for Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen

  1. 5 out of 5

    Orsolya

    If you ask any English aficionado to name one of the most notorious women in English history; chances are high that the quick answer would be, ‘Isabella of France’. Isabella was the queen consort of King Edward II (you know: the king known for his ‘relationships’ with Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser the Younger- that king), the mother of patriarch King Edward III and the only queen to rebel against her kingly husband and force his abdication of the throne. The latter has earned her the contemp If you ask any English aficionado to name one of the most notorious women in English history; chances are high that the quick answer would be, ‘Isabella of France’. Isabella was the queen consort of King Edward II (you know: the king known for his ‘relationships’ with Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser the Younger- that king), the mother of patriarch King Edward III and the only queen to rebel against her kingly husband and force his abdication of the throne. The latter has earned her the contemporary nick name of the “She-Wolf”; but like any historical figure: much of her reputation is modern-day falsities and there are many more layers to her actual self and life. Kathryn Warner strives to dig through the negative propaganda and portrait the real Isabella in, “Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen”. Warner’s introduction to “The Rebel Queen” thoroughly emphasizes her aim to show Isabella’s true colors in an objective and scholarly way, working to debunk myths and throw away all the negative pretenses and false personifications plaguing this infamous queen. Thus, the stylistic formula behind “Isabella of France” is one that blends a standard biography-essence with resplendent detective work in a strong, academic shell. Warner aims high and in many ways succeeds but also falls show on several counts. “Isabella of France” is a ‘heavy’ piece immediately from the onset and remains so throughout the text. Warner insists on packing each and every page with the highest concentration of facts (even the font is tiny with long paragraphs) which demonstrates her extensive research and knowledge of the subject but also makes it very difficult for readers to grasp the information and find a flowing narrative. There is simply too much! “Isabella of France” must be read slowly and with care or otherwise prepare to drown in text that could use some decluttering. Although in-depth subject matter is generally a positive feature; the problem lays in the topical focus of “Isabella of France”. Warner is inconsistent with her presentation and overly explains logistics and menial details. Initially, “Isabella of France” begins with pages and page of explaining family relations and inter-connections of the English and French nobility during the reign of Edward II and continues to do so in the entirety of “Isabella of France”. So much so, that every time a figure is mentioned, Warner explains the relationship/titles/land possession sometimes even in subsequent sentences! This is simply not necessary, over-taxing and should have been skimmed down by an editor. Similarly, Warner often divulges on the whereabouts of Isabella and Edward and which courtiers traveled with them even when this logistical information carries little importance. Much of “Isabella of France” can be omitted and skimmed over. The title of Warner’s text is “Isabella of France” but sadly, the content barely exposes the woman that she was nor her point of view of events. Warner tried so hard to remain objective that she seems to put Isabella on the backburner. “Isabella of France” is basically coverage on Edward II rather than Isabella. Readers don’t receive the insider, fresh perspective that Warner promises. On the other hand, Warner does expose myths left-and-right with credible backing sources and sleuth work which therefore rehabilitates the currently-accepted stereotype and image of Isabella. This allows for readers to re-think the motives surrounding the lofty events. Warner often condescends other writers (even calling them out by name) for having biases in their work and of making speculative assumptions. Warner promises to not make the same mistakes and yet, she does. Although not overly much, “Isabella of France” is nevertheless peppered with “probably” and “could have”- statements and those stating assumptions as facts. Warner is guilty of the same faults that she condemns. Warner finally readjusts the focus and highlights Isabella more acutely when exploring Isabella’s rebellion against Edward II, her alleged affair with Roger Mortimer and her own eventual downfall by her son King Edward III’s assertion. Warner allows for a colorful narrative that continues to dismantle myths and instead suggests alternative explanations/perspectives to/of historical events. Warner does not hide her personal opinions on these matters but they are not enforced on the reader and rather offer “all sides of the story”. “Isabella of France” still doesn’t feel completely absorbed on Isabella, even at this junction, but it is noticeably stronger than the former chapters and less obsessed with logistical affairs. “Isabella of France” is unfortunately riddled with unanswered questions but this is not an error on Warner’s account but merely a consequence of the absence of proper documentation. Despite this, “Isabella of France” concludes on a hearty note thoroughly looking at Isabella’s end days and her legacy she left behind making for a memorable, sufficiently-whole ending. Warner fortifies “Isabella of France” with a section of color photo plates, genealogical charts, list of figures, (lightly) annotated notes and a bibliography of primary and secondary source material. “Isabella of France” is a somewhat clunky piece that simply misses its aim of fully unveiling Isabella and instead seems to focus more on King Edward II and trivial facts. That said, Warner does explain in-depth investigation efforts which gives readers ‘food for thought’ by default concerning Isabella and the events on hand. “Isabella of France” has some weaknesses but is still a solid text that is suggested for all readers interested in medieval England and in the life of Isabella.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gareth Russell

    Kathryn Warner is an industrious and scrupulous historian. Having already tackled the life of Isabella's husband, Edward II, she turns her attention to the equally improbable myths that have attached themselves to his wife. Isabella was no more known as the "She-Wolf" in her lifetime than Anne of Cleves was "the Flanders Mare" in hers. As with her biography of Edward, Warner approaches her revisionist take on Isabella without the determination to pen a hagiography, in which the only apparent way Kathryn Warner is an industrious and scrupulous historian. Having already tackled the life of Isabella's husband, Edward II, she turns her attention to the equally improbable myths that have attached themselves to his wife. Isabella was no more known as the "She-Wolf" in her lifetime than Anne of Cleves was "the Flanders Mare" in hers. As with her biography of Edward, Warner approaches her revisionist take on Isabella without the determination to pen a hagiography, in which the only apparent way to counter-balance years of hostility is to swing as far in the opposite sympathetic direction as possible. This is a sympathetic but not a sycophantic biography of a deeply flawed, yet consistently fascinating, rebel queen, written by one of the world's leading authorities on the Plantagenet royals. I was in awe of this splendid book's attention to detail.

  3. 4 out of 5

    RJay

    As the author wrote ... the lives of Edward II and Isabella of France were fascinating and vivid enough without the tawdry melodramatic tales invented and embroidered in later times ... she was not wrong. Prior to reading this biography, I had read many novels and history accounts of the times. I had heard the 'stories' about the 'she-wolf' of France and peccadillos of Edward II. I thought "Hollywood couldn't write a better movie manuscript" but I was compelled to discover the truth of what real As the author wrote ... the lives of Edward II and Isabella of France were fascinating and vivid enough without the tawdry melodramatic tales invented and embroidered in later times ... she was not wrong. Prior to reading this biography, I had read many novels and history accounts of the times. I had heard the 'stories' about the 'she-wolf' of France and peccadillos of Edward II. I thought "Hollywood couldn't write a better movie manuscript" but I was compelled to discover the truth of what really happened between them. Kudos to Kathryn Warner for a super job of primary source research and debunking secondary source interpretations and assumptions. Her talent for family trees and who's who is mindboggling - and much appreciated. To understand the players, one needs to know who was connected/related to whom. My only criticism might be in the chronological jumping-around style of writing, a trait of many historians IMHO although Ms. Warner doesn't jump too far thus backtracking is somewhat minimized. I absolutely loved all the family tree information although for many readers this may be somewhat intimidating. I would recommend this biography and that of Elizabeth de Clare by Frances Underhill for those serious about this period in history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Kniphfer

    A clear, concise account of the life and times of Isabella of France. This book is to be welcomed and hopefully supersede earlier and less accurate accounts of Isabella's life. Kathryn Warner is to be commended for a strong narrative portrayal of the queen's life. Criticisms may be made-this reviewer for one is not convinced as he once was that Edward II did not die in 1327. Also, while Warner clearly is a master of the genealogical trees and the account rolls of the period, the way these are so A clear, concise account of the life and times of Isabella of France. This book is to be welcomed and hopefully supersede earlier and less accurate accounts of Isabella's life. Kathryn Warner is to be commended for a strong narrative portrayal of the queen's life. Criticisms may be made-this reviewer for one is not convinced as he once was that Edward II did not die in 1327. Also, while Warner clearly is a master of the genealogical trees and the account rolls of the period, the way these are sometimes listed in the text distract from the narrative which Warner weaves so capably. Aside from these criticisms, this is an important publication on the life of Queen Isabella of France and deserves wide readership and the notice of the academic community.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    4.5 stars. A well-researched, well-balanced biography of Isabella of France, better known as the wife of Edward II of England. Warner does a fantastic job to cut through all the myths and bullshit that have built up around the queen for centuries - even by historians themselves. One thing I will say though, is that Warner has a habit of writing in long paragraphs - at times they are a little excessive (some clocking in at just over an entire page). It meant that I got a little lost and overwhelmed 4.5 stars. A well-researched, well-balanced biography of Isabella of France, better known as the wife of Edward II of England. Warner does a fantastic job to cut through all the myths and bullshit that have built up around the queen for centuries - even by historians themselves. One thing I will say though, is that Warner has a habit of writing in long paragraphs - at times they are a little excessive (some clocking in at just over an entire page). It meant that I got a little lost and overwhelmed at times, and would have preferred the text to be a little more broken up to help with the flow of my reading.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Not as good as the authors previous book. I really wanted to like this but it fell flat for me. How many times can you berate other authors for writing bad history? It felt like half this book was just that. And every time a person was mentioned we got their whole pedigree and family relations. By the time I got to the end of the sentence I forgot who the hell we were talking about

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Judd Taylor

    A no-nonsense biography which cuts through the romance and rumours that for so long have defined Isabella as well as Edward II. Recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    TBV

    Kudos to Kathryn Warner for a well-researched, well-written biography of Isabella of France (c.1295-1358). It is an eloquent, erudite, scathingly witty, myth-busting account of her life. Apparently not much is known about Isabella's first years, except that the three year old Isabella was betrothed to the 15 year old Edward of Caernarfon, the English heir to the throne, as part of the Treaty of Montreuil signed in 1299. Her mother died when Isabella was only 10 years old. The author thus skips ov Kudos to Kathryn Warner for a well-researched, well-written biography of Isabella of France (c.1295-1358). It is an eloquent, erudite, scathingly witty, myth-busting account of her life. Apparently not much is known about Isabella's first years, except that the three year old Isabella was betrothed to the 15 year old Edward of Caernarfon, the English heir to the throne, as part of the Treaty of Montreuil signed in 1299. Her mother died when Isabella was only 10 years old. The author thus skips over those early years and focuses on the period 1308-1330 and draws extensively from primary sources but also refers to secondary sources. Ms Warner presents the biography as an introduction plus three parts. Introduction The introduction lists some of the many fabrications that have attached themselves to Isabella, the so-called "she-wolf". The author comments on the many thoughts and feelings ascribed to Isabella in film, fiction and even in non-fiction when in fact neither her thoughts nor feelings are known. However, some assumptions may be made based on known facts. At the end of the book Ms Warner summarises: “So much of what we think we know about Isabella simply melts away when we examine the primary sources, and reveals itself as assumption, myth and pure fiction which over time has resolved itself into a certain narrative about the queen. Modern books about her follow a fixed storyline: Isabella marries a gay man who heartlessly neglects her, despite her yearning for his affection; sees her jewels or gifts given to his lover; is abandoned weeping and pregnant as her husband takes his lover instead of her to safety; comes to hate her husband and his lover; is delighted when the lover is killed; manages to create children with her husband despite her growing hatred and contempt for him (or in some cases sleeps with another man who fathers them); sees her children cruelly taken away from her; highly sexed and frustrated, falls deeply in love with a man vastly superior to her husband and schemes to help him escape; schemes some more in order to be reunited with her lover and to act with him against her husband; orders her husband’s murder, continues living in sin with her lover and thus becomes a She-Wolf par extraordinaire; mourns her executed lover for many years, keeps in touch with his family and asks to be buried next to him; and so on.” Part one: 1308-1321 Part One commences with the glittering wedding on the 25th January, 1308 at Notre Dame Cathedral, Boulogne, of Isabella aged twelve and Edward aged twenty three. Isabella, a member of the French Capet Dynasty, had an incredibly illustrious pedigree and one has to keep one's wits about one when trying to sort through the family connections and work out who is who. Starting with the many inaccuracies of the film "Brave Heart", these and several other popular myths are debunked. I'll list some of the points, but I leave it to you to read the details: 1. The myth that Edward was interested in sexual relationships only with men - at the time of his marriage he already had an illegitimate son. There is also a possibility that Edward might have had an affair with Eleanor de Clare, the wife of Hugh Despencer the Younger, in later years - this is discussed in Part Two. 2. Piers Gaveston - he was neither low-born, nor was his mother a witch. He was in fact a French nobleman. 3. Edward handed Isabella's jewels over to Gaveston? - not true, says Ms Warner. 4. Isabella did not witness Edward and Gaveston's joyful reunion as she was not present. 5. A letter supposedly written in 1308 to Isabella’s father to complain that Edward was spending his time in Gaveston's bed rather than hers was apparently invented by the 14th century chronicler Thomas Walsingham. 6. Nor is there any proof that Isabella hated Gaveston. 7. There is no evidence to support that Edward III was not Edward II's son. 8. Edward didn't abandon Isabella in 1312 when he fled with Gaveston from Tynemouth to Scarborough - this is confused with a later event in 1322. etc. This section continues with their coronation in 1308, the first years of their marriage and the birth of their children. Having discussed various aspects of Isabella and Edward's relationship, the author concludes that “It seems reasonably certain that Edward loved Isabella, and it is beyond all doubt that he adored Piers Gaveston and remembered him frequently for many years after Gaveston’s death.” Part One deals with events through to 1321, including the Great Famine, Gaveston's murder, Isabella's visit to France and the notorious Tour de Nesle affair, succession issues in France and the long awaited election of a pope, the devastating defeat of the English first by the Scots under Robert Bruce at Bannockburn, and then at Kells by Robert Bruce's brother (the latter's head was delivered to Edward after the battle of Faughart). The king's new favourites, Roger Damory (or d'Amory), Hugh Audley and William Montacute are discussed. There is also the bizarre story of the royal imposter John of Powderham, a tanner who asserted that he, and not Edward, was the true king. The rise of the Despenser family (see Part Two). And the Scots plotted to capture Isabella. So some, but not by any means all that you can expect to read about in this section. One of the little details that I liked was that Isabella and Edward apparently both liked books. "Edward II owned a few books, including a romance bequeathed to him by his grandmother Eleanor of Provence, another romance about Tristan and Isolde which he gave to Hugh Despenser the Younger in 1326, a history of the kings of England in Latin, a biography of St Edward the Confessor and a Latin book called On the Ruling of Kings." Isabella had a larger library which included romances, history and a French Bible in two volumes. Part Two: 1421-1330 Part Two opens with the return from exile of the Despensers, and problems with the Marcher Lords or Contrariants. Isabella and Edward's marriage started to disintegrate, and whilst she may not have hated Piers Gaveston or her spouse's other male favourites, she certainly seemed to hate Hugh Despenser the Younger with a vengeance! Edward also finally managed to avenge the death of Gaveston. The imprisonment of the Mortimers is discussed and Ms Warner points out that there is no evidence that Isabella interceded to spare the younger Roger Mortimer's life. And on the subject of her sneaking into his cell: “Several novels of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries which feature Isabella as a character have her sneaking off in 1322/ 23 to have sex with Mortimer in his cell: the queen of England manages to evade the notice her household of 200 people, the entire royal court and the large garrison of the Tower whenever she feels like it by the simple expedient of donning a hood, which, one assumes, must have been a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak.” Mortimer of course escaped, and “Two dramatists writing 270 years later in the 1590s, Christopher Marlowe and Michael Drayton, were the first to suggest Isabella’s involvement in Mortimer’s escape.” Several more myths are busted over the next few chapters including the one that Edward had deprived Isabella of her children, and the author argues: “No modern writer has ever accused Edward I or Edward III of cruelty towards their wives (or daughters or mothers) for ‘depriving’ them of their children on these grounds, yet somehow Edward II is judged harshly for doing something entirely normal by the standards of fourteenth-century royalty.” Ms Warner also points out inaccuracies in the chronicles of Jean Froissart. Part Two also covers Isabella's return to France in 1325. And there is more to refute concerning her future actions... Relationships are discussed, and with regard to Isabella and Mortimer the author reminds us: “The idea that Isabella, having been unsatisfactorily married for many years to a gay man unable and unwilling to fulfil her desires, fell deeply in love with an unequivocally heterosexual, virile and manly man who was her husband’s exact opposite is a popular modern narrative, but that does not necessarily make it true. We should remember how very little we really know, or ever can know, about the nature of Isabella and Mortimer’s association or about their personal feelings.” Part Two deals with the invasion and the deposition of Edward I as well as the various ramifications thereof. Rewards, retributions, executions, much gore and horror follow. The fate of Sir Hugh Despenser was particularly gruesome, as there were other torments in store for him in addition to the standard traitor's death of hanging, drawing and quartering. The deposition of Edward, his incarceration and demise (or not!?) as well as his son's coronation and marriage are all discussed here. And a plot to rescue a corpse. Also, who actually ruled the country? This section closes with the downfall of Isabella and Mortimer, and the start of Edward III’s reign. Part Three: 1330-1358 Part Three is a short section on the remaining years of Isabella’s life. Once again the record is set straight with regard to some fantasies. ### Ms Warner neither vilifies Isabella and Edward, nor does she whitewash their actions. She simply states facts, backs them up and discusses them. There is a huge amount of information and I merely endeavoured to hang onto the main points and to let go of my many previous misconceptions (a sort of recalibration). I didn't try to absorb all the detail nor did I attempt to unravel all the various pedigrees. This book had me hooked from the start and kept my attention to the end. It deserves to be read a second time. ### Ms Warner, in addition to providing an extensive set of notes and a bibliography of primary and secondary works, also lists the following websites: Websites “My Edward II site at http:// edwardthesecond.blogspot.com/ has many hundreds of articles about Edward II and Isabella, his reign and its aftermath, going back to 2005. http:// theauramalaproject.wordpress.com/ discusses the possibilities of Edward’s survival in Italy, and the team are doing superb and important research into the Fieschi Letter. British History Online http:// www.british-history.ac.uk/ The National Archives http:// www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ http:// www.ianmortimer.com/ contains many essays about Edward II and his survival, and history in general. http:// www.ladydespensersscribery.com/ is an excellent resource for the Despensers, Edward II and the fourteenth century. The archives of http:// susandhigginbotham.blogspot.com/“ ### Recommended!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ami

    I discovered Kathryn Warner following my reading of a very thorough, yet decidedly one sided, biography of Queen Isabella. Looking to learn more about this poor, saintly Queen and her philandering homosexual husband, I stumbled upon Kathryn's blog of Edward II, and subsequently her biography of him. Here I found a very different perspective on the lives of both Edward II and his Queen, Isabella. More importantly, I also discovered a biographer who neither painted her subjects as near perfect ind I discovered Kathryn Warner following my reading of a very thorough, yet decidedly one sided, biography of Queen Isabella. Looking to learn more about this poor, saintly Queen and her philandering homosexual husband, I stumbled upon Kathryn's blog of Edward II, and subsequently her biography of him. Here I found a very different perspective on the lives of both Edward II and his Queen, Isabella. More importantly, I also discovered a biographer who neither painted her subjects as near perfect individuals whose utter misfortune was the fault of anyone and everyone but themselves, nor did she blacken the character of others to whitewash the flaws of her protagonists. She achieved this brilliantly in her biography, 'Edward II: The Unconventional King', and she's done it again with her exquisite and meticulously researched telling of the life of this most intriguing of queens in 'Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen'. As a lover of medieval European history, and especially that of the Plantagenet dynasty, this book had me hooked from the first page to the last. Being somewhat familiar with this period, I noticed that Ms. Warner made a special point to gives names and familial connections regarding key players more than once. Anyone who's ever tried reading a book involving the names and titles of English nobility will be most appreciative of this. Many nobles were often referred to by multiple names, for example, in his lifetime Edward II was referred to as Edward of Caernarfon, Count of Ponthieu and Montreuil, Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester, Duke of Aquitaine, and Lord of Ireland. Couple that with the fact that family names were often used, resulting in two or more people with the same name holding the same title in a short period of time, and it's difficult to keep track of who's who. The author does an admirable job of reminding us exactly who she's talking about and their relationship to the principles, without overdoing it for those readers well versed in the subject. I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out that some readers not used to historical biographies may find some of the information tedious, especially concerning account books. This is usually to be expected with any educated biography, and I've been bored myself in similar books. However, perhaps because it's given in measured amounts, rather than page after page of account ledgers, or maybe because what IS pointed out tends to bring the personalities alive, it didn't bother me here. The first section of the book may feel to some to be more about Edward II than Isabella. While his presence is certainly there, I think it important to remember that much of what we know of Isabella's early life in inextricably tied to that of her husband. Historians are not even entirely certain of her year of birth, so unimportant was she, even as the daughter of the King of France, until her marriage made her Queen of England. More importantly, at least in my humble opinion, is that the actions and personality of her husband so shaped Isabella's own perspective that it's impossible to tell her story without also telling his. That being said, this is still very much Isabella's story. Ms. Warner paints a vivid picture, backed by years of research, never simply relying on information from previous historians without looking to back that up herself. This is what sets this biography apart from previous iterations of Isabella's life. With most figures from times long past, it's impossible to know them as we'd like to, for even if we have an abundance of correspondence, it's inevitable that we project our own emotions and modern behavioural ideals onto them. Edward II does not seem to have been an easy person to communicate with, even when things were going well, and I appreciate the loyalty and genuine affection Isabella displayed from about age 16 until her own position and honour were threatened to such an extent that she started down a path that led to the very destruction of that which she was trying to save. As to the question of his sexuality....I don't know that's even possible to define it modern terms. Certainly it was a grievous sin according to the church, but Edward's feelings, for Gaveston especially, went beyond even marital love to the point of obsession. This is a fact backed up by many sources. Whether or not their relationship was one of a sexual nature seems less important than the impact his infatuations had on his ability to rule. I believe Isabella recognised this for what it was when Hugh the Younger wormed his way into the kings affections, and to Hugh's credit, or rather discredit, he saw Isabella as a threat to his ambitions, and rightly so. This is where the book really starts to come alive for me. Without seeming to take sides, the author does, unfortunately of necessity, spend a fair bit of time dispelling rumours from centuries past, but is ultimately able to get as close as possible to the truth of events with the information currently available. It pleases me to no end to have found a reasoned, academic historian who seems to write with no agenda beyond telling the story of this fascinating Queen. I greatly enjoyed this book! Ms. Warner writes with genuine affection for her subjects without shying away from their imperfections. A truly excellent history on a subject about which much misinformation exists. I hope everyone interested in this period, or Isabella in particular, will read this book, and we can put to bed at last the 'question' of Edward III's paternity. A truly magnificent read!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sylwia

    "Portrayals of Isabella of France down the centuries say far more about the societies that produced them and the prevailing attitudes towards women and their sexuality, in particular women who step outside the bounds of traditionally conventional behaviour, than they do about Isabella herself." - Kathryn Warner, Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen, p. 23. --- This is a very good book on the history of Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II of England. Cutting through all the myths and rumours, Kathryn Wa "Portrayals of Isabella of France down the centuries say far more about the societies that produced them and the prevailing attitudes towards women and their sexuality, in particular women who step outside the bounds of traditionally conventional behaviour, than they do about Isabella herself." - Kathryn Warner, Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen, p. 23. --- This is a very good book on the history of Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II of England. Cutting through all the myths and rumours, Kathryn Warner provides us with a realistic portrayal of one of the most misunderstood characters of the Middle Ages. Queen Isabella has been unjustly treated by historians and novelists alike: she's either depicted as an adulterous schemer or a feminist icon. Warner proves that most of what we know about Isabella is either untrue (based on myths created by repetition and deeply entrenched in public imagination) or based on misread primary sources. Warner's style of writing is meticulous yet accessible, her narrative flows effortlessly. She discusses chronicles, letters and various other documents pertaining to Isabella's life, but she also puts emphasis on modern scholarship and novels that contributed to Isabella's image. Warner's analysis casts tiny beams of light on the conflicting fragments of Isabella's character. Did she love her husband, Edward II? Some historians and most novelists would answer with a definitive 'no' , but the truth is much more complicated. Was she Mortimer's lover? Again, most would answer that she was, but Warner proves that there's no evidence that Isabella committed adultery. I loved every page of this compelling book. It's an antidote to all the myths about Queen Isabella. I would say that this is THE biography to read if you want a truthful portrayal of Isabella rooted in primary sources. Kathryn Warner's only agenda is to show the REAL Isabella, and in this she succeeded perfectly. If you love this period in history, read Warner's books (her book on Edward II is as meticulous as this one) and visit her blog, you won't regret it. I'm looking forward to reading more from this historian.

  11. 5 out of 5

    James (JD) Dittes

    This was a hard book for me to complete: dense, dry, myopic. I kept putting it down and finally finished it out of spite--to clear my "currently reading" pile.' Let me emphasize: Isabella of France was a badass, one of the coolest, most determined, pro-active women to rule over England--a woman perhaps even more compelling today than she was 700 years ago. With that said, she is a tool of the time that tells her tale--often inaccurately. My first exposure to the tale of Isabella and her erstwhile This was a hard book for me to complete: dense, dry, myopic. I kept putting it down and finally finished it out of spite--to clear my "currently reading" pile.' Let me emphasize: Isabella of France was a badass, one of the coolest, most determined, pro-active women to rule over England--a woman perhaps even more compelling today than she was 700 years ago. With that said, she is a tool of the time that tells her tale--often inaccurately. My first exposure to the tale of Isabella and her erstwhile husband, King Edward II, was in the film, Braveheart, which played gleefully with Edward's homosexuality and implied that William Wallace had fathered Isabella's son (Edward III, truly one of England's greatest kings) during an illicit one-night stand. Warner's goal in this book is not to enhance the story of Isabella, it is to correct the inaccurate stories. Instead of being intentionally salacious, Warner goes the other way, almost downplaying the more alluring parts of Isabella's story. If you're looking for dirt on Edward's homosexual relationships with Piers Gaveston (murdered by barons in 1312) or Hugh Despenser the Younger (executed by Isabella in 1327), you won't find it here. Warner finds it just as likely that Edward carried on with Eleanor de Clare as with her husband, Despenser. And as for Isabella's torrid affair with Roger Mortimer, her co-usurper, Warner doesn't provide much evidence of that either. What the reader will find is extensive analysis of the relationships among the principal characters. Isabella was born in France, but she sure seemed to be related by blood to 2/3rds of the English barony. From accounts Warner extrapolates location and qualities of life for Isabella and other key figures. What the reader will learn is that William Wallace did NOT have a relationship with Isabella, who would have been only 10 or so at the time. That Edward II may not have been murdered by Mortimer as alleged in 1327. There are many good tidbits in this book. It just takes a lot of work for those with a casual interest like myself.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alys Newman

    Kathryn Warner according to her Goodreads author page has two degrees in Medieval History and Literature from the University of Manchester. Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen is the second book from this author and published by Amberley Publishing in Stroud in 2016. The book is well researched, however there is a disconnect between the endnotes and the bibliography. Some of the references do not follow a standard academic format and this is frustrating at times. There is a very comprehensive bi Kathryn Warner according to her Goodreads author page has two degrees in Medieval History and Literature from the University of Manchester. Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen is the second book from this author and published by Amberley Publishing in Stroud in 2016. The book is well researched, however there is a disconnect between the endnotes and the bibliography. Some of the references do not follow a standard academic format and this is frustrating at times. There is a very comprehensive bibliography, and the small and easily rectified oversight does let this section and the book down. Another annoying aspect found in the book, is that at times the author gives long-winded explanations of characters and repeatedly lists their pedigree’s it this does become tiresome. There is also a readiness to accept the reliability of the Vita Edwardi Secundi and Warner states that it was ‘the most thorough, reliable and useful chronicle for the reign’. It may be useful but accepting its reliability without question does seem somewhat naïve for a historian? As Wendy Childs in the Oxford Medieval Text translation points out ‘the author [of the VES] is not, however, without faults’. The book suffers like many in the mainstream from attempting to appeal to mass market readers and to academic audiences. In this case, the book does fail at both. The author’s bias is prevalent throughout the text. The introduction is a lambasting of other authors being too one-sided and critical of Edward II, yet Warner’s personal opinion overshadows what could have been an enjoyable book. Overall, the book is well researched, however, the narrative gets lost in tedious pedigrees and pointless detail, and whilst it may be necessary for in a historical book, the point of the book does get lost. The book is not without merit and offers many salient points, it is not totally unreadable and Warner writes well, however the authors sympathy for Edward II and inability to accept his failings overshadows the book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This was one of the first biographies I ever finished because I found it overall a pretty fun read. Warner's central argument is quite compelling in its practicality: over the course of roughly 20 years, Isabella (from the ages of 12 to 30+) felt differently about certain people and things at different points in her life. And another important argument: just because things ended poorly does not mean that they had always been that way, every minute of every day for 20+ years. Based on the evidenc This was one of the first biographies I ever finished because I found it overall a pretty fun read. Warner's central argument is quite compelling in its practicality: over the course of roughly 20 years, Isabella (from the ages of 12 to 30+) felt differently about certain people and things at different points in her life. And another important argument: just because things ended poorly does not mean that they had always been that way, every minute of every day for 20+ years. Based on the evidence Warner presented, it's very hard to argue with those points. The only reason I docked a star is because Warner's writing gets bogged down by genealogical commentary consistently. I understand why Warner mentioned that Thomas of Lancaster was Isabella's uncle nearly every time he was mentioned-- I really would have forgotten it otherwise. But still, it creates very clunky sentences that extend for whole paragraphs. I'm actually very interested in genealogy myself, but even I had a little trouble sorting out the complicated web of relationships Warner repeatedly tried to demystify. Also, I'm on the fence about the whole "Edward was secreted out of Berkeley and lived the rest of his life as a monk in Italy" argument that Warner gently pushed towards the end of the book. I respect Warner's expertise on the subject, but I'm just not convinced. Overall, I really appreciated this commonsense approach to Isabella and her contemporaries. All other representations of Isabella I see today spin the same sexist and homophobic story about her life. Warner's biography does a very good job guiding its readers away from that tired old narrative and pushing them in the right direction.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kim Mcclung

    This biography of Isabella of France, wife of possibly the worst monarch in English history, Edward II, is a fascinating story. The author very carefully sticks to proven facts and written evidence and debunks the many stories that have circulated about Isabella and Edward over the years, the myths and unproven stories include that William Wallace was Isabella's lover (so sorry, Hollywood), the Roger Mortimer was her lover (no evidence exists), that she hated her husband (no evidence exists, and This biography of Isabella of France, wife of possibly the worst monarch in English history, Edward II, is a fascinating story. The author very carefully sticks to proven facts and written evidence and debunks the many stories that have circulated about Isabella and Edward over the years, the myths and unproven stories include that William Wallace was Isabella's lover (so sorry, Hollywood), the Roger Mortimer was her lover (no evidence exists), that she hated her husband (no evidence exists, and in fact her letters to him after he was deposed by her are affectionate and warm), that Edward was killed by a red hot poker (nope, no evidence for that either). Isabella's story is still quite interesting even when stripped of the myth. Edward II was the first king ever deposed, at the hands of his wife, who claimed that her position had been usurped by the King's favorite, Hugh Dispenser. There is evidence that she despised Hugh Despenser (who was married to the Kings niece) and she had him killed as a traitor. Later, she and her favorite (Roger Mortimer) were overthrown by her son, Edward III, who had a very long and successful reign.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joyce D. Wegner

    Fair, well researched historical biography of Edward II and Isabel. Done with facts and feeling. These were real persons and honoed as such. Thank you. They are my husband's 22nd great grandparents and I want to share their story and land with our grandchildren and great grandchildren with truth and respect. You have set a fine model. May they feel the romance and know the REALITY. May they respect various viewpoints, while seeking a greater semblance of truth. May they honor their family, have Fair, well researched historical biography of Edward II and Isabel. Done with facts and feeling. These were real persons and honoed as such. Thank you. They are my husband's 22nd great grandparents and I want to share their story and land with our grandchildren and great grandchildren with truth and respect. You have set a fine model. May they feel the romance and know the REALITY. May they respect various viewpoints, while seeking a greater semblance of truth. May they honor their family, have compassion on failures and foibles, celebrate true success, and live with seeking minds and great and noble hearts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Tori

    A very detailed account of what we know about Isabella of France. The author goes into great detail discounting scandalous rumors that have been repeated as fact in most retellings - which only made me want to read more about the scandalous rumors. Overall, it was well written, interesting, informative, but dense.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I have read other books about Isabella that were so much better. I did not like the author's writing style. Is decided not to continue reading the book. I have read other books about Isabella that were so much better. I did not like the author's writing style. Is decided not to continue reading the book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

    A well written and interesting biography of one of medieval history's most extraordinary characters. A well written and interesting biography of one of medieval history's most extraordinary characters.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Isabella of France is remembered today as a ‘she-wolf’ and rebel queen – a woman who defied her husband, Edward II of England, in effort to rid the English court of the toxic presence of the king’s favourite and likely lover, Hugh Despenser. By the end of her rebellion, Edward II had become the first English king to be deposed and was potentially murdered, while Isabella was likely ruling England herself and eerily repeating the same mistakes Edward had made. Over time, Isabella has been vilifie Isabella of France is remembered today as a ‘she-wolf’ and rebel queen – a woman who defied her husband, Edward II of England, in effort to rid the English court of the toxic presence of the king’s favourite and likely lover, Hugh Despenser. By the end of her rebellion, Edward II had become the first English king to be deposed and was potentially murdered, while Isabella was likely ruling England herself and eerily repeating the same mistakes Edward had made. Over time, Isabella has been vilified as much as she has been placed on a pedestal. In Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen, Kathryn Warner has brushed away the cobwebs, the myths, the fiction and the propaganda and gone back to the primary sources of Isabella’s life to try and find the real woman. The gaps in historical records make this impossible to fully achieve, of course, but Warner’s version of Isabella does feel more real – neither a saint or a devil, but a woman of both flaws and virtues. Warner is not interested in absolving Isabella of her very real failings, but neither does she condemn her unfairly or without evidence. The picture Warner builds up of Edward II and Isabella’s marriage is not one of a gay man cruelly neglecting his wife nor of an adulterous wrench treasonously turning against her husband, but one of affection that takes a tragic turn. In short, it shows history to be complicated and complex. Warner’s writing is clear, engaging and readable – I especially loved the introduction, in which Warner talked about the different portraits of Isabella conjured by historians, novelists, playwrights and Hollywood, and how flimsy they are. In fact, writing this review after reading two extremely one-sided books about Catherine de Valois, Henry V’s queen-consort and the mother of Henry VI, I find myself dearly wishing someone would give her the same treatment as Warner has given Isabella and Edward. If there is a flaw in the book, it’s that some of the material obviously overlaps with Warner’s supremely excellent biography, Edward II: The Unconventional King and there is less of a sense that Warner is reporting on something new. This is probably not a problem for most readers, but was one for me, given it’d only been a month since I’d finished Edward II. Regardless, this is an excellent look at a controversial figure in history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda Darlene

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joe Stewart

  23. 4 out of 5

    J Roberge

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ana Rodrigues

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachelle

  26. 5 out of 5

    timothy gleeson

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cami

  28. 4 out of 5

    Raluca

  29. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Review appears in Issue 50 of All About History magazine.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

  31. 4 out of 5

    Edward Tudor

  32. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Cresswell

  33. 4 out of 5

    Marsha Lambert

  34. 5 out of 5

    David Santiuste

  35. 5 out of 5

    Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

  36. 4 out of 5

    Els

  37. 5 out of 5

    the Lady of the Possums

  38. 5 out of 5

    Zouina Sid Ahmed

  39. 4 out of 5

    A

  40. 5 out of 5

    Elysium

  41. 4 out of 5

    Shay

  42. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Smith

  43. 5 out of 5

    Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~*

  44. 5 out of 5

    Lori

  45. 4 out of 5

    José Luís Fernandes

  46. 4 out of 5

    Neverdust

  47. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Williams

  48. 5 out of 5

    Lynnelle Brown

  49. 5 out of 5

    Jenn M

  50. 5 out of 5

    Abby Rose

  51. 4 out of 5

    Elia Princess of Starfall

  52. 4 out of 5

    Randee

  53. 4 out of 5

    Paula

  54. 5 out of 5

    Francie Grice

  55. 4 out of 5

    Adite

  56. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Elizabeth Heffner

  57. 5 out of 5

    Molly O Callaghan

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