Isabella of Angouleme

Isabella of Angouleme was born around 1188, the only daughter of the Count of Angouleme and Alice of Courtenay.

She became the second wife of King John of England on 24 August 1200 and was crowned on 8 October 1200 in Westminster Abbey.

Isabella had been betrothed to Hugh, Count of Lusignan, and John, besotted with Isabella came along and stole her from him. This resulted in the French king confiscating all of John’s lands in France. The Lusignan family would now rebel against John.

Isabella gave birth to her first child, a son Henry on 1 October 1207, later to become Henry III. Four more children were to follow.

John died on 18 October 1216. Isabella was quick to arrange the coronation of her nine year-old son Henry on 28 October 1216 at Gloucester. Because of his age, Henry was placed in the care of William Marshall, 1st Earl of Pembroke.

Less than a year after the coronation of her son Henry, Isabella left him and returned to France to take control of her inheritance at Angouleme.

In 1220, a marriage was agreed between Isabella and John’s daughter Princess Joan and Hugh X of Lusignan, however when Lusignan met Isabella he preferred her. Isabella now married Hugh X of Lusignan, the son of her previous betrothed. Princess Joan was later married to King Alexander II of Scotland.

Isabella’s marriage to Lusignan would produce a further nine children.

With her return to France, Isabella no longer held position as she did as queen of England, she now had to give precedence to other women.

Isabella and Lusignan were summoned to the French court in 1241 to swear loyalty to King Louis IX and his brother Alphonse who was invested as Count of Poitou. Blanche, Queen Dowager of France openly snubbed Isabella at the French court, however Isabella already held a deep hatred of the Queen Dowager after she supported the French during the First Baron’s War in 1216.

Isabella now conspired against King Louis, and encouraged her son Henry when he invaded Normandy in 1230, although this invasion failed.

In 1244, two royal cooks attempted to poison King Louis, but were arrested and admitted being paid by Isabella to poison the king.

When hearing this, Isabella fled to the Abbey at Fontevraud before she could be arrested. This is where she would spend the rest of her life.

She died at Fontevraud Abbey on 4 June 1246 and was buried at her request in the churchyard. She was later reburied inside the abbey on the orders of her son Henry III.

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