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On the 19th of October I posted about the life of King John of England. In that entry I included information on his marriage to Isabella of Angoulême (c. 1186/1188 – June 4, 1246). What I found interesting was her second marriage and her life after King John.

Second Marriage

Isabella was the only daughter and heir of Aymer Taillefer, Count of Angoulême, by Alice of Courtenay, who was sister of Peter II of Courtenay, Latin Emperor of Constantinople and granddaughter of King Louis VI of France.

When King John died on October 19, 1216, Isabella was 28/30 years of age and her first act was to arrange the speedy coronation of her nine-year-old son as King Henry III at the city of Gloucester on October 28. As the royal crown had recently been lost in The Wash, along with the rest of King John’s treasure, she supplied her own golden circlet to be used in lieu of a crown. The following July, less than a year after his crowning as King Henry III of England, she left him in the care of his regent, William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke and returned to France to assume control of her inheritance of

Isabella of Angoulême

In the spring of 1220, Isabella married Hugh X of Lusignan, “le Brun”, Seigneur de Luisignan, Count of La Marche, the son of her former fiancé, Hugh IX, to whom she had been betrothed before her marriage to King John. It had been previously arranged that her eldest daughter Joan should marry Hugh, and the little girl was being brought up at the Lusignan court in preparation for her marriage. Hugh, however, upon seeing Isabella, whose beauty had not diminished, preferred the girl’s mother. Joan was provided with another husband, King Alexander II of Scotland, whom she wed in 1221.

Isabella had married Hugh without the consent of the king’s council in England, as was required of a queen dowager. That council had the power not only to assign to her any subsequent husband, but to decide whether she should be allowed to remarry at all. That Isabella flouted its authority moved the council to confiscate her dower lands and to stop the payment of her pension.

Isabella of Angoulême

Isabella and her husband retaliated by threatening to keep Joan, who had been promised in marriage to the King of Scotland, in France. The council first responded by sending furious letters to the Pope, signed in the name of young King Henry, urging him to excommunicate Isabella and her husband, but then decided to come to terms with Isabella, to avoid conflict with the Scottish king, who was eager to receive his bride. Isabella was granted the stannaries in Devon, and the revenue of Aylesbury for a period of four years, in compensation for her confiscated dower lands in Normandy, as well as the £3,000 arrears for her pension.

Isabella had nine more children by Hugh X. Their eldest son Hugh XI of Lusignansucceeded his father as Count of La Marche and Count of Angoulême in 1249.

Isabella’s children from her royal marriage did not join her in Angoulême, remaining in England with their eldest brother Henry III.

Rebellion and death

Isabella of Angoulême portrayed by actress Léa Seydoux in the 2010 film Robin Hood.

Described by some contemporaries as “vain, capricious, and troublesome,” Isabella could not reconcile herself with her less prominent position in France. Though Queen mother of England, Isabella was now mostly regarded as a mere Countess of La Marche and had to give precedence to other women. In 1241, when Isabella and Hugh were summoned to the French court to swear fealty to King Louis IX of France’s brother, Alphonse, who had been invested as Count of Poitou, their mother, the Queen Dowager Blanche openly snubbed her.

This so infuriated Isabella, who had a deep-seated hatred of Blanche for having fervently supported the French invasion of England during the First Barons’ War in May 1216, that she began to actively conspire against King Louis. Isabella and her husband, along with other disgruntled nobles, including her son-in-law Raymond VII of Toulouse, sought to create an English-backed confederacy which united the provinces of the south and west against the French King. She encouraged her son Henry in his invasion of Normandy in 1230, but then did not provide him the support she had promised.

In 1244, after the confederacy had failed and Hugh had made peace with King Louis, two royal cooks were arrested for attempting to poison the King; upon questioning they confessed to having been in Isabella’s pay. Before Isabella could be taken into custody, she fled to Fontevraud Abbey, where she died on 4 June 1246.

By Isabella’s own prior arrangement, she was first buried in the Abbey’s churchyard, as an act of repentance for her many misdeeds. On a visit to Fontevraud, her son King Henry III of England was shocked to find her buried outside the Abbey and ordered her immediately moved inside. She was finally placed beside Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Afterwards, most of her many Lusignan children, having few prospects in France, set sail for England and the court of Henry, their half-brother.


* With King John of England: 5 children, all of whom survived into adulthood, including:
1. King Henry III of England (October 1, 1207 – November 16, 1272). Married Eleanor of Provence, by whom he had issue, including his heir, King Edward I of England.
2. Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans (January 5, 1209 – April 2 1272). Married firstly Isabel Marshal, secondly Sanchia of Provence, and thirdly Beatrice of Falkenburg. Had issue.
3. Joan (July 22, 1210 – 1238), the wife of King Alexander II of Scotland. Her marriage was childless.
4. Isabella (1214–1241), the wife of Emperor Frederick II, by whom she had issue.
5. Eleanor (1215–1275), who would marry firstly William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke; and secondly Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, by whom she had issue.

* With Hugh X of Lusignan, Count of La Marche: nine children, all of whom survived into adulthood, including:
1. Hugh XI of Lusignan (1221–1250), Count of La Marche and Count of Angoulême. Married Yolande de Dreux, Countess of Penthièvre and of Porhoet, by whom he had issue.
2. Aymer of Lusignan (1222–1260), Bishop of Winchester
3. Agnès de Lusignan (1223–1269). Married William II de Chauvigny (d. 1270), and had issue.
4. Alice of Lusignan (1224 – 9 February 1256). Married John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey, by whom she had issue.
5. Guy of Lusignan (c. 1225 – 1264), killed at the Battle of Lewes. (Tufton Beamish maintains that he escaped to France after the Battle of Lewes and died there in 1269).
6. Geoffrey of Lusignan (c. 1226 – 1274). Married in 1259 Jeanne, Viscountess of Châtellerault, by whom he had issue.
7. Isabella of Lusignan (c.1226/1227 – 14 January 1299). Married firstly before 1244 Maurice IV, seigneur de Craon (1224–1250), by whom she had issue; she married secondly, Geoffrey de Rancon.
8. William of Lusignan (c. 1228 – 1296). 1st Earl of Pembroke. Married Joan de Munchensi, by whom he had issue.
9. Marguerite de Lusignan (c. 1229 – 1288). Married firstly in 1243 Raymond VII of Toulouse; secondly c. 1246 Aimery IX de Thouars, Viscount of Thouars and had issue