Adultery, Charles IV of France, John I of France, Philip IV of France, Philip the Fair, Sandal, The Tour de Nesle affair, Tour de Nesle
Philippe IV placed the knights under surveillance for a period, and the scandal began to take shape. The accusations centred on suggestions that Blanche and Margaret had been drinking, eating and engaging in adultery with Gautier and Philippe of Aunay in the Tour de Nesle over a period time. The Tour de Nesle was an old guard tower in Paris next to the river Seine and had been bought by Philippe IV in 1308. The third sister-in-law, Jeanne , was initially said to have been present on some of these occasions and to have known of the affair; later accusations were extended to have included suggestions that she had also been involved in adultery herself.
Most historians have tended to conclude that the accusations against Blanche and Margaret were probably true, although some are more skeptical. Some accounts have suggested that Isabella’s accusations were politically motivated; she had just given birth to her son, the future King Edward II, and in theory the removal of all three of her sisters-in-law might have made Edward II of England’s accession to the French throne more likely. Others have argued that this seems an unlikely plan, given the normal probability that at least one of the three brothers would have successfully remarried and enjoyed a male heir in the coming years. Some contemporary chroniclers suggested that Philippe IV’s unpopular chamberlain Enguerrand de Marigny might have been responsible for framing the knights and women involved.
Following the period of surveillance, Philippe IV broke the news of the accusations publicly and arrested all involved. There are some suggestions that Walter and Philippe of Aunay attempted to escape to England but in due course both knights were interrogated and tortured by French officials. Both confessed to adultery and were found guilty, therefore, of lèse majesté. Blanche and Margaret were tried before the Paris Parlement and found guilty of adultery. The two women had their heads shaven and were sentenced to life imprisonment. Jeanne was also tried before the Parlement but was found innocent, partially as a result of her husband Philip’s influence.
The Tour de Nesle scandal led to the imprisonment of Blanche and Margaret, and the execution of their lovers. Having been tortured, the guilty knights Gautier and Philippe were then killed; most histories agree that they were first castrated and then either drawn and quartered or flayed alive, broken on a wheel and then hanged. The episode came as a severe shock to Philippe IV and some suggest that it contributed to his death later that same year. Isabella was criticized by some in France for failing to stand by her sisters-in-law, although this passed with time; Isabella’s own marriage failed catastrophically in due course, with many historians believing that she was responsible for the murder of her husband Edward II in 1327 after Isabella’s seizure of power in England with her lover Roger de Mortimer in 1326.