Kingdom of France, Margaret of Burgundy, Philip IV of France, Philip the Fair, Philip V of France, Pope Clement V, Pope John XII, The Tour de Nesle, The Tour de Nesle affair
Due to the gap in the papacy between the death of Clement V in 1314 and the election of John XXII in 1316, Margaret’s marriage to Louis could not be annulled, and she was imprisoned in an underground cell at Château Gaillard castle. Louis succeeded to the throne later that year after the death of Philippe IV, being officially crowned in August 1315. Margaret, however, was still alive but promptly died under suspicious circumstances, possibly murdered, on August 14, whilst still imprisoned. Louis remarried five days later to Clementia of Hungary, the niece of Louis’ own uncle and close advisor, Charles of Valois. Louis himself died a year later after falling ill following a challenging game of tennis.
Jeanne was placed under house arrest at Dourdan in the aftermath of the Parlement acquittal amidst suggestions that she might also have been having an adulterous affair herself, but enjoyed the continuing support of her husband, Philippe. Philippe campaigned for her release, which was forthcoming the next year and Jeanne returned to court. It is unclear why Philippe stood by her in the way that he did. One theory has been that he was concerned that if he was to abandon Jeanne, he might also lose Burgundy, which he had gained through their marriage. Another theory suggests that he was in truth very deeply in love with her. With the death after a few days of the baby King Jean I of France, Jeanne served as her husbands, Philippe V, queen consort for several years; after Philippe’s death, she inherited the County of Artois from her mother and finally died in 1330.
Blanche remained in prison at Château Gaillard as well for eight years until 1322, when Charles assumed the throne. Upon becoming king, Charles IV still refused to release Blanche, instead annulling their marriage and having Blanche consigned to a nunnery. Charles remarried immediately afterwards to Marie of Luxembourg; Blanche died the next year, her health broken from the years spent underground.
Aftermath and legacy
The affair badly damaged the reputation of women in senior French circles, contributing to the way that the Salic Law was implemented during subsequent arguments over the succession to the throne. When Louis died unexpectedly in 1316, supporters of his eldest daughter Jeanne found that suspicions hung over her parentage following the scandal and that the French nobility were increasingly cautious over the concept of a woman inheriting the throne – Louis’ brother, Philippe took power instead. Philippe died unexpectedly young as well, and his younger brother Charles did not live long after remarrying after his coronation, similarly dying without male heirs. The interpretation of the Salic Law then placed the French succession in doubt. Despite Philippe of Valois, the son of Charles of Valois, claiming the throne with French noble support, Edward III of England, the son of Isabella was able to press his own case, resulting in the ensuing Hundred Years War (1337–1453).
The affair would also have an impact in European culture. Scholars studying the theme of courtly love have observed that the narratives about adulterous queens die out shortly after the Tour de Nesle scandal, suggesting that they became less acceptable or entertaining after the executions and imprisonments in the French royal family. The story of the affair was used by the French dramatist Alexandre Dumas as the basis for his play La Tour de Nesle in 1832, “a romantic thriller reconstructing medieval crimes on a grand scale”. The Tour de Nesle guard-tower itself was destroyed in 1665. Le Roi de fer (1955), the first novel of Maurice Druon’s seven-volume series Les Rois maudits (The Accursed Kings), describes the affair and the subsequent executions in lurid and imaginative detail.