This article is continued from here. Like Cersei, Isabeau was extremely close to her brother Louis of Bavaria (c. 1368-1447). Isabeau continuously promoted his career and arranged excellent marriages for him. Isabeau was also accused of sleeping with her brother-in-law, Louis of Orleans — a proximity the Church considered incestuous.
Maybe the rumored relationship between Isabeau and Louis and the blatantly false accusation that Anne Boleyn slept with her brother George inspired George RR Martin to create Jaime and Cersei’s incestuous relationship.
Like Jaime, Louis of Orleans had a hand chopped off. In Louis’ case, however, he did not survive the incident. When Burgundian duke John the Fearless’ masked thugs ambushed Louis as he rode away from Isabeau’s residence, they chopped off his hand and then stabbed him to death.
If Isabeau and Louis weren’t lovers, contemporaries would have found it very hard to believe they weren’t given Isabeau’s predicament and Louis’ scandalous reputation.
Isabeau’s husband, Charles VI, had thirty-five periods of insanity – many lasting for weeks or months – by Autumn 1407.1 During these times, he would race up and down the halls of his palace howling like a wolf or sit perfectly still for hours lest he crack like glass. He could be violent, smashing furniture, striking courtiers, and even hitting Isabeau. While Charles was insane, his brother Louis would rule on his behalf.
Louis, courtly and erudite, was also a great seducer of women with a scurrilous reputation. Despite massive wealth, he spent extravagantly to wage territory-winning wars, drained the royal treasury, and levied many taxes as a result.
Louis’ taxes caused great hardship and outrage – and so did the ruffians who collected them: “The most pitiless men were picked for the job, and they used the most severe methods. All those who resisted or hesitated to pay were thrown into prison. The poorest people were forced to sell all of their furniture, even the straw in their beds, and they still didn’t have enough to pay even half the tax.2 “
Louis’ cousins and uncles resented his spend-thrift ways and his hold on power. Moreover, Louis’ numerous conquests and mean humor made many outraged husbands hate him.
The French painter Delacroix immortalized one of Louis’ most notorious jokes in his painting Louis d’Orléans Showing His Mistress.
After Louis seduced an exceptionally lovely woman named Mariette, he summoned her husband, Albert de Chauny, to his palace.
When Albert arrived, Louis’ servants escorted him into a private chamber in which a ravishing woman, with a veiled face, lay naked on the bed. Louis then asked Albert to judge the woman’s beauty. Much to his great fury, Albert immediately recognized the “odalisque” (concubine) was his own wife.3
Around 1405, Isabeau moved out of the palace, leaving her dopelganger the “little Queen” (Odette de Champdivers) to look after the king. Isabeau moved into her own residence at Hôtel Barbette where she supposedly held dazzling, debauched parties where she and her ladies danced lewdly in outrageously low-cut gowns late into the night. Allegedly, Louis loved attending these parties.4
Both Isabeau and Louis allied against John the Fearless of Burgundy, who aggressively took up his father’s feud with Louis and strove to get his hands on the royal treasury – hoping to use it to fund his military ambitions in the Lowlands. John’s aggressive behavior made the other dukes, including Louis of Orleans, and Queen Isabeau nervous.
Furthermore, there were significant differences between Isabeau and Louis’ politics, so it is possible they were not as close as people assumed5 .
Whether the Isabeau and Louis were actually lovers is unclear. Accusing queens – especially ones with absent or infirm husbands – of adultery was a classic propaganda tactic in the fifteenth century.
Some modern historians (like Rachel Gibbons) argue that propagandists angry over tax hikes started the rumor that Isabeau and Louis were lovers ((Not all historians agree that Isabeau and Louis were lovers. One source of the rumors was a pro-Burgundian political pamphlet, “Songe Veritable,” passed around Paris during 1405.)) Other historians, such as Tracy Adams, believe that contemporaries respected Isabeau during her lifetime, and her reputation was only vilified after her death.
Later, however, damning accusations similar to the ones levelled against Cersei – about the legitimacy of Isabeau’s children – would emerge. These accusations would have damning long-term effects up into the period of Joan of Arc.
One of the worst moments of Isabel’s life may have come at the humiliating treaty of Troyes in May 1420. Finally, forced to admit defeat at the hands of the English, Isabeau had to sign that Dauphin Charles was not only illegitimate but also a murderer and a rebel.
The scurrilous rumors about Isabel and her lovers were credible enough they shook the confidence of the one person who mattered, the dauphin himself. Once Charles VII became king, he considered abdicating out of fear others would see him as a bastard.6 But, then again, Charles VII was a poor judge of character, gullible, and plagued by a little of his father’s mental shakiness.
All Game of Thrones images copyright HBO.
- Eric Jagger Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris (p. 35). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- From Religieux de Saint-Denis, Chronique in Blood Royal (p. 53). [↩]
- Jager, Eric (2014-02-25). Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris (p. 37). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- Jager, Eric (2014-02-25). Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris (p. 57). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition. [↩]
- Adams p. 9 [↩]
- D. Seward Kindle Loc 2890 [↩]