Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Our 21st Great Grandmother Isabella, "The She Wolf". A True Ancestor to the Iron Willed Women in Our Family.

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello All,
Strong willed, stubborn, frightful - all terms I've heard to describe the majority of the females in this family. One contributing source of these character traits could be our 21st Great Grandmother Isabella, The She Wolf" of France.

We begin with the Relationship Chart

Isabella "the She-Wolf" De France (1292 - 1358)
is your 21st great grandmother
Son of Isabella "the She-Wolf"
Son of Edward III , King of England
Daughter of Thomas Woodstock Gloucester
Son of Anne of Gloucester
Son of William
Son of Fulke
Son of John
Daughter of John
Son of Elizabeth
Son of Richard
Son of Aquila
Daughter of Aquila
Son of Sarah
Son of Abraham
Son of John
Daughter of Ezra
Son of Abigail
Daughter of Phineas
Daughter of Elmira
Daughter of Isabella Denora
Daughter of Vesta Althea. Violet married Walter Mattson
to their children
Luella, Linda, John and Marvin

First a summary on her life.
Isabella, one of history’s most notorious femme fatales, a much maligned Queen of England.

Isabella of France, Edward II’s queen, was a woman much maligned in her day. Today, it is said that her maniacal laughter can be heard on stormy nights at Castle Rising in Norfolk, and that in the ruins of the 14th century church where she is buried, her angry ghost can be glimpsed, clutching the beating heart of her murdered husband. In literature she has fared no better; Christopher Marlowe’s “unnatural Queen, false Isabel” has also been described as “a woman of evil character, a notorious schemer,” and as the “She-Wolf of France.” Tragic, cruel, tormented: how did Isabella acquire such a reputation?

Born in 1292, the daughter of Philip IV of France and sister to three future French kings, Isabella was a pawn in the game of international politics. She was married at the age of twelve to Edward II of England, thus beginning a public and private life more turbulent and eventful than any heroine, or anti-heroine, in fiction.

Through a long period of civil war, Isabella bore Edward four children but was constantly humiliated by his relationships with male favourites. Although she is known to have lived adulterously with Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, accusations of murder and regicide remain unsubstantiated. Had it not been for her unfaithfulness, history may have immortalized her as a liberator — the savior who unshackled England from a weak and vicious monarch.

The History of our 21st Great Grandmother Isabella, The She Wolf of France.
Isabella of France was born in 1295, the youngest daughter of King Phillip IV of France. Bethrothed as an infant to Edward II of England, the marriage was delayed as Edward I disapproved. It was not until after he died that Isabella, then eleven or twelve, finally met her betrothed. She sailed to England to get married in 1308.

Isabella was young even for a bride at that time, being only eleven when she was sent to her husband. Already a noted beauty, descriptions of her make it seem that she was slender and pale skinned. Unfortunately her husband, nine years older, had little time for her.

She was outraged to find her jewels had been taken from her and given to Edward's first favourite, Piers Gaveston, who wore them at the wedding.

Unfortunately this would prove a pattern, as Edward far prefered the company of his favourites to his wife, and often rewarded them at her expense. Gaveston was a commoner, which rankled further, and quickly gained a reputation as a corrupt and greedy man. Worse, he and Edward were sworn brothers, which meant that they shared their possessions - unthinkable when the stability of a throne was at stake.

In 1310-11 Edward launched a campaign against Scotland, which failed dismally. After his disastrous invasion of Scotland, Edward fled with his favourite, Piers Gaveston.

The result was massive unrest in England. In the aftermath of the disaster in Scotland, the Barons took their chance and raised an army against the King to try and remove the hated Gaveston. When he was seperated from Edward, Gaveston was surrounded and captured at Scarborough Castle.

When they captured Gaveston in 1312, there was brief wrangling over his fate, and then he was executed by the barons for his corruption.

This brought Isabella a brief period during which her marriage was more peaceful. Three of the couple's children were born during this period, including the longed-for son and heir who would become Edward III.

During this time a scandal erupted in France in 1314. The wives of Isabella's brothers were caught having affairs, which as one brother was the King of France and one was the heir, was treason. Isabella was a witness against them and both women were imprisoned for life, the marriages dissolved.

Isabella's peace was not to last. In 1318 Edward II took a new favourite, Hugh le Despenser, who proved worse than Gaveston. The period of their influence is referred to in English history as the "Tyranny".

Hugh le Despenser's greed rapidly outgrew Gaveston's. He stole lands from relatives, disinheriting them. There were rumours that he tortured one heiress until she lost her mind and then confiscated her lands on grounds of insanity. He boasted of his cruelty and influence and rapidly became as hated as Gaveston had been.

In 1322 despite losses like the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Edward launched another campaign against the Scots. This time, when the action failed, he fled with Despenser, leaving Queen Isabella and her ladies at the mercy of the Scots. Facing torture, with two of her ladies killed, Isabella escaped by sea in a dangerous voyage, evading the Flemish navy.

Exiled briefly at the demand of Isabella and the Barons after the Scots campaing, Despenser turned to piracy. This earned him a death sentence in France, although as the King of France was Isabella's brother it was already an unsafe land for him to travel in. Despite this proof of Despenser's character, Edward quickly overruled his advisers and brought his favourite home.

Despenser's retaliation was simple. Isabella's lands were confiscated and she was placed under house arrest. This removed a rival for the King's attentions, and by playing on the suspicion that as a Frenchwoman she would not be loyal to England, he undermined her support. Even her household staff were changed to those of his choosing.

In 1325 events reached a head. Some say at the urgings of Despenser, Edward II refused to pay homage to the King of France over the French lands he held. Charles IV of France confiscated them.

Queen Isabella used the debacle of the loss of Edward's lands in France in 1325 as a chance to press for a diplomatic mission to her brother, ostensibly to get the lands back.

Edward II was unable to take Despenser to France, as Despenser would be executed for piracy. If the King left him behind, without the King's protection the Barons would kill Despenser as they had Gaveston. Queen Isabella was sent in his stead.

An agreement was made between the King of France and his sister that her son, the heir to the throne would do homage in his father's place. Edward II sent him across. This was a mistake. With her son safe in France, Isabella refused to return unless Hugh Le Despenser was exiled. Worse, she joined forces with Roger Mortimer, England's then greatest General, who was in exile in France after he escaped the Tower of London and execution by the Despensers.

Edward II demanded that the French king compel her to return. Charles IV's famous response was not to his liking:

When her husband refused to exile Despenser, Isabella raised an army and with Roger Mortimer she invaded in 1327. Her brother's support was limited, perhaps because of the debacle with his first wife in 1314, and so their force was mainly made up of mercenaries.

The two had a tiny army of 1,500 and Edward felt no great concern. However when Isabella landed, the Barons took her side - not least the one who raised an army, sacked one of the Despenser's castles and presented her with the treasury.

Hugh Le Despenser, his father and Edward II tried to flee. The majority of their followers deserted them, and they were split up. Despenser's father, who had encouraged his son's actions, was caught and hanged.

The King was captured and imprisoned as was Despenser. In 1326 Hugh the Despenser was sentenced to death by torture (hanging drawing quartering and mutilation) for treason and for causing discord between the King and Queen. The execution was performed to public celebration.

For an idea of how popular Edward's favourites were with the common people, in a time when creating book pages involved days of painstaking work, both their executions were carefully recorded for posterity.

Edward II was deposed and imprisoned. In 1327 it is widely believed he was murdered in prison by means of a red hot poker.

His son, Edward III, took the throne under his mother's regency. He was only fourteen so under age to hold it in his own right. However he disapproved of Roger Mortimer who formed a close relationship with his mother. The dislike went both ways, and Mortimer did not treat the young king well.

Edward III began to suspect (probably correctly) that Mortimer planned to kill him. To prevent this, immediately after he came of age, he overthrew the regency and executed Mortimer despite his mother's pleas.

The traditional story is that Isabella went mad from grief and was banished from court, but this seems to have been a medieval chronicler's imagination, as she was known to have joined an convent, a usual retirement for widows or noble ladies who sought seclusion from the world. She was also known to have made many visits to her son's court, which is unlikely if she had actually been banished.

When she eventually died in 1358, despite having taken the nun's habit and joined the order of the Poor Clares, she was buried in her wedding dress.

Her son, Edward III, would become widely renowned as one of England's strongest monarchs.

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