Book Review: “Isabella: Braveheart of France” by Colin Falconer

Hello!

I wasn’t able to reach five books in May unfortunately, honestly, there were a lot of factors that allowed this to happen, and my overall mindset was like, all I can do is move on and see what I could accomplish this month.

Before we go into this, I just want to point out that I’m an ally for the LGBT+ communities! Being gay and/or trans throughout current and past monarchs have been a touchy subject, but for this, ou have to imagine that these people were heavily influenced by the Catholic church. They did not understand a whole lot–but they were definitely not stupid either! They were constantly guided by their priests in everything, including who slept in their beds, so please keep this in mind while reading my review below.

WARNING: I rambled on with this one and there are a few spoilers below, so if you’d like to read this book in the future or want to conduct your own research about Isabella of France without a bias opinion, then I suggest you should skip this post!


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She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.

When Princess Isabella is offered as bride to King Edward of England, for her it’s love at first sight. But her dashing husband has a secret, one that threatens to tear their marriage—and England—apart. As Isabella navigates the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, her cleverness and grace allow her to subvert Edward’s ill-advised plans and gain influence. But soon the young queen is faced with an impossible choice, taking a breathtaking gamble that will forever change the course of history.

In the tradition of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick, Isabella is the story of a queen who took control of her destiny—and the throne.

taken from Amazon.

When I started reading, I thought I was getting an actual biography or a fictional tale of Isabella, but not of Isabella of France. I thought it was about Isabella I of Castile. When I realized my mistake, I wasn’t so upset about it because Isabella has been an interesting Queen to learn about in the last few years. She’s been called a “She-Wolf” since the fall of her husband, King Edward II and relationship with, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. So, I was curious to learn a more contemporary approach about the former Queen of England.

“You will love this man. Do you understand? You will love him, serve him, and obey him in all things. This is your duty to me and to France. Am I clear?”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately with my historical books, I’ve really stepped up my game on collecting notes and random pieces of information throughout my process of reading each story. For Isabella, I took even more notes because there was a lot of stuff mentioned with not a lot of dates to go with certain important events and it was hard to keep everything straight and at times, I really thought about stopping and put it in DNF list.

This is my dilemma with historical fiction (especially if it’s in or around about British history!), some authors are considerate and include an estimate of years these things take place, or they give readers a part one, two, three, where the transition is easier to understand, but with this book I was having to keep track with every year mentioned because sometimes we are thrusted into more than one year at a time so I had to write things down or else my brain wasn’t going to catch up to the things taking place.

I had a lot of thoughts concerning quite a few of contradicting moments that were somewhat odd, for example, you have Edward II engaged in not one, but two same sex relationships with his favorites Piers Galveston and Hugh le Despenser the Younger. Now there is quite a gap until you get into the Tudor dynasty and the crazy stories of King Henry VIII’s quest to have more male heirs, but this is a little bit different. Edward seems to have fallen in love with Piers and Hugh (although the book explains why the Younger Hugh could have been just a puppet of Edward’s former lover Piers!) rather than take another woman as a mistress. History and what is in this book seem to mesh as the barons were aggravated towards their king by giving his lovers more lands, castles, and even more power of the realm than his wife, Queen Isabella.

And then you have the issues with Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. He did not rise up against Edward in the beginning but while Roger did desert Edward II while at war against Robert the Bruce, he was considered a traitor for this, afterwards he is arrested and convicted as treason. Now, we have to get into the second part of the drama. Did he and Isabella have a sexual relationship at all? History says yes, and this books also agrees, but there doesn’t seem any proof of when everything started or ended either way compared to the King.

So, when Colin introduces this section, he also makes a point to throw in a scandal that appeared in her father’s court fairly early into the marriage, concerning her sisters-in-law Queen Marguerite and Queen Blanche (both originally from Burgundy.) having affairs with brothers Gautier and Philip d’Aunay of France in 1314. I have to wonder, since it is speculated that Isabella to be the one who spoke out about it, can we really assume she would do the same thing? She talks of the aftermath and where Marguerite and Blanche ended up shunned in convents and forced to take up the habit for the rest of their lives. If she was as desperate to be wanted by love and sex, as it is mentioned, stirring the pot like this would be very damning but again, look at what her husband, the king, was doing out in the open for the whole world (including the Pope!) to see and yet, she’s the one everyone wants to drag through the mud!

It must be done for England’s sake, not just for her own.

This is one thing that you as a reader understand at the start of the entire book. She is a woman, living in a very powerful man’s world. She is considered to be nothing but a consort to her king and reproduce children that will belong to both monarchs. The English and French courts. She is to obey everything her king asks and does of the kingdom.

Unfortunately, marriages weren’t made in love, there could be a time where the couple find love in each other overtime, this has happened quite a bit with royal marriages, but what I’m really trying to get it with this is that everything had a reason, you married a higher individual to gain allegiance and power over estates and money. This happened to everyone, men and women, young or old.

When she and Edward were having children, they would never know what true love is, because they never saw it amongst their parents. Their youngest daughter Princess Joan and David of Scotland were arranged only so that both kingdoms could have peace. We can say David probably took a few mistresses and had bastard children, as this was accepted among the men of the times, but the only righteous thing Joan was able to do was show up as a united front and turn a blind eye on it all or wait for an annulment from the Pope and finally enter a nunnery to live out the rest of her days with a small allowance. She would end up being in similar situations as her mother and former aunts.

And finally, there’s the fact, could Isabella have orchestrated the death of her husband and former king. We go back to the notion of her feelings to Edward at the end of his reign. Did she hate him enough to order people to kill him while he was imprisoned? We will never know the whole story of this question either, but I feel like this one is worse than committing adultery, but that’s just me!

Have you read “Isabella: Braveheart of France” by Colin Falconer yet? What were some of your thoughts about the story of this stoic Queen of England?

snowflake

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