John the Fearless was Duke of Burgundy from 1404 to 1419. Louis of Orléans and John the Fearless were open rivals as the King was demented and both men desperately wanted to fill the power void left by the ill king. The two made open threats against each other until their uncle made them vow to stop.
A few days later, however, John had Louis assassinated in the streets. He was able to get favor with the King again, saying that Louis was killed for cheating on his wife. The King absolved John for this, but the rest of his life was not easy.
With a mentally ill King still in control of France, England’s Henry tried to take control of the country. John also wanted power, but sided with France for fear of losing his popularity with the common people.
With civil unrest remaining, John and his army took control of Paris. John made himself protector of the King. Dauphin Charles, who controlled other regions in France, called a meeting to merge power with John and try to give France more strength against England. At this meeting John was assassinated by Charles’ men. Charles claims that he was unaware of his mens’ intentions and he never paid for the assassination. The murder of John the Fearless launched France into what’s now known as The Hundred Years’ War.
Queen Isabella was often referred to as the “she-wolf” of France, and for good reason. Isabella did not like the company her husband Edward kept, nor did she like his attitude of oppression. When her marriage reached a breaking point in 1325, she began an affair with Roger Mortimer and the two planned to kill Edward.
Edward’s actual death is hotly contested by historians, and there are many theories. Some say Isabella killed Edward herself with a hot poker. Others say he died of ill health while being held in captivity. Others still say that Isabella ordered him to be killed.
Isabella certainly had a lot to gain by offing Edward – she could be with her lover, and gain Edward’s Kingdom (which she eventually did). Regardless, after his death, the face of the country changed forever. Isabella loved to spend money and acquire land.
Isabella’s acquisition of massive wealth along with shady foreign dealings launched the country into major civil unrest. Eventually she was deposed by her son, Edward in 1330. Although Edward also kept his mother’s pockets well-lined, Isabella did have to turn over much of the land she acquired while in power. When Mortimer passed, also in 1330, Isabella suffered fits of madness. Whether she killed her first husband or not, the world may never know.
Richard I loved war. He also realized war cost a lot of money and he couldn’t raise it all through taxes…so he went looking for a pot of gold at the Castle Chalus-Chabrol in France. When Richard attempted to seize the castle he was shot by a bow and arrow. Richard congratulated the boy who shot him on his aim.
Days later in April of 1199 Richard died of the wounds that turned gangrenous at the age of 41. Although he gave the boy a reward, the boy was still later hanged for the murder. Had Richard survived, how much land would he have conquered? Would Europe’s borders have been much different? How many more lives would be lost to war?
Richard was also a Christian crusader who spread an anti-Jewish message. His sexuality was also widely questioned by historians and he did not produce any heirs to the throne.
This caused him to be succeeded by his brother John. The French territories did not accept John as King, and this resulted in the beginning of the dissolution of the Angevin Empire.
Arthur of Brittany, born in 1187, led the rebellion against King John even though he was really still just a boy. He was the King’s nephew and wanted the throne for himself. He was captured by John’s forces, and put in Rouen Castle in captivity. It’s unclear exactly what happened to him next, except that he was definitely murdered.
It is rumored that John ordered him castrated and blinded, but that his captors didn’t have the stomach for that kind of violence. When John received word of this, he got very drunk and stabbed Arthur dead himself.
Arthur’s body was eventually discovered dumped in the Seine river by a fisherman in 1203. He was just sixteen-years-old. Arthur was given a secret burial so that John would not find out. Arthur’s death influenced none other than William Shakespeare and his play “King John,” published in 1623.
Arthur’s death also caused his sister to remain imprisoned for the rest of her life so that she could not succeed him. Arthur was instead succeeded by his half-sister, Alix of Thouars, who never actually got to control much of her inheritance in large part due to King John.