14 Isabeau of Bavaria: The Queen of France Who signed away the Crown of France to the English
On July 17, 1385, Isabeau, the 16–year-old daughter of Stephen III, Duke of Bavaria-Ingolstadt married Charles VI of France. The marriage began happily. When the young King saw his new bride, “happiness and love enter[ed] his heart, for he saw that she was beautiful and young, and thus he greatly desired to gaze at her and possess her.” There was just one problem for the royal family and France. For Charles suffered from periodic bouts of insanity.
Isabeau as a devoted wife dedicated herself to her husband’s health. However, she was unable to prevent Charles’s descent into madness. She was also woefully ill-equipped for another task that Charles bestowed upon her during one of his lucid moments: to act as regent of France when he was incapacitated. Isabeau was not a strong or capable politician. And so, the political buzzards began to circle, and the Queen regent found herself hemmed in by various factions of nobles vying for power over the throne.
When Isabeau allied with her brother-in-law, Louis Duc d’Orleons, the faction surrounding her son, the Dauphin accused her of adultery. The Dauphin imprisoned Isabeau, but she escaped. She reestablished her government in Chartres and later Troyes. The Dauphin and his faction, however, continued to hold Paris. The government of France had essentially divided into two.
This division could not have come at a worse time. France was embroiled in The Hundred Year’s war with England. In 1415, England gained the upper hand after King Henry V emerged as the victor at Agincourt. So in an attempt to secure some peace and security, on May 21, 1420, Isabeau made the gravest error of her life. She agreed that on the death of her husband, instead of the crown of France going to her son Charles, as dauphin of France, it would instead go to King Henry V.
To ensure a sort of French presence on the throne, Henry agreed to marry a French princess, Katherine of Valois. Meanwhile, the Dauphin would be exiled. Isabeau had essentially signed France over to the English. It was a decision that, however well-intentioned led to her vilification as a traitor by the French and one that sadly led the bloodshed to continue until 1453.