Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Isabella of Valois an infant queen-consort—Betrothed to Richard the Second— Married at Calais—Embarks—Enters London—Called ‘the little queen’— Educated at Windsor—King's visits—Her childish love for him—Conspiracy to imprison the king and queen—Her tournament—Richard's farewell visit —The young queen's growth and beauty—Her parting with Richard—Queen's passionate grief—Invasion—Queen sent to Wallingford—King's return—His poetical address to the queen—Richard in the Tower—Dejection—Deposed— Queen joins the revolt against Henry IV.-Richard's murder—Widowhood of Isabella—She refuses the prince of Wales—Returns to France—Tender farewell to the English—Restoration to her family—Renewed offers from the prince of Wales—Her aversion—Betrothed to the heir of Orleans—Birth of Isabella's infant—Her death—Burial at Blois—Grief of her husband—Elegies written by him—Discovery of Isabella's corpse—Re-interment–Portrait.

The union of Isabella of Valois with Richard II. presented in anomaly to the people of England unprecedented in their Innals. They saw with astonishment an infant, not nine summers old, sharing the throne as the chosen queen-consort if a monarch who had reached his thirtieth year. Richard, those principal error was attention to his own private feelings a preference to the public good, considered, that by the time his little princess grew up, the lapse of years would have

[ocr errors]

mellowed his grief for the loved and lost Anne of Bohemia: he could not divorce his heart from the memory of his late queen sufficiently to give her a successor nearer his own age. Isabella of Valois was the daughter of Charles VI. of France and Isabeau of Bavaria, that queen of France afterwards so notorious for her wickedness; but at the time of the marriage of Richard II. with her little daughter, queen Isabeau was only distinguished for great beauty and luxurious taste in dress and festivals. Charles VI. had already experienced two or three agonizing attacks of inflammation on the brain, which had yielded, however, to medical skill, and he was at this time a magnificent, prosperous, and popular sovereign. Isabella, the eldest child of this royal pair, first saw the light in the Louvre-palace, at Paris, 1387, November 9th. She was the fairest of a numerous and lovely family, the females of which were remarkable for the beauty lavished on them by the hand of nature. The queen of France was the daughter of a German prince and an Italian princess; she was renowned for the splendour of her large dark eyes, and the clearness and brightness of her complexion,-charms which were transmitted to her daughters in no common degree. Isabella had three brothers (who were successively dauphins) and four sisters, Joanna, duchess of Bretagne; Marie, a nun; Michelle, the first duchess of Philip the Good, of Burgundy; and Katherine the Fair, the queen of Henry V. of England. These royal ladies inherited their father's goodness without his malady, and their mother's beauty without her vices. The princess Isabella was precocious in intellect and stature, and was every way worthy of fulfilling a queenly destiny. Unlike her sisters, Michelle and Katherine, who were cruelly neglected in their infant years, she was the darling of her, parents and of the court of France. Isabella is no mute on the biographical page: the words she uttered have been chronicled, and though so young, both as the wife and widow of an English king, research will show that her actions were of some historical importance. The life of Richard's last consort is a curious portion of the biography of our queens of England, as an instance of a girl of tender age placed in unusual circumstances. “The king,” says sir John de Grailly, (a courtly informant of Froissart,) “is advised to marry again, and has had researches made every where, but in vain, for a suitable lady. He has been told that the king of Navarre has sisters and daughters, but he will not hear of them. The duke of Gloucester has, likewise, a grown-up girl, who is marriageable, and well pleased would he be if his royal nephew would choose her; but the king says ‘she is too nearly related, being his cousin-german.” King Richard's thoughts are so bent on the eldest daughter of the king of France, he will not hear of any other: it causes great wonder in this country that he should be so eager to marry the daughter of his adversary, and he is not the better beloved for it. King Richard has been told ‘that the lady was by far too young, and that even in five or six years she would not be the proper age for a wife.” He replied pleasantly, “that every day would remedy the deficiency of age, and her youth was one of his reasons for preferring her, because he should educate her and bring her up to his own mind, and to the manners and customs of the English; and that, as for himself, he was young enough to wait for her.” Froissart was staying at Eltham-palace when the parliament met to debate the marriage in the beautiful gothic hall.' While they were walking on the terrace, sir Richard Sturry, one of the king's household, gave him this information:“The king made the archbishop of Canterbury speak of the business of his marriage. In the debate it was agreed that the archbishop of Dublin, the earl of Rutland, and the earlmarshal, with twenty knights and forty squires of honour, should wait on the king of France,” and propose a treaty of marriage between him and the princess Isabella. When the English embassy arrived at Paris, they were lodged near the Croix du Tiroir, and their attendants and horses, to the number of five hundred, in the adjoining streets. The king of France resided at the Louvre, and the queen and her children at the hôtel de St. Pol, on the banks of the Seine; and to please the English lords, their request was granted to visit the queen and her family, and especially the little princess, whom they were soliciting to be bestowed as the wife of their king, as they were impatient to behold her. This had been at first refused, for the French council excused themselves by observing, ‘That she was as yet but eight years; how could any one know how a young child would conduct herself at such an interview P’” She had, however, been carefully educated, as she proved when the English nobles waited upon her; for “when the earl-marshal dropped upon his knee, saying, ‘Madam, if it please God, you shall be our lady and queen;’ she replied instantly, and without any one prompting her, ‘Sir, if it please God, and my lord and father, that I be queen of England, I shall be well pleased thereat, for I have been told I shall then be a great lady.” She made the earl-marshal rise, and, taking him by the hand, led him to queen Isabeau her mother, who was much pleased at her answer, as were all who heard it. The appearance and manners of this young princess were very agreeable to the English ambassadors, and they thought among themselves she would be a lady of high honour and worth.” "

*The refined taste of the late princess Sophia Matilda led to the recent restoration of this noble relic. *The Sunday after the departure of the embassy, Richard II. was at leisure to receive the presentation-copy of the poesies prepared for him by sir John Froissart. “I presented it to him in his chamber, for I had it with me, and laid it on his bed.” From this passage it would appear that the king received him before he had risen. “He took it, and looked into it with much pleasure. He ought to have been pleased, for it was handsomely written and illuminated, and bound in crimson velvet, with ten silver gilt studs, and roses of the same in the middle, with two large clasps of silver gilt, richly worked with roses in the centre. The king asked me, ‘Of what the book treated?' I replied, “Of love.’ He was pleased with the answer, and dipped into several places, reading parts aloud remarkably well, for he read and spoke French in perfection. He then gave it to one of his knights, sir Richard Credon, to carry it to his oratory, and made me many acknowledgments for it.” This knight was probably the autho. of Creton's Metrical Chronicle. The king did not confine his gratitude to empty thanks, for we find he afterwards presented the minstrel-historian with a fin. chased silver goblet, containing one hundred nobles, a benefaction which, a Froissart adds, was of infinite use to him. The whole of this scene is a preciou relic of the domestic history of English royalty, and carries the reader back fou centuries as if it were but yesterday. * Froissart.

Just before the young Isabella arrived in England, the duke of Lancaster thought fit to give his princely hand to Katherine Rouet, who had been governess to his daughters, and was already mother to those sons of the duke so celebrated in English history as the Beauforts. Serious were the feuds this mis-alliance raised in the royal family. “When the marriage of the duke of Lancaster was announced to the ladies of royal descent in England, such as the duchess of Gloucester and the countess of Arundel (who was a Mortimer of the line of Clarence), they were greatly shocked, and said, ‘The duke had disgraced himself by marrying a woman of light character, since she would take rank as second lady in the kingdom, and the young queen would be dishonourably accompanied by her; but, for their parts, they would leave her to do the honours of the court alone, for they would never enter any place where she was. They themselves would be disgraced if they permitted such a base-born duchess, who had been mistress to the duke, both before and after his marriage with the princess Constance, to take precedence of them, and their hearts would burst with grief were it to happen.” Those persons of the royal family who were the most outrageous on the subject, were the duke and duchess of Gloucester.” Thus was the court of king Richard in a state of ferment with the discontents of the princesses of the house of Plantagenet, just at the time when he required them to assemble for the purpose of receiving his infant bride. While these ladies were settling their points of precedency, the princess Isabella was espoused in Paris by the earl-marshal, 's proxy for his royal master. “She was from that time,” says Froissart, “styled the queen of England. And I was at the time told it was pretty to see her, young as she was, ractising how to act the queen.” About this time the king of France sent to England the sount St. Pol, who had married Richard's half-sister, Maud Holland, surnamed ‘the Fair.” King Richard promised his brother-in-law that he would come to Calais and have an interview with the king of France, when his bride was to be

"Froissart.

« ZurückWeiter »