Isabella of France (9 November 1389 – 13 September 1409) was Queen consort of England as the second spouse of King Richard II. Her parents were King Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria. She married the king at the age of seven and was widowed three years later. She later married Charles, Duke of Orléans, dying in childbirth at the age of nineteen.
Isabella’s younger sister, Catherine of Valois, was Queen consort of England from 1420–1422, as the wife of Henry V and mother of Henry VI.
Isabella lived during a period of political tension between France and England known as the Hundred Years War, the situation exacerbated by the mental instability of her father. On 31 October 1396, at the age of seven, Isabella married the widower King Richard II of England in a move for peace with France.
Although the union was political, Richard II and the child Isabella developed a mutually respectful relationship. The Queen was moved to Portchester Castle for protection while Richard went on a military campaign in Ireland. When Richard II was imprisoned and died in custody on his return to England, Queen Isabella was ordered by the new King Henry IV to move out of Windsor Castle and to settle in the Bishop of Salisbury’s Thamesside palace at Sonning.
King Henry IV then decided Queen Isabella should marry his son, the future Henry V of England, but she refused. Knowing her husband was dead, she went into mourning, ignoring Henry IV’s demands. Eventually he let her go back to France.
On 29 June 1406, Queen Isabella married her cousin Charles, Duke of Orléans.. She died in childbirth at the age of 19, leaving one daughter, Joan, who married John II of Alençon in 1424. Isabella was interred in Blois, in the abbey of St.Laumer, where her body was found entire in 1624, curiously wrapped in bands of linen plated over with quicksilver. It was then transferred to the church of the Celestines in Paris.
In Shakespeare’s play Richard II Richard’s queen appears in two significant scenes at the time of his deposition, but she is portrayed as an adult. She is forced by the new king Henry IV to leave for France after the deposition.
Two well-regarded novels about Isabella’s life appeared in the late 1950s. Hilda Lewis’ The Gentle Falcon is about Isabella’s marriage to Richard II, while Gladys Malvern’s My Lady, My Love is about Isabella’s later years after Richard’s death and her return to France.