A Capetian Queen as Street Demonstrator: Isabelle of Hainaut

  • Aline G. Hornaday
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The history of Philip II’s three queens illustrates some perils of Capetian queenship in the light of these women’s need to deal on a personal level with a brilliant, difficult, contradictory husband who was almost completely absorbed in the work of kingship. Philip’s first wife, Isabelle of Hainaut, turned openly to their people for support. She thus took an almost unique step in the annals of queenship, a spectacular public action that resolved her difficulties with Philip in the most dramatic possible way.1 Such theatrical terms seem appropriate to Isabelle, because in their accounts of her open appeal for help and other turning-points in her life, contemporary chroniclers so often present her to us as if on a stage, with crowds of people pressing around her.As her histrionic public demonstration was so surprising and yet managed so well, this essay focuses on Isabelle’s personality, her path to queenship, and her solution to the problem of Philip.


Open Appeal Queen Mother French People Public Appeal Firstborn Daughter 
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  1. 3.
    Andrew W. Lewis, Royal Succession in Capetian France; Studies on Familial Order and the State (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), pp. 70–77, discusses Philip’s association on the throne with Louis VII and royal consecrations in 1179 and 1180.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Marion F. Facinger, “A Study of Medieval Queenship: Capetian France, 987–1237,” in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 5 (1968): 9 [2–47].Google Scholar
  3. 26.
    Georges Bordonove, Philippe Auguste le Conquérant (Paris: Pygmalion/ G. Watelet,1983), p. 65.Google Scholar

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© Kathleen Nolan 2003

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  • Aline G. Hornaday

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