October

Isabella of Angoulême (c.1188 – 4 June 1246) was queen consort of England as the second wife of King John from 1200 until John’s death in 1216. She was also reigning Countess of Angoulême from 1202 until 1246.

She had five children by the king including his heir, later Henry III. In 1220, Isabella married Hugh X of Lusignan, Count of La Marche, by whom she had another nine children.

She was the only daughter and heir of Aymer Taillefer, Count of Angoulême, by Alice of Courtenay, who was sister of Peter II of Courtenay, Latin Emperor of Constantinople and granddaughter of King Louis VI of France.

Isabella became Countess of Angoulême in her own right on 16 June 1202, by which time she was already queen of England. Her marriage to King John took place on 24 August 1200, in Angoulême, a year after he annulled his first marriage to Isabel of Gloucester. She was crowned queen in an elaborate ceremony on 8 October at Westminster Abbey in London. Isabella was originally betrothed to Hugh IX le Brun, Count of Lusignan, son of the then Count of La Marche. As a result of John’s temerity in taking her as his second wife, King Philip II of France confiscated all of their French lands, and armed conflict ensued.

At the time of her marriage to John, the blonde and blue-eyed 12-year-old Isabella was already renowned by some for her beauty and has sometimes been called the ‘Helen’ of the Middle Ages by historians. Isabella was much younger than her husband and possessed a volatile temper similar to his own. King John was infatuated with his young, beautiful wife; however, his acquisition of her had as much, if not more to do with spiting his enemies, than romantic love. She was already engaged to Hugh IX le Brun, when she was taken by John. It had been said that he neglected his state affairs to spend time with Isabella, often remaining in bed with her until noon. However, these were rumors, ignited by John’s enemies to discredit him as being a weak and grossly irresponsible ruler. Given that at the time they were made John was engaging in a desperate war with King Phillip of France to hold on to the remaining Plantagenet dukedoms. The common people began to term her a “siren” or “Messalina”, which spoke volumes as to common opinion . Her mother-in-law, Eleanor of Aquitaine readily accepted her as John’s wife.

On 1 October 1207 at Winchester Castle, Isabella gave birth to a son and heir who was named Henry after the King’s father, Henry II. He was quickly followed by another son, Richard, and three daughters, Joan, Isabel, and Eleanor. All five children survived into adulthood, and would make illustrious marriages; all but Joan would produce offspring of their own.