And how did she come to rule England?
Gorgeous. Defiant. Looks great in a skirt.
But enough about Mel Gibson. Let’s talk about Sophie Marceau’s character, the French princess, Isabella.
In the film she has an affair with Mel and has his child, breaking the royal English line. It is a tale of adventure, romance and terrible butchery. English and Scottish history is mutilated beyond recognition.
So, who was the REAL Isabella of France?
Born in 1295, she was ten years old and still living in France when Mel Gibson – William Wallace – was executed. So she certainly never met him or had an affair with him.
The facts of her life are far more spectacular. In fact, Isabella succeeded where Wallace didn’t. She raised an army, invaded England, deposed her own husband, Edward II, and ruled as regent for four years.
Isabella’s father was Philip IV of France, so she was destined to be much more than Mel Gibson’s love interest.
Philip married her off aged twelve to the King of England’s son, Edward II, as part of a political alliance.
But Edward II was notable for his lack of aptitude for kingship as well as his complete lack of interest in women. That doesn’t make him the bad guy in the story, but for a bright and politically astute woman, it was a terrible match.
Roll the clock forward fifteen years.
Isabella was highly intelligent and had great diplomatic skill.
Her husband starved her of affection. His favourites, Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser the Younger, sidelined her in the political and possibly personal arena.
By the time she was thirty, she faced a stark choice: retire to the country to spend her life with needlework, or rebel.
She never liked embroidery.
When I went to school in England, I was told the last person to invade England was William the Conqueror in 1066. This is actually not true.
In 1326, Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, raised a mercenary army in the Low Countries. She married her oldest son to the Count of Hainaut’s daughter in return for ships and soldiers.
As invasions go, it wasn’t quite D-Day. The fleet got lost and landed miles from where Isabella and Mortimer had planned. Not that it mattered.
By then, her husband Edward II was so unpopular that the barons of England welcomed Isabella and Mortimer with open arms. The invasion became more of a bloodless coup.
Isabella named herself Queen Regent. She and Mortimer assumed the rule of England for four years.
And not once did she have to wear a kilt or paint herself blue.
It is available on Amazon.