« PreviousContinue »
amounted to 40407. sterling; but the Templars became guarantees and agents for her payments; and from that time the pecuniary troubles of Berengaria cease to form a feature in our national records.
The date of Berengaria's death has generally been fixed about the year 1230; but that was only the year of the completion of her abbey of Espan, and of her final retirement from the world; as from that time she took up her abode within its walls, and fmished there her blameless life, at an advanced age, some years afterwards.
Berengaria was interred in her own stately abbey. The following most interesting particulars of her monument, we transcribe from the noble work of the late Mr. Stothard, edited by his accomplished widow, Mrs. Bray.
"When Mr. Stothard visited the abbey of L'Espan, near Mans, in search of the effigy of Berengaria, he found the church converted into a bam, and the object of his inquiry in a mutilated state, concealed under a quantitv of wheat. It was in excellent preservation, with the exception of the left arm. By the effigy were lying the bones of the queen, the silent witnesses of the sacrilegious demolition of the tomb. After some search, a portion of the arm belonging to the statue was recovered." Three men who had assisted in the work of destruction stated "that the monument with the figure upon it stood in the centre of the aisle, at the east end of the church; that there was no coffin within it, but a small square box, containing bones, pieces of linen, some stuff embroidered with gold, and a slate, on which was found an inscription." The slate was found in possession of a canon of the church of St. Julien, at Mans: upon it was engraven an inscription, of which the following is a translation:—
"The. tomb of the most serene Berengaria, queen of England, the noble founder of this monastery, was restored and removed to this more sacred place. In it were deposited the bones which were found in the ancient sepulchre, on the 27th May, in the year of our Lord 1672."
The sides of the tomb are ornamented with deep quatrefoils. The effigy which was upon it is in high relief. It represents the queen with her hair unconfined, but partly concealed by the coverchief, over which is placed an elegant crown. Her mantle is fastened by a narrow band crossing her breast; a large fermail, or broach, richly set with stones, confines her tunic at the neck. To an ornamental girdle, which encircles her waist, is attached a small aumoniere or purse. This greatly resembles a modern reticule, with a chain and clasped top. "The queen holds in her hand a box, singular from the circumstance of its having embossed on the cover a second representation of herself, as lying on a bier, with waxen torches burning in candlesticks on either side of her."
From early youth to her grave, Berengaria manifested devoted love for Richard; uncomplaining when deserted by him, forgiving when he retained, and faithful to his memory unto death, the royal Berengaria, queen of England, though never in England, little deserves to be forgotten, by any admirer of feminine and conjugal virtue.
ISABELLA OF ANGOULEME,
QUEEN OF KING JOHN.
Isabella the betrothed of Hugh de Lusignan—Parents—Inheritance—IsabelU abducted by king John—Marriage to king John—Challenge of count Hugh— Queen's arrival in England—Recognition—Coronation—Arrival at Rouen— Luxury—Conclusion of Eleanora of Aquitaine's biogiaphy—Besieged — Relieved by king John—He captures count Hugh—Death of Eleanora—Effisv— Character—Queen Isabella's dower—Her return to England—Her lover, count Hugh, liberated—Isabella's son born—Her pages—Herd of white cows—King John's cruelty—His jealousy—Her children—Inheritance—Marriage of count Hugh to Isabella's little daughter—Royal dress—Murder of Matilda the Fair —John's atrocities—Meets the queen at Marlborough—She retires to Gloucester with her children—John's death—Queen's proceedings—Coronation of her son—She leaves England—Marries count Hugh—Deprived of her jointure —Detains the princess Joanna—Queen's dower restored—Her pride—Erabroils her husband in war—Attempts the life of St Louis—Humiliation of Isabella—Hated by the Poictevins—Called Jezebel—Retires to FontevraudTakes the veil—Dies—Tomb—Effigy—Children of second marriage.
No one would have imagined that Isabella Angoul&ne was destined to become the future queen of England, when king John ascended the throne; for she was then not only the engaged wife of another, but, according to the custom of the times, had been actually consigned to her betrothed, for the purpose of education.
Hugh de Lusignan, surnamed Le Bran,1 was the affianced lord of Isabella. He was eldest son of Hugh IX., the reigning count de la Marche, who governed the provinces which formed the northern boundary of the Aquitanian dominions, called in that age French Poitou. He was a vassal prince of the French crown, and, by virtue of his authority, as marcher or guardian of the border, was a most formidable neighbour to the Aquitanian territories; for, if offended, he could at pleasure raise the ban and arriere ban, and pour on them the whole feudal militia of a large portion of France.
The mother of king John was deeply impressed with the necessity of conciliating this powerful neighbour. She had been forced, at the death of Richard, to do homage at Tours,* in person, to Philip Augustus, for Poitou, 1199; and by her wise mediation she reconciled John and, Philip, negotiating an alliance between prince Louis and her grand
1« Hugh," »ay» G. de Nangis, » whom the people of the little town of Limoges would call the Brown, was a noble personage, brave, powerful, and possessing great riches." He did not own the tobriouet of Le Brun, but signs himself Lusig. nan in his charters. » Guillaume de Nangis.
daughter, Blanche of Castille. She even travelled to Spain, and was present at the splendid marriage of her granddaughter, who was wedded at Burgos to prince Louis by procuration. Afterwards her daughter, the queen of Spain, accompanied her across the Pyrenees, with the young bride, to her native territories of Guienne. Queen Eleanora intended to escort Blanche to Normandy, where prince Louis waited for them,1 but the fell sick with fatigue, and retreated to Fontevraud, towards the close of the year 1199. In a letter written by her on her recovery, she informs king John "that she had been very ill, but that she had sent for her favourite cousin, Americus de Thouara, from Poitou; that she was much comforted by his presence, and through God's grace she was convalescent." Queen Eleanora then proceeds to urge her son to visit immediately his Poictevin provinces, and, for the sake of their peace and preservation, she desires him to form an amicable league with the count de la Marche.*
This epistle is dated Fontevraud, 1200, and was the occasion of king John's progress to Aquitaine, in the summer; but little did the writer suppose that, before the year was expired, the whole powerful family of Lusignan would be exasperated, by king John's lawless appropriation of the bride wedded to the heir of their house.*
Isabella was the only child and heiress of Aymer or Americus, count of Angoul6me, surnamed Taillefer. By maternal descent she shared the blood of the Capetian sovereigns, her mother, Alice de Courtenay, being the daughter of Peter de Courtenay, fifth son of Louis VI. king of France. The inheritance of Isabella was a beautiful province, called the Angoumois, situated in the very heart of the Aquitanian domains; with Perigord on the south, Poitou on the north, Saintonge on the west, and La Limousin on the east. The Angoumois, watered by the clear and sparkling Charente, abounded in all the richest aliments of life; altogether it was fair and desirable as its heiress. The Provencal language was at that era spoken throughout the district; Isabella of Angoule"me may therefore be reckoned the third of our Provencal queens. The province to which she was heiress, had been governed by her ancestors, ever since the reign of Charles the Bald.
Isabella was actually abiding at one of the castles of her betrothed,4 when her parents sent for her, to be present at a day of high ceremonial, on which they paid their homage to king John for the province of Angoumois. Indeed, it may be considered certain that the young lady
'Mezerai, vol. ii. 215, 216.
* Fcedera, vol. i. The Latin letter of the aged queen is preceded by another from Americus, urging the same advice, and giving an account of the health of bis royal kinswoman. The conclusion of the lifo of Eleanora of Aquitaine is comprised in this biography.
• Hugh IX., according to all genealogies, was alive long after his son's betrothment to Isabella. The bereft lover of Isabella succeeded his father, by the title of Hugh X. There were thirteen counts of this house, successively, of the name of Hugh; a fact which makes their identity difficult without olose investigation.
•William le Breton. Dr. Henry asserts the same, and gives Hoveden and M Paris as authorities.
heiself, as their sole heir, was required to pay her personal homage to her lord paramount, as duke of Aquitaine. Her betrothed was absent, but the count of Eu, his brother, surrendered the fair heiress, at the request of her parents. He was deceived1 by the message of the count of Angouleme, and incurred great blame, as if he had treacherously surrendered the young bride of his brother; but, who could deny the parents the pleasure of enjoying the society of their child?
It was at the high festival of king John's recognition in Angouleme, as sovereign of Aquitaine, that the English king first saw the beautiful fiancee of Lusignan. He was thirty-two; she had just entered her fifteenth year; notwithstanding which disparity, he became madly enamoured of her. The parents of Isabella, when they perceived their sovereign thus captivated with her budding charms, dishonourably encouraged his passion, and by deceitful excuses to the count of Eu. prevented the return of Isabella to the castle of Valence; a proceeding the more infamous, since subsequent events plainly showed that the heart of the maiden secretly preferred her betrothed.
Had John Plantagenet remained in the same state of poverty as when his father surnamed him Lackland, the fierce Hugh de Lusignan might have retained his beautiful bride; but at the time his fancy was captivated by Isabella, her parents saw him universally recognised as the possessor of the first empire in Europe. They had just done homage to him as the monarch of the south of France, and they knew he had received the elective suffrages of the English people, in preference to the hereditary right of his nephew Arthur; that he had been actually crowned king of England, and that his brow had been circled with the chaplet of golden roses which formed the ducal coronet of Normandy.
John was already married to a lady who had neither been crowned with him, nor acknowledged queen of England; yet she appears to have been the bride of his fickle choice. The son of his great uncle. Robert earl of Gloucester,* had left three daughters, co-heiresses of his vast possessions. The youth and beauty of A visa, the youngest of the sisters, induced prince John to woo her as his wife. The wedding took place at Richard's coronation, but the church forbade the pair to lire together.*
The pope, who had previously commanded the divorce of Avisa from John, because the empress Matilda and Robert earl of Gloucester had been half brother and sister, now murmured at the broken contract between Isabella and the heir of Lusignan; but as this betrothment does not seem to have been accompanied by any vow or promise on the jan of the bride, his opposition was vain.
The lady Isabella, as much dazzled as her parents by the splendour of the triple crowns of England, Normandy, and Aquitaine, would not acknowledge that she had consented to any marriage contract with count Hugh. As Isabella preferred being a queen to giving her hand to
1 See the Chronicle of William le Breton. Guizot's French Collection. •Tyrrell.
'It must be noticed that the church forbade the wedlock of cousins of illegitimate descent, as strictly as those by marriage.
the man she really loved, no one could right the wrongs of the illtreated Lusignan. Moreover, the mysterious chain of feudality interwore its inextricable links and meshes even round the sacrament of marriage. King John, as lord paramount of Aquitaine, could have rendered invalid any wedlock that the heiress of the Angoumois might contract without his consent; he could have forbidden his fair vassalcss to many the subject of king Philip, and if she had remained firmly true 10 her first love, he could have declared her fief forfeited, for disobedience to her immediate lord.1
King John and Isabella were married at Bordeaux, some time in the month of August, 1200. Their hands were united by the archbishop of Bordeaux, who had previously held a synod, assisted by the bishop of Poitou, and solemnly declared that no impediment existed to the marriage.
This event threw connt Hugh of Lusignan into despair; he did not, bowever, quietly submit to the destruction of his hopes, but challenged to mortal combat the royal interloper between him and his betrothed.' 'ohn received the cartel with remarkable coolness, saying, that if count Hugh wished for combat, he would appoint a champion to fight with lum; but the count declared that John's champions were hired bravoes »nd vile mercenaries, unfit for the encounter of a wronged lover and true knight. Thus, unable to obtain satisfaction, the valiant Marcher raited his hour of revenge; while king John sailed with his bride in uiumph to England, where he was anxious that she should be recognised u his wife, not only by the peers, but by the people.
For this purpose, being just then on his best behaviour, he called what the chroniclers term "a common council of the kingdom" at Westminster. The ancient Wittena-gemot seems the model of this assembly Here the young Isabella was introduced, and acknowledged as the queenconsort of England. Her coronation was appointed for the 8th of October, and there exists a charter in the Tower, expressing " that Isabella 'i Angouleme was crowned queen by the common consent of the barons, clergy, and people of England."' She was crowned on that day by the archbishop of Canterbury.
Clement Fitz-William was paid thirty-three shillings, for strewing Westminster Hall with herbs and rushes, against the coronation of lady Isabella the queen; and the chamberlains of the Norman exchequer were ordered to pay Eustace the chaplain, and Ambrose the songster, twenty-five shillings, for singing the hymn Christus vicit, at the unction and crowning of the said lady queen.4 The expenses of her dress at this time were by no means extravagant; three cloaks of fine linen, one of scarlet cloth, and one gray pelisse, costing together twelve pounds five and fourpence, were all that was afforded to the fair Provencal bride, on this august occasion.
The whole of the intervening months, between October and Easter,
'See Bracton. "By the feudal law, any woman who is an heir forfeits her i»'"ls if she marries without her lord's consent." * SpeeQ s Chronicle. * Roger Hoveden. 'Madox.