Isabella de Coucy

Isabella de Coucy

Isabella Plantagenet, also known as Dame Isabella de Coucy (16 June 1332- either April 1379 or 1382), was the daughter of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault and the wife of Enguerrand VII of Coucy.

Early years

Isabella was the royal couple's second child, and eldest daughter. Named after her paternal grandmother, Isabella is believed to have been her father's favourite daughter.

Born at Woodstock Palace, in Oxfordshire on 16 June 1332, she was a pampered baby lying in a gilded cradle, lined with taffeta and covered with a fur coverlet. She wore gowns of Italian silk, embroidered with jewels and lined with fur. She had, along with her siblings, a household of servants which included a personal chaplain, musicians, a noble governor and governess and three waiting women as well as a staff of esquires, clerks, butlers, cooks, grooms, and other attendants. [ [Barbara W. Tuchman "A Distant Mirror", pages 215-16] Isabella spent her childhood in the household of William and Elizabeth St Omer, which also included Isabella's older brother Edward and younger sister Joan. When she was just 3 years old, her father attempted to arrange a marriage between Isabella and Pedro of Castile, the Castilian King's heir; however, Joan later became Pedro's chosen bride.

Described as being over-indulged, wilful, and wildly extravagant, Isabella - unusually for the times - remained unmarried until the age of 33. She had previously been the subject of various betrothal proposals, however, which had failed. She was physically described as dark-haired, dark-eyed and rather sallow in complexion. Eventually, she was permitted to marry Enguerrand VII, Lord of Coucy, a wealthy French lord with whom she had fallen in love. He was a son of Enguerrand VI, Lord of Coucy and Katharina von Habsburg.


Her husband had been brought to England in 1360 as a hostage exchanged for the freedom of John II of France, an English prisoner. They married on 27 July, 1365, at Windsor Castle. Her father, Edward III, gave her a large lifetime annual income, together with expensive amounts of jewelry and lands; de Coucy was restored his family lands in Yorkshire, Lancaster, Westmorland and Cumberland, and was released as a hostage without any need for ransom.

In November 1365, Isabella and her husband were permitted to enter France; their first daughter, Marie, was born at the family lands at Coucy in April 1366. They later returned for a visit to England; on this occasion, Enguerrand was made Earl of Bedford on 11 May 1366, which made Isabella the Countess consort of Bedford as well as the Lady consort of Coucy. After the birth of Isabella's second daughter, Philippa, in 1367, Enguerrand and Isabella were also made Count and Countess of Soissons by Edward.

Because her husband also served the King of France as a military leader, he was frequently away from home; consequently, Isabella, though living principally with Enguerrand at Coucy, made frequent visits to her family in England. She was made a Lady of the Garter in 1376.

Isabella bore two children by her marriage to Enguerrand de Coucy:
* Marie de Coucy, also called Marie de Bar (April 1366-1404). She married Henri de Bar, a nephew of Charles V of France. After her father's death, she disputed the inheritance of his lands with her stepmother, Isabelle of Lorraine, before dying suddenly. After her death, her patrimony was absorbed into the French royal estates.
* Philippa de Coucy (1367-1411). She married Robert de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, in 1371, and lived thereafter in England.


Isabella was at her father's side when he died on 21 June1377 having been urgently summoned home from France by couriers the previous April. [Tuchman, page 318] After the accession of Richard II, Isabella's nephew, in August 1377, Enguerrand resigned all of his English ties and possessions. Isabella then died in England under mysterious circumstances, separated from her husband and eldest child. Her death was either in April 1379, or between 17 June and 5 October 1382. She was buried in Greyfriars Church, Greenwich, London.

Seven years after her death, her husband remarried, to Isabelle, daughter of John I, Duke of Lorraine and Sophie of Württemberg.

In fiction

Molly Costain Haycraft, daughter of noted Plantagenet historian Thomas B. Costain, wrote a fictionalized account of Isabella's life and courtship with her husband. Titled "The Lady Royal", the novel recounts several incidents in the lives of the princess and other members of Edward III's family. It is not to be interpreted as a bona fide biography, however, as it contains a number of errors. Chief among these is the explanation of the book's title; according to the story, Isabella (or Isabel, as she is identified in the story) was titled Princess Royal and later promoted to "Lady Royal" by her parents. This is impossible, given that the title of Princess Royal was not created until the reign of Charles I of England.


# Barbara W. Tuchman "A Distant Mirror",published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York,1978

External links

* [ Isabella de Coucy on]
* [ Oxford Biography Entry]

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