Isabella of Gloucester

First Spouse of King John of England

Part of a genealogical table of the kings and queens of England
Part of a genealogical table of the kings and queens of England. http://womenshistory.about.com/od/medbritishwomen/fl/Isabella-of-Gloucester.htm

Isabella of Gloucester Facts

Known for: married to the future King John of England, but put aside before or as soon as he became king, never considered a queen consort
Titles: suo jure Countess of Gloucester (in her own right) 
Dates: about 1160? 1173? – October 14, 1217 (sources differ widely on her age and birth year)
Also known as: Variations on her name include Isabel, Hadwise, Hawise, Hadwisa, Joan, Eleanor, Avisa.

Background, Family:

  • Mother: Hawise de Beaumont, daughter of Amica de Gael and Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester
  • Father: William FitzRobert, son of Mabel FitzRobert and Robert FitzRoy, an illegitimate son of Henry I of England, who had been a strong supporter of his half-sister, Matilda, in her claim to the throne
  • Siblings: Robert FitzWilliam, who died at 15; Mabel FitzWilliam, who married Amaury V de Montfort; and Amice FitzWilliam, who married Richard de Clare, 3rd Earl of Hertford.  Robert died before his father did, and the estates and titles fell to the three sisters as co-heirs. The title of Gloucester eventually passed to Amice’s descendants.

Marriage, Children:

  • Husband: John, son of Henry II: betrothed 1176, married 1189, annulled 1199; John was also called John Lackland and was the fifth and youngest son of Henry II
  • Husband: Geoffrey FitzGeoffrey de Mandeville, 2nd Earl of Essex: married 1214; he died 1216
  • Husband: Hubert de Burgh, later Earl of Kent: married 1217; Isabella died a month later; he had already been married twice and would remarry again after Isabella’s death
  • Children: Isabella had no children

Isabella of Gloucester Biography:

Isabella’s paternal grandfather was an illegitimate son of Henry I, made 1st Earl of Gloucester.

Her father, the 2nd Earl of Gloucester, arranged for his daughter, Isabella, to marry the youngest son of Henry II, John Lackland. 

Betrothal

They were betrothed on September 11, 1176, when Isabella was between three and 16 years old and John was ten.  It was soon after his brothers had combined to rebel against their father, so John was at the time his father’s favorite.  She was a wealthy heiress, her only brother having already died, and the marriage would make John wealthy when, as the youngest son of many, he might not inherit much from his father.  The agreement for the marriage excluded Isabella’s two sisters who were already married from inheriting the title and estates. 

As was the custom for couples where one or both was so young, they waited some years before the formal marriage.  Her father died in 1183, and king Henry II became her guardian, taking the income from her estates.

John’s three oldest brothers pre-deceased their father, and his brother Richard succeeded as king in July of 1189 when Henry II died.

Marriage to John

The official marriage of John and Isabella took place on August 29, 1189, at Marlborough Castle.  He was given the title and estate of Gloucester in her right.

  John and Isabella were half-second cousins (Henry I was great-grandfather of both), and at first the church declared their marriage null, then the pope, probably as a favor to Richard, gave them permission to marry but not to have marital relations.

At some point the two traveled together to Normandy.  In 1193, John was arranging to marry Alice, the half-sister of the French king, as part of a conspiracy against his brother, Richard, then held in captivity.

In April of 1199, the 32-year-old John succeeded Richard as king of England when Richard died in Aquitaine, his mother’s duchy he had also inherited.  John very quickly moved to get his marriage to Isabella annulled – he had probably already fallen in love with Isabella, heiress to Angoulême, and married her in 1200, when she was between 12 and 14 years old.

John kept Isabella of Gloucester’s lands, though he granted the title of Earl to Isabella’s nephew.  It reverted to Isabella at her nephew’s death in 1213. He took Isabella under his guardianship.

Second and Third Marriages

In 1214, John sold the right to marry Isabella of Gloucester to the Earl of Essex. Such right to sell remarriages was limited by the Magna Carta, signed in 1215.  Isabella and her husband were among those who rebelled against John and forced him to sign the document.

The Earl died in 1216, from wounds sustained fighting in a tournament.  King John died the same year, and Isabella enjoyed some freedom as a widow.  The next year, Isabella married for the third time, to Hubert de Burgh, who had been John’s chamberlain and became Chief Justiciar in 1215, and was a regent for the young Henry III.  He had been loyal to King John during the rebellion, but had urged the king to sign the Magna Carta.

Isabella died a month after her third marriage.  She was at Keynsham Abbey which had been founded by her father. She was buried at Canterbury.  The Gloucester title went to her sister Amicia’s son Gilbert de Clare.