|Philip the Fair with his children and his brother|
Since the death of Isabella’s mother, the three Burgundian princesses had made the French court a place for frivolity with fun-filled parties and risqué fashions. Nineteen-year-old Isabella must have enjoyed their company, particularly since her English sisters-in-law were all much older than she.
Alas, although Isabella had to return to Britain, many Frenchman were frequently at her husband’s court. Two dashing knights were visiting just a few months later: the dashing d’Aulnay brothers, Philip and Gautier. Although not nearly as handsome as her own husband King Edward II, the brothers certainly caught her eye. They were amusing to admire until Isabella noticed something odd. On each brother’s belt there hung a familiar little purse—the very purses that Isabella had recently given to Blanche and Marguerite.
To say that Isabella was angry is probably putting it mildly. She might have been slightly offended by the re-gifting, but she was more likely infuriated that two wives of French princes—her own brothers—were granting such favors to men who weren’t their husbands. What could it mean?
|Tour de Nesle|
The d’Aulnay brothers tried to escape Philip’s reach, but they failed. Instead, they were tortured just as the Knights Templar had so recently been tormented by the King. This time, however, more than money, power, and religion were at stake. The very fate of the Capetian dynasty was on the line, for if either princess conceived a child by her lover, it could be passed off as an heir to the throne.
The d’Aulnay brothers did not last long under their brutal inquisition. They confessed everything. For their lusty crimes against the king, they were publicly castrated, flayed alive and then decapitated. Their mistresses faced a more private trial before the Paris Parlement. All three young women stood accused. Jeanne admitted that she knew about the affairs but had never been unfaithful herself. Her husband, the second son Prince Philip, believed her and pleaded for her. Blanche and Marguerite had no such defenders. They were both found guilty. Their lives were spared but they were humiliated by being shaved bald and were imprisoned in the dank and gloomy Chateau Gaillard. Jeanne was punished by being placed under house arrest at Dourdan. Within a year, she was reunited with her husband and five children at court.
Just months after the Tour de Nesle Affair, King Philip died and his eldest son became King Louis X. Because his wife Marguerite’s affair had called into question the legitimacy of their only child, a daughter named Jeanne, Louis needed to marry again quickly. With Marguerite still alive at Chateau Gaillard, it would be difficult for him to find another bride. Then, Marguerite conveniently died. Perhaps too conveniently. It might have been the harsh conditions of being imprisoned underground or it might have been murder. Nevertheless, her death could not have come at a better time for Louis, who married his second wife just five days later.
Louis managed to impregnate his new wife very quickly, but his athletic prowess soon got the best of him. After an intense game of tennis—his favorite sport—he grew ill and died. He had been king for less than two years. France eagerly awaited the birth of the heir, a little boy name John, who died within a week.
As for Charles, despite two more wives, he died without sons and the Salic Law prevented his two surviving daughters from ascending the throne in 1328, just 14 years after the Affair of the Tour de Nesle.
|Queen Isabella and her lover|
at the head of an army.
Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of the entire Tour de Nesle Affair, however, is perhaps that Queen Isabella had become the most infamous adulteress in the world. Although she had pointed fingers at her sisters-in-law, she also engaged in a well-known extramarital affair, she and her lover led a rebellion against her husband, forced his abdication and had him executed.