14 January 2015

Today's Princess: Yolande of Aragon

By Selbymay via Wikimedia Commons

While it was often true that royal ladies had little authority in their own lives, many notable exceptions exist. True, Yolande of Aragon had no choice but to marry Louis II Duke of Anjou. And, she had no actual authority over the four kingdoms of which she called herself queen--Aragon, Naples, Sicily and Jerusalem. But, she gained considerable power as Duchess of Anjou, particularly after Louis' death and she helped to keep the French throne in French, rather than English, hands in the Hundred Years War.

Yolande often ran her husband's sizable, wealthy and powerful French lands while he dashed off to try to secure all of those kingdoms that he thought were his. She not only raised their five children but also oversaw the education and training of others, including most notably Prince Charles, fifth son of King Charles VI of France and his Bavarian wife, Isabeau. Yolande arranged a marriage for young Charles with her daughter Marie, thereby uniting her interests with his. After all of his older brothers had died, Charles became the Dauphin, heir to the French throne.

The Yolande d'Aragon rose
is named for her.
By Ritadesbois via Wikimedia Commons
But, there were problems. First, the English King Henry V had demolished the French at Agincourt and mad King Charles VI had agreed that Henry could have the French throne when he died. Second, Queen Isabeau claimed that she'd had an affair and the new Dauphin wasn't legitimate (nice mother, right?) Third, the Dauphin was a bit wishy-washy himself. One thing, he had going for him was an ambitious mother-in-law in Yolanda. She bolstered his confidence, funded his armies, and orchestrated many of the political moves that kept him in the fight against the English when his father died. Many historians also believe that it was Yolande who brought Joan of Arc into the picture to lend a holy zeal to the Dauphin's quest for the throne and ultimately united the French, sending them on the path to victory. She was undoubtedly one of the people who confirmed Joan's virginity, so that people would take the Maid of Orleans seriously as a prophet.

Renowned for both her beauty and her intelligence, she received perhaps the greatest compliment from her grandson, King Louis XI of France, who said she had "a man's heart in a woman's body."

Yolande has received a groundswell of attention in recent years, 600 years after she lived, as the subject of two French biographies, an English biography by Nancy Goldstone, and a historic novel by HRH Princess Michael of Kent. She was even portrayed by the fabulous Faye Dunaway in the dismal Joan of Arc film, The Messenger.

For more about her:
The Other Joan of Arc on History Today
Yolande d'Aragon, duchess d'Anjou on Xenophon Group
Yolande of Aragon: CEO of France on Unofficial Royalty
Who Was This 'Queen of Four Kingdoms'? post by HRH Princess Michael of Kent on HuffPo

Books about Yolande of Aragon:

No comments:

Post a Comment