Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Royalest Royal Scandal of Them All

Us common sorts love to read about the misdeeds of celebrties, the badder and the more bizarre, the better.  Centuries ago, the royals provided this diversion to a greater degree than now.

Well, other than Princes of Wales desiring to be Tampons, apparently.

However, when it comes to scandals, the French royals knew how to do it.  Consider: three sisters, married to future queens of France, had trysts in an old tower with two lovers.  Cap it off with spies and a gruesome pair of executions and possibly a royal murder.  This story really delivers when it comes to juiciness.

This Big Kahuna of all royal scandals occurred in 1314 at the end of the reign of French king Philip IV, known as "le Bel" (the Fair) because he was extraordinarily good-looking.  Let's call him Phil the Hunk for short.  He played hardball in dealing with the Church, with the nobles, and with the religious orders of kinghts like the Knights Templars.  Helping him in this regard was an extraordinary minister named Enguerrand de Marigny.  However, he had to borrow money from the Lombards to finance his schemes before taking over the extensive properties of the Templars.

Philip IV had three sons, Louis, Philip, and Charles; each in turn became king.  None of them was as handsome or as smart as him.  As customary back then, all three were married with an eye for political gain.  Louis was married to Margaret of Burgundy, Philip married Joan, Countess of Burgundy, and Charles married Blanche of Burgundy.

Louis and Margaret apparently particularly did not get along.  He was known in his time as le Hutin, which apparently meant the Headstrong or the Quarrelsome or the Not Good in Bed, depending on your French source.  Eh, bien!  Charles apparently was boring as watching paint dry: he was described as "conservative" and "straight laced."  It sounds like he lost Blanche's interest quickly; I imagine her as like Lydia in Pride and Prejudice: flirtatious, easy, and as dumb as a box of rocks.  Joan apparently was happily married to Phil, Jr. but had a little kinkiness on the side.

Margaret and Blanche took up with two gallant knights, Gautier and Philip de Aunay.  They apparently had naughty trysts in the Tour de Nesle with the two knights, and their sister Joan looked on.  A little voyeurism for entertainment; they could not keep up with the Kardashians back then. 

They could not resist giving their lovers some jeweled purses that had been given the girls by Isabella, who happened to be the sister of Louis, Philip, and Charles.  Let this be a cautionary tale on the dangers of regifting gifts from sisters-in-law.  Anyway, Isabella told her Dad, King Philip IV, and Dad was not at all pleased.

He had the knights followed; and sure enough, the spies found them messing around with the princesses.  Totally bad karma.  From all indications, the adulterous affairs had been going on, and King Phil the Hunk aired the dirty laundry of the whole affair to all of Paris and convicted the whole sorry lot of lésé majesté.  The knights were publicly  tortured, castrated, and executed by being drawn and quartered.  They had to make do for entertainment in those days before professional football.  You can bet that this would have played for a long time in the tabloids, had they existed then!

The girls had their heads shaved, and were imprisoned in dungeons.  However, Phil, Jr. interceded and got Joan released.  Margaret was less lucky.  Louis was still married to her, and she was a convicted adulteress.  Since he succeeded after the death of Daddy Phil, he needed some heirs, stat!  So . . . . Margaret somehow got strangled or suffocated or just conveniently died, so Louis could then remarry.  Blanche was left to stay in prison.

Louis, Philip, and Charles became King of France in turn: Louis X, Philip V, and Charles VIII.  Louis had a son born postumously, Jean I, but he lived for only five days.  Somehow, they managed to go through all of that kinging and persumably trying for a male heir, but with the death of Charles, the line ended there.

What was the motive behing Isabella's blowing the whistle?  Sisterly love, but that's a stretch.  After all, the Burgundians were married to her brothers.  I would not be cool about a sister-in-law of mine messing around and being unfaithful.  Also, Isabella was married to a future King of England, and he was notoriously gay!  And, finally, she had a son also, named Edward.  If all the cards fell right, her kid could someday be King of both England and France!  Isabella may have been taking the long view for Junior's sake.

Years later, Isabella herself took up with a lover, Roger de Mortimer.  They deposed her hubby King Edward II in 1326.  Edward II mysteriously and supposedly grusomely died due to the misplacing of a red-hot poker where the sun doth not shine.  She was one scary woman!

The Tour of Nesle, where the affairs took place.


Big Sky Heidi said...

A fascinating cock-up, as the Brits say.

Bilbo said...

My personal favorite king has always been "Ethelred the Unready." Given the odds of kingship ending badly via misplaced red-hot pokers, poisons, or other unfortunate and painful events, I'm not sure that "king" is a job for which I'd apply, even for the opportunity to live in a castle and and exercise droit du seigneur rights.

Atomic Dog said...

I love your breezy recounting of history.

Nothing Sacred, as Usual said...

They played hardball with adulterers in thoe days. Hell, the knights just wanted a little royal lovin'.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

It was a sordid tale. Fortunately, Daddy Philip let it all hang out.

Too much, as the Aunays would have put it.

Mike said...

I think I know of a halloween costume for the Princes of Wales.

Grand Crapaud said...

This was a juicy story. Somehow I imagine Margaret being as hot as Jennifer Lopez, Blanche like Paris Hilton, and Joan looking like Mayim Bialik.

Svejk said...

Okay, why did Prince Charles want to be that?

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Heidi -- You put it aptly.

bilbo -- They played for high stakes back then; I wouldn't want to play that kind of game, either; but being a peasant also sucked.

Atomic Dog -- Thank you.

Mike -- Some teen is likely to wear such a costume this Halloween.

Crapaud -- Excellent casting!

Svejk -- That's being where no royal had ever gone before.

Elvis -- Theirs featured prominently in this story.

Sacred -- They didn't get to write memoirs afterward.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Oops! I meant to capitalize Bilbo. I'm sorry.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

I've read a book or two about Isabella and Roger..they were quite a pair.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

They were. But she was unlike the Sophie Marceau character in "Braveheart."