Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Burning Candle: Isabel de Vermandois

Isabel de Vermandois, the heroine of The Burning Candle, lived a controversial life. A descendant of French Kings, she became the wife of Robert de Beaumont, Comte de Meulan, who loyally served Henry I, King of England. Robert's contemporary, William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey would also play a role in Isabel's final fate. Through her numerous children, Isabel is a common ancestress of English and Scottish royalty and nobility to the present day.

Facts about Isabel's life
Born: circa 1081 - 1085
Father: Hugh Magnus, Comte de Vermandois 
Mother: Adelaide / Adele, Comtesse de Vermandois 
Siblings:  Ralph, Henry, Simon and William (brothers) Matilda, Beatrice, Constance and Agnes (sisters) 
Titles: Comtesse de Meulan

Isabel's ancestry and her descendants linked her with the most prestigious bloodlines throughout Europe. Her father Hugh was a younger son of King Henry I of France and his Queen, Anne of Kiev. Hugh married Adelaide / Adele, daughter of Herbert IV, Comte de Vermandois and Adele, Countess of Valois. Isabel's heritage included the Capetian dynasty (from Hugh Capet, first King of the Frankish domain), Carolignian dynasty (from Charles Martel, royal grandfather of Charlemagne) and Russian royalty (through Anne of Kiev, daughter of Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Prince of Rus). Isabel was the second or third daughter of her parents. Some historians refer to her as Isabel de Crepi and she may have been born at Crepy-en-Valois, which was founded in the tenth century by the counts of Valois, just northeast of Paris. The dates for Isabel's birth vary; as early as 1081 or as late as 1085, making her between 11 and 15 when she married Robert de Beaumont in 1096. As early as 1094, Isabel's mother arrived at the Norman abbey of Bec, perhaps as an emissary for the negotiation of her daughter's union. Robert was several decades older than his prospective bride.

The marriage of Isabel and Robert faced an impediment before the union could take place. Bishop Ivo of Chartres raised an objection on the basis that the couple shared kinship within prohibited degrees; the exact connection is uncertain. It might pertain to a common ancestor among the Counts of Valois. As a condition of the Pope's dispensation regarding Isabel's marriage, her father Hugh participated in the first Crusade. He reached the Holy Land, aided in the capture of Antioch and should have gone to Constantinople with a request for reinforcements. Instead, he returned to France. Facing Pope Paschal II's threat of  excommunication, Hugh joined another crusade against the Turks in September 1101 and died of his wounds a month later at Tarsus. His actions did not affect Isabel and Robert; they may have married in 1096 without awaiting the papal dispensation. Their first child, a daughter Emma arrived in 1102, making Isabel either 17 or 22 when she became a mother for the first time.  Other children followed; see the previous article on Robert de Beaumont as well as my Author's Note in the novel for more on the couple's children.

A privileged pedigree did not guarantee Isabel's happy existence as Robert's wife. William de Warenne changed her perceived future. Find out how in The Burning Candle.

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