Tag: Middle ages

Isabella ‘the She-wolf’ of France

Isabella was renowned for her beauty, but a woman due to circumstances, was to become hard and cruel and a word of warning to any men reading, the mind of a betrayed woman shown here will make your eyes water as you will find out.

Isabella 2 Isabella 4

Isabella of France was born we believe in the year 1292 and was daughter of Philip IV. She was betrothed to Edward II in the year 1303 when she was 11 years and married to him in 1308 after Edward had taken the throne.

She was praised for her great beauty, however this was something Edward, so historical theorists have concluded, did not appreciate in quite the same way and preferred the male company of his close friend Piers Gaveston who received favoritism over Isabella. Following Gaveston’s death in 1312 the marriage improved for a period of time.

However Edward was known as a despotic and weak King and as with Gaveston where he had been highly influenced Edwards new allies the Despensers had the same influence.

When war broke out with France in 1324 the Despensers persuaded the king that she was a risk to the country’s security so they took control of her estates and reduced her allowances. Isabella visited France in 1325 and it was here Roger Mortimer and her became lovers. Isabella, (I believe anyway) purposely tricked Edward and the Despenser into sending Prince Edward (the future King Edward III) over to France in order sign agreements on behalf of the King. With Prince Edward safe in his mother’s custody Isabella and Roger Mortimer plotted to remove the Despensers and Edward himself if necessary.

In September 1326 she landed in England and within four months Edward II and been deposed and imprisoned and Prince Edward crowned as Edward III of England in January 1327.

Isabella was now a woman who wanted revenge for the years she suffered in marriage to Edward and to a man that came between them after Gaveston’s death. Her delight and enjoyment in watching Hugh Despenser gruesome execution.

Eight days after his capture on the 24th November 1326 he was executed in Hereford. He was dragged through the streets with each limb tied to a different horse where he was pulled and dragged through the streets to the castle. He was then hanged but only until he was nearly dead. All the time Isabella watched on and smiled with great satisfaction. Then lowered and tied to a ladder whilst the executioner climbed up beside him and cut off all his clothing. Hugh hung there stretched out naked. According to one chronicler he was a very well hung man, perhaps this was one of the reasons Edward had grown so fond of him. His great manhood would do him no good now as the executioner grabbed hold of his genitals and, whilst Hugh le Despenser is still living and breathing cuts off his penis and testicles and holds them out for Isabella to enjoy the site of his pain. Still breathing the executioner cuts out his entrails and heart and then decapitates him whilst Isabella looks on laughing and feasting as the crowds cheer. Isabella and Roger Mortimer celebrated into the night. But she was not finished, there was still her husband held captive to deal with. There could be no public execution of a king yet whilst imprisoned who would know what would happen to him.

Hugh Despenser 1

One thing for sure is Edward dies whilst in captivity, or pretty sure if we dismiss that he escaped and wandered the country as hermit. The question is how died, whichever way it was I am going on the theory that Isabella had an influence in what happened.

First theory  (Oblige me if you will with a little poetic licence) : Edward whilst in captivity was treated badly by his gaolers, kept in a cell with the stench of his own excrement and buckets from the latrine emptied over his head for fun. Then one night his cell door was opened and three gaolers walked in, they picked him up and threw him face down on the singular table in the cell and pulled off his trousers. It was then that Edward first felt the heat and then saw the red glowing end of the heated poker. Two of the men pulled Edwards legs wide apart as the other pushed the poker up his rectum. It is said that all those in neighboring cells had never heard such screams of pain.


Well that’s one theory but not very likely. In fact I seemed to recollect that this story never materialized until many centuries later. What I think is the most likely is he was left to starve, leaving no incrimination on the Queen or Roger Mortimer.



Gory Medieval Tortures

Now in the good old days my parents would tell me discipline was not a bad thing. It kept a civilised structure to society. So I am for that, but let’s take it back a few years and really get some discipline and a deterrent for any would be criminals in society with easy to implement cost effective gory medieval tortures. Warning you may want to look away at this point:

Here are my top five:

No: 5

The Pear of Anquish

A clever contraption that consisted of four metal leaves that would expand outwards as the key was turned.  It would be inserted into a different orifice of the body to suit the crime. If you were a witch it would be inserted into the vagina, a homosexual into the anus or blasphemous or liar into the mouth. My guess is they did not wash the implement between uses so if you were in for lying let’s hope you don’t follow a homosexual. This was a torture that rarely killed so was general used as a little warm up for the main event.

Torture -The Pear of Anguish

No: 4

The Judas Cradle:

The victims feet were tied to together and hoisted up on ropes would then be lowered on to the top of a pyramid like seat. The tip of the seat was inserted into the person’s anus or vagina. Weights were at times attached to the person to increase the pull downwards and of course the pain.  The victim was usually naked just to add a little more humiliation.

Torture - Judas Cradle


No: 3

The Rack

No top five would be complete without the good old Rack. Hand and legs strapped in and as the torturer turn the handle the limbs would be stretched until a loud crunch and cracking noise was heard indicating the legs or arms had been dislocated. If continued limbs, normally the arm could be torn from the body. Not happy with this the creative engineers of the time added spikes that would puncture into your back as your arms and legs were stretched. (be wary of tall people in those days!)

Torture - Rack

No 2

Rat Torture

This is one of my favourites, and correct me if I am wrong but I believe this image is from the York Dungeons that I remember from a visit there about fifteen years ago and the image remains with me. Here the victim is tied down a then a cage is strapped to the chest, stomach or genitals and rats placed inside. It was then heated up and rats have a natural instinct to get away from the heat and the only way out was through the victim’s body. And rats can chew through anything I have been told.

Torture - Rat


Finally, drum roll please for the No 1 torture.

Saw Torture

I have gone for this as it in ingenious and cost effective. All you need is the ole common garden saw and a length of rope to string your victim up. The victim was hung upside down so blood would rush to the head. This would reduce the bleeding and kept the victim alive and conscious longer to witness themselves being sawn in half.

Torture - Saw


If you haven’t had enough by now

you can always read more here:

A-Z Challenge of The Plantagenets

For this Fridays blog I have decided to reveal my A-Z Challenge subject. The question was should I choose random subjects each day or stick to a specific topic. Obviously random would have been far easier but where is the fun in that, so I have opted to do an A-Z of The Plantagenets.

The Plantagenets my favourite dynasty that ruled England for 400 year in medieval times. A family ruled by greed and power, hate and love. And, if that is not enough there is deceit and some of the bloodiest and cruelest battles in history. I am currently working on my list for each letter and will publish that soon. Subscribe so you don’t miss any and get updates when each publication is issued on this fascinating trip across medieval England.


The A-Z Challenge runs throughout April 2016 and on each day excluding Sunday I will write about a  different subject working through A to Z.