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The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria

, 368 pages
August 2010



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The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria

The fascinating history of Isabeau of Bavaria is a tale of two queens. During her lifetime, Isabeau, the long-suffering wife of mad King Charles VI of France, was respected and revered. After her death, she was reviled as an incompetent regent, depraved adulteress, and betrayer of the throne. Asserting that there is no historical support for this posthumous reputation, Tracy Adams returns Isabeau to her rightful place in history.

Adulteress and traitor—two charges long leveled against the queen—are the first subjects of Adam’s reinterpretation of medieval French history. Scholars have concluded that the myths of Isabeau’s scandalous past are just that: rumors that evolved after her death in the context of a political power struggle. Unfortunately, this has not prevented the lies from finding their way into respected studies on the period. Adams’s own work serves as a corrective, rehabilitating the reputation of the good queen and exploring the larger topic of memory and the creation of myth.

Adams next challenges the general perception that the queen lacked political acumen. With her husband incapacitated by insanity, Isabeau was forced to rule a country ripped apart by feuding, power-hungry factions. Adams argues that Isabeau handled her role astutely in such a contentious environment, preserving the monarchy from the incursions of the king’s powerful male relatives.

Taking issue with history’s harsh treatment of a woman who ruled under difficult circumstances, Adams convincingly recasts Isabeau as a respected and competent queen.

Tracy Adams is a senior lecturer in French at the University of Auckland and author of Violent Passions: Managing Love in the Medieval French Romance.

"Tracy Adams has done an excellent job of showing how Isabeau of Bavaria’s evil reputation is a myth for which there is no substantial evidence. This work refashions our understanding of Isabeau’s place in the struggle between the Armagnacs and Burgundians and throws light on the circumstances out of which Christine de Pizan’s works emerged."

"This is a fascinating reassessment of medieval French history."

"Adams's technically proficient work warrants a place in a series devoted to rethinking theoretical models and approaches."

"This is a remarkable book that warrants a long and detailed review."

"Adams has produced an extremely interesting book, which will undoubtedly encourage further debate about Isabeau of Bavaria... a stimulating and thought provoking read."

"This book is of use to all historians who want to rethink critically the basic tenets of how we approach our subjects and the various ways in which we analyse, interpret, and criticize their actions and make or unmake their historical reputations."

"The rich palette of information contained in The Life and Afterlife renders it an extremely significant contribution to the process of transforming a blackened legend into an appropriately illuminated image."

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