Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Yolande of Aragon, the Queen of Four Kingdoms

Yolande of Aragon, duchess of Anjou, claimant to throne of Aragon (born 11 August  1384)


While very little biographical information exists about the woman who was the subject of my last post, Francisca de Lebrija, a very great deal of evidence survives for Yolande of Aragon.

Yolande of Anjou kneeling before the Virgin Mary,
detail from the Hours of Isabella Stuart
By birth, she was the daughter of Juan I of Aragon and Violant (or Yolande) of Bar, herself a remarkable woman who managed her husband's kingdom for seven years (1388-95) as his "queen-lieutenant."

After the death of Juan of Aragon in 1396, his younger brother claimed the throne--despite the fact that Yolande of Aragon was her father's surviving child and heir. Although Yolande of Aragon would never reign in Aragon, she would nevertheless claim the title for herself.

By marriage, Yolande of Aragon was duchess of Anjou, countess of Maine, countess of Provence and Forcalquier. and countess of Piedmont. Yolande and her allies resisted her marriage to Louis II of Anjou, but despite their efforts, the couple was married in 1400. She gave birth to five children, three sons and two daughters.

By marriage, Yolande also became queen of Naples and Sicily. In 1380, before she was married to him, Louis II of Anjou, had been named as heir to the kingdom of Naples and Sicily by Joanna I of Naples (and Jerusalem, a kingdom Joanna never actually ruled). Although Louis was then unnamed by Joanna, and Charles of Durazzo became king of Naples instead, Louis eventually fixed that problem by capturing Naples from his rival's son and ruling for ten years--before eventually losing support and being ousted from Naples in 1399, just before his marriage to Yolande of Aragon . . .

By dint of her aptitude for politics, Yolande of Aragon played an influential role in France during the Hundred Years War. Yolande of Aragon made the crucial decision to support the French against the allied English and Burgundians. She repudiated the planned marriage between her son, Louis, and the duke of Burgundy's daughter, and in 1413 she met with Isabeau of Bavaria, the French queen, to arrange for the marriage of Charles of Valois, fifth son born to the royal family, to Yolande's daughter, Marie of Anjou.

By her foresight and through an abundance of caution, in 1415 Yolande of Aragon moved her family to Provence after the battle of Agincourt. She took with her not only her children, but Charles of Valois, the young man to whom her daughter had been betrothed.

By chance, Yolande of Aragon would become mother to a queen. Charles of Valois became dauphin in 1417, after the deaths of his two surviving older brothers, Louis in 1415 and Jean in 1417. He was married to Marie of Anjou in 1422.

Through strength and determination, Yolande of Aragon resisted Isabeau of Bavaria's insistence that Charles, now heir to the French throne, return to the French court. Suspicious and protective, Yolande  of Aragon is said to have written to the queen: "We have not nurtured and cherished this one for you to make him die like his brothers or to go mad like his father, or to become English like you. I keep him for my own. Come and take him away, if you dare."

The French queen did not dare. After the death of Louis II of Anjou in 1422, Yolande of Aragon became regent of Anjou, governing it on behalf of her minor son, Louis III. She also protected the dauphin against an array of foes, and she supported his cause, particularly after the incapacitated Charles VI declared the English king, Henry V, as heir to the French throne. Yolande of Aragon's support for the dauphin included her recognition of the possibility for salvation offered by Joan of Arc. When the dauphin finally defeated his enemies and began to rule France, Yolande of Aragon's daughter, Marie, became queen of France.

After the end of the Hundred Years' War, Yolande of Aragon eventually retired from the court (if not  politics and political maneuvering). She moved to Anger, in Maine, and then to Saumer. She patronized artists, and a number of surviving manuscripts are associated with her, including the spectacular Rohan Hours and the book of hours now known as the Hours of Isabella Stuart

Despite the fact that she never ruled as queen, Yolande of Aragon was called the "queen of four kingdoms"--queen of Aragon, where she might have become queen regnant, as "queen" consort in Naples and Sicily, which her husband claimed, and as titular queen of Jerusalem.

Yolande of Aragon,
fifteenth-century stained glass,
Her eldest son, Louis III of Anjou, died childless as a relatively young man. But he was succeeded by Yolande of Aragon's second son, René of Anjou. Like his father, René also got caught up in political scheming in Naples, and he too was promised this kingdom by a Neapolitan queen, this one Joanna II of Naples

René's young daughter, Margaret, would join her grandmother, Yolande, in Saumer. Margaret of Anjou would marry Henry VI of England, and during his periodic bouts of incapacity, would attempt to govern in his stead. 

Yolande's daughter Marie was not only queen of France, but she would act as regent of France as well. Yolande's youngest son, Charles of Maine, would be a strong supporter of his brother-in-law, Charles VII.

Yolande of Aragon died on 14 November 1442 at the Chateau de Tuce-de-Saumur. All she accomplished in her life! She was only fifty-eight years old at the time of her death.

Today she rests in the the cathedral of Angers, along with her son René of Anjou and her granddaughter, Margaret, queen of England. 

Today, the most accessible account of Yolande of Aragon is Nancy Goldstone's The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc. For a more scholarly approach, I recommend Zita Eva Rohr's Yolande of Aragon (1381-1442) Family and Power: The Reverse of the Tapestry.




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