Yolande of Aragon, (11 August 1384, Zaragoza, Aragon – 14 November 1442), was a daughter of John I of Aragon and his wife Yolande of Bar (daughter of Robert I, Duke of Bar and Marie Valois). She was also known as Jolantha de Aragon and Violant d'Aragó. Tradition holds that she commissioned the famous Rohan Hours.
Claim to the throne
Yolande played an important role in the politics of the Angevin Empire, France, and Aragon, during the first half of the 15th century. As the surviving daughter of King John I of Aragon, she claimed the throne of Aragon after the deaths of her elder sister Joan, Countess of Foix and her uncle, King Martin I of Aragon. However, unclear though they were, the laws of succession for Aragon and Barcelona at that time were understood to favour all male relatives over the females (this is how Yolande's uncle, Martin of Aragon came to inherit the throne of Aragon). Martin died without surviving issue in 1410, and after two years without a king, the Estates of Aragon elected Ferdinand de Antequera as the next King of Aragon. Ferdinand was the second son of Eleanor of Aragon and John I of Castile.
The Anjou candidate was Yolande's eldest son Louis III of Anjou, Duke of Calabria, whose claim was forfeited in the Pact of Caspe. Yolande and her sons regarded themselves as heirs with the stronger claim, and began to use the title of Kings of Aragon. As a result of this additional inheritance, (Aragon added to other Anjou King titles), Yolande was called the "Queen of Four Kingdoms" - the four being apparently Sicily, Jerusalem, Cyprus and Aragon; another interpretation has been Naples separate from Sicily, and then probably excluding Cyprus. However, the truth was that Yolande and her family held territory in the said kingdoms only at short intervals. Their true realm were the Anjou fiefdoms around France: they held uncontestably the provinces of Provence and Anjou, also at times Bar, Maine, Touraine and Valois. Her son, René, through his marriage, became ruler of Lorraine.
France and the House of Anjou
In the emerging second phase of the Hundred Years' War, Yolande chose to support the French ( in particular the Armagnac party) against the English and the Burgundians; she supported the claim of Dauphin Charles who, relying upon Yolande's resources and help, succeeded in becoming crowned Charles VII of France. As Charles' own mother, Isabeau of Bavaria, worked against Charles' claims, it has been said that Yolande was the person who kept the adolescent Charles alive and protected him when all sorts of plots were attempted against his life, and acted as a substitute mother to young Charles. She removed Charles from his parents' Court and kept him in her own castles, usually in the Loire Valley, where Charles received Joan of Arc. Yolande married young Charles to her daughter, Mary of Anjou, thus becoming Charles' mother-in-law. This led to Yolande's personal, and crucial, involvement in the struggle for the survival of the House of Valois in France.
Yolande's marriage to Louis II of Anjou, at Arles in December 1400, was part of an effort, made also in earlier such marriages, to resolve the contested claims upon the kingdom of Sicily and Naples between the houses of Anjou and Aragon. Louis spent much of his life fighting in Italy for his claim to the Kingdom of Naples. In France, Yolande was the Duchess of Anjou and the Countess of Provence. She preferred to hold court in Angers and Saumur. She had six children, and through her second son Réne was the grandmother of Margaret of Anjou, Queen Consort of King Henry VI of England.
With the victory of the English over the French at Agincourt in 1415, the Duchy of Anjou was threatened. The French king, Charles VI, was mentally ill and his realm was in a state of civil war between the Burgundians and the Orleanists (Armagnacs). The situation was made worse by the alliance between the Duke of Burgundy, John the Fearless, the English, and by the French queen, Isabeau of Bavaria, who submitted to the Duke of Burgundy's scheme to deny the crown of France to the children of Charles VI. Fearing the abusive power building behind the Duke of Burgundy, Louis II had Yolande move with her children and future son-in-law, Charles, to Provence in southern France.
In 1416, the Dauphin Louis, Charles de Ponthieu's oldest brother, died. In 1417, his second-oldest brother (and subsequent Dauphin), Jean,also died. Both brothers had been in the care of the Duke of Burgundy. Yolande was the protectress of her son-in-law, Charles, who became the new Dauphin. She refused Queen Isabeau's orders to return Charles to the French Court, reportedly replying, "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."
On 29 April 1417, Louis II d'Anjou died of illness, leaving Yolande, at age 33, in control of the House of Anjou. She acted as Regent for her son because of his youth. She also had the fate of the French royal house of Valois in her care. Her young son-in-law, the Dauphin Charles, was exceptionally vulnerable to designs of the English King, Henry V, and to his older cousin, John the Fearless. Charles' nearest older relatives, the Dukes of Orléans and of Bourbon, had been made prisoners at Agincourt and were held captive by the English. With his mother, Queen Isabeau, and the Duke of Burgundy allied with the English, the dauphin Charles had no power to support him other than that of the House of Anjou and the smaller House of Armagnac (which had taken up the Orleanists' cause).
Following the assassination of John the Fearless at Montereau in 1419, Jean's son, Philippe le Bon, succeeded as the Duke of Burgundy, and with Henry V of England forced the Treaty of Troyes (21 May 1420) on the mentally-ill King Charles VI. The treaty designated Henry as "Regent of France" and Heir to the French throne. Following this, in 1421, the Dauphin Charles was declared as disinherited. When both Henry V of England and Charles VI died (31 August and 21 October, respectively) in 1422, legitimately the Dauphin Charles, at age 19, became Charles VII of France. Charles' title was challenged by the English (and their Burgundian allies), who supported the infant son of Henry V and Dauphin Charles' sister Catherine, Henry VI of England. This was the stage for the last phase of the Hundred Years' War, or the "War of Charles VII".
In this struggle, Yolande played a prominent role in surrounding the young Valois King with advisors and servants associated with the House of Anjou. She maneuvered the duke of Brittany to break an alliance with the English, and was responsible for a soldier from the Breton ducal family, Arthur de Richemont, becoming Constable of France in 1425. Yolande's early and strong support of Joan of Arc, when others had doubts, suggests the Duchess' possible larger role in the orchestrating Joan's appearance on the scene. Yolande unquestionably practiced realistic politics. Using the Constable de Richemont, Yolande was behind the forceful removal of several of Charles VII's less desirable advisors. The worst, La Trémoille, was attacked and forced from the court in 1433. Yolande was not averse to recruiting beautiful women and coaching them to become the mistresses of influential men, and whom would spy on her behalf. She had a network of such women in the courts of Lorraine, Burgundy, Brittany, and her son-in-law.
The contemporary chronicler and Bishop of Beauvais, Jean Juvenal des Ursins (1433-44), described Yolande as "the prettiest woman in the kingdom." Bourdigné, chronicler of the house of Anjou, says of her: "She who was said to be the wisest and most beautiful princess in Christendom." Later, King Louis XI of France recalled that his grandmother had "a man's heart in a woman's body." A twentieth-century French author, Jehanne d'Orliac, wrote one of the few works specifically on Yolande, and noted that the duchess remains unappreciated for her genius and influence in the reign of Charles VII. "She is mentioned in passing because she is the pivot of all important events for forty-two years in France", while "Joan [of Arc] was in the public eye only eleven months."
Yolande retired to Angers, and then to Saumur, where she died at the Château de Tuce-de-Saumur on 14 December 1443.
Family and children
She was betrothed in 1390 to the heir of Anjou, Louis (who had one year earlier succeeded in conquering Naples and become King Ludovico II of Naples), and married him on 2 December 1400 at Montpellier. Their children were:
- Louis III of Anjou (1403-1434), duke of Anjou, Titular King of Naples. He was adopted by Queen Joanna II of Naples. Married Margaret of Savoy. Died childless;
- Marie of Anjou (14 October 1404-1442 or 1463). Married in 1422 King Charles VII of France. Had issue including King Louis XI of France;
- Unnamed daughter (1406-). Married the Count of Geneva;
- René I of Naples (1408 or 19 January 1409 -1480) - Duke of Anjou, Duke of Bar, Duke Consort of Lorraine, Titular King of Sicily and Naples. Married Duchess Isabella of Lorraine. They were the parents of Margaret of Anjou, Queen-Consort of England.
- Yolande of Anjou (1412-1440). Married in 1431 Francis I, Duke of Brittany. She died childless. Duke Francis married secondly Isabella of Scotland by whom he had two daughters.
- Charles of Le Maine (1414-1472), Count of Maine (who never was duke of Anjou, but his namesake son was). Married firstly Cobella Ruffo and secondly Isabelle de St.Pol, Countess of Guise. Had issue by both marriages.
- 1384 Yolande born at Zaragoza, Aragon, on 11 August.
- 1400 Yolande married Louis II of Anjou, at Arles, France on 2 December.
- 1410 Death of King Martin of Aragon.
- 1412 Yolande's son, Louis, was not recognized as King of Aragon; instead their kinsman, Ferdinand I, was crowned king.
- 1413 Louis II d'Anjou aligned with the Orleanist [later known as 'Armagnac'] faction in opposition to Burgundian faction.
- 1413 Yolande took Charles, her prospective son-in-law, to her Court in Angers.
- 1417 Yolande was widowed 29 April.
- 1419 On 29 June, Yolande gained an audience with Charles VI and prevailed upon him to sign the decree making his son 'Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom' and gave the reason that Charles was the 'son of the king', and the monarch's acknowledgment of him as his son and rightful heir. The act removed Isabeau from any claim to be Regent. Yolande retired to Provence.
- 1423 Yolande returned from Provence. She initiated the first of a few short-lived treaties with Brittany.
- 1424-1427 Yolande presided over the Estates-General. Yolande again obtained a treaty with the Duke of Brittany and enlisted the Duke's brother, Arthur de Richemont to support the Valois cause.
- 1427 The English Regent in France, John, Duke of Bedford, moved to take the Duchy of Anjou for himself. Yolande responded with a series of Valois Court appointments and marriage agreements among various noble houses that frustrated English and Burgundian initiatives, and sustained the threatened Valois crown until more dramatic reversal could be established. Discord between la Trémoille, a key advisor to Charles VII, and the Constable Richemont led to Richemont beng banished from the Valois Court.
- 1429 Yolande was placed in charge of one of the examinations of Joan of Arc, whom the Duchess strongly supported. Yolande arranged for financing 'Jeanne d'Arc's army' that went to relieve Orléans.
- 1431 Yolande resided at Saumur, where Charles VII met with his Assembly. Yolande's youngest daughter, Yolande, married the Hereditary Prince of Brittany. Yolande's son René inherited the Duchy of Lorraine, but was made prisoner at the Battle of Bulgnéville on June 30, 1431.
- 1433 Richemont [who had returned to the court in 1432] overthrew La Trémoïlle. Yolande's youngest son, Charles, Comte de Le Maine, assumed the position as chief advisor to Charles VII.
- 1434 Yolande's son, Louis III d'Anjou, died, and René became Duc d'Anjou, as well as Heir to the titular claim to Sicily. [Queen Joanna II of Naples and Sicily had made Louis III her co-regent and heir and, after Louis' death, she named René as his brother's heir.]
- 1437 René was released from a Burgundian prison for a substantial ransom. He went to Italy in 1438 and engaged in a war against Alfonso V of Aragon for the disputed title to the Kingdom of Naples. René was forced to abandon Naples in the summer of 1442. Soon afterward, Yolande died.
Queen Yolande appears as a character in the 1986 TV series Catherine , in which she is played by Geneviève Casile, the grande dame of the French theatre.
Yolande appears as a character in the 1999 film The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, in which she is played by actress Faye Dunaway.
- Jehanne d'Orliac, Yolande d'Anjou, la reine des quatre royaumes (Paris, Plon, 1933)
- Philippe Erlanger, Charles VII et son mystère (Paris, Gallimard 1945, Perrin 1973, 1981)
- Philippe Erlanger, 9 femmes qui ont fait la France, Historia (Septembre 1971, pp.40-53)
- ↑ Miramarek.genealogy.Eu
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