A Woman to Know: Yolande d’Aragon

[She had] a man's heart in a woman's body — King Louis IX of France

[She had] a man's heart in a woman's body — King Louis IX of France

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

In the midst of the Hundred Years War, Yolande exercised her power in one of the few queen-sanctioned ways: by playing matchmaker to her children and the heirs of other kingdoms. In 1422, her daughter Marie married Charles VII, the dauphin of France — Yolande’s most strategic move yet. When her own husband died later that same year, she moved to the castle and took up residency with her daughter and son-in-law, acting as a consultant and protectress of the other women in court (many of whom, it’s rumored, she employed as spies).

Most legendarily, Yolande pushed the royals to support young Joan of Arc. She asked for them to finance the young woman’s military campaign, even removing the royal advisers who dared try to convince her son-in-law otherwise.

At the end of the Hundred Years War, then in her 50s, Yolande finally retired from court. She moved to Saumur, a medieval French commune, and began a second life patronizing local artists, even commissioning illuminated manuscripts. When her renegade granddaughter Margaret of Anjou came to live with her in 1439, Yolande continued doing what she did best — setting up a marriage for political gains. Just after Margaret was betrothed to the Holy Roman Emperor in 1443, Yolande died in Saumur. She was buried as a “queen of four kingdoms” — of Aragon, her birthplace; of Sicily and Naples, of which she was queen regent for her sons; and of Jerusalem, as she asked to be known.

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