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|Isabella of Portugal|
|Isabel of Portugal, by Rogier van der Weyden.|
|Tenure||7 January 1430 – 15 July 1467|
|Spouse||Philip the Good|
|Charles the Bold|
|House||House of Aviz|
|Father||John I of Portugal|
|Mother||Philippa of Lancaster|
|Born||21 February 1397
|Died||17 December 1471
Infanta Isabella of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy (Portuguese pronunciation: [izɐbɛɫ]; 21 February 1397 – 17 December 1471) was Portuguese infanta, daughter of King João I of Portugal and the third wife of Duke Philip the Good.
Born a Portuguese infanta of the House of Aviz, the only surviving daughter of King John I of Portugal and his wife Philippa of Lancaster. Her son by Philip was Charles the Bold, the last Valois Duke of Burgundy. Isabella was the regent of the Burgundian Low Countries during the absence of her spouse in 1432 and in 1441–1443. She served as her husband's representative in negotiations with England regarding trade relations in 1439 and those with the rebellious cities of Holland in 1444.
Early life 
Isabella was born in Évora and spent her youth in the Portuguese court in Lisbon. The only surviving daughter in a family with five sons, she was brought up according to her mother's strict notions of etiquette and formality, but also indulged and protected. She, like her brothers, was given a good education by her parents, who desired their children to be not only healthy but intelligent: the Infanta was thus taught several languages, given a good grounding in mathematics, and allowed to experiment in the sciences. Her father, the romantic but sensible John I, ensured that she was given a good understanding of politics, allowing her to share with her brothers their instructions in affairs of state. Her mother, the demure and pragmatic Philippa, imparted a commitment to duty, firm discipline, and religious faith that would later prove very important to Isabella. Phillippa also instilled in the Portuguese infanta a favourable view of her native England, based as much on pragmatic recognition of the advantages to any nation allied with that kingdom as on sentiment. She was fond of riding and hunting with her brothers, and she became proficient in Latin, French, English and Italian through her studies with the princes.
Two events of importance to Isabella occurred in 1415. The first was an offer of marriage from her cousin Henry V of England, who desired to form closer links between England and Portugal against France. The marriage negotiations led nowhere. Isabella, even though already slightly old to be a first time bride at the age of 18, was apparently not particularly disappointed. She would not receive another offer of marriage for another 13 years. Of greater importance to her emotional well-being was the death of Philippa of Lancaster on 19 June 1415. Isabella, who had been very close to her mother, briefly withdrew from court life in grief, taking refuge in her chambers with her ladies-in-waiting and refining her skills in needlework and singing.
Marriage negotiations 
Upon reaching the age of 30 unmarried, it would have been reasonable to expect that Isabella would never marry, however the Burgundian house of Valois provided her with an attractive offer of marriage in 1428. The reigning Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, had already been married twice by that year. His first wife was his second cousin Michelle of Valois, with whom he was married between 1409 and 1422. Like many in her family, Michelle went mad, in this case after descending into a cycle of melancholy prompted by the murder of her father-in-law John the Fearless in 1419, the very event that elevated her to the rank of Duchess of Burgundy. In 1424, Philip married for a second time to Bonne of Artois, widow of his uncle, Philip II, Count of Nevers, but she died less than a year after the ceremony. Neither marriage left surviving issue. For his third wife, Philip was anxious to seek a candidate from England or a nation allied to England, since he was now firmly allied with England, and wanted to secure that alliance further. Even though Isabella was far beyond the common age of marriage for women of her day, she was attractive to Philip as a potential consort: she was well-bred, shrewd and accomplished; perfectly capable of offering sound political advice and maintaining diplomatic discretion; and of fertile family stock without any history of poor health. Her country was allied to England and cultivated a trading relationship with territories Philip controlled in the Low Countries that he wished to reinforce.
On 19 October 1428, Philip thus sent a delegation from Sluys led by his chief counsellor, the Seigneur de Roubaix, that arrived in Lisbon on 16 December after calling at Sandwich until 2 December and acquiring two more ships. The delegation waited another month while Isabella's father and brothers met at Aviz to discuss the matter. On 19 January 1429, a formal request for the Infanta's hand was made by the Burgundians, and discussions between the two parties began. The Portuguese agreed to the marriage and sent messengers on 2 February to receive the Duke of Burgundy's formal response, which was signed on 5 May and received by the Portuguese on 4 June. After further minor matters, the marriage contract was drawn up, and Isabella, still in Portugal, was married to Philip the Good by proxy on 24 July 1429, with Roubaix acting as groom.
Duchess of Burgundy 
Despite the conclusion of her marriage, the new Duchess did not leave Portugal for another eight weeks. Rather, her father had a fleet and trousseau prepared for his daughter, who enjoyed a continued period of feasts, tournaments, plays, and festivals. On 19 October 1429, with a flotilla of about 20 ships prepared, Isabella—accompanied by almost 2000 Portuguese—left Portugal forever. After a rough journey of eleven weeks, which saw the loss of several ships and much of her bridal trousseau, the convoy reached Sluys on 25 December 1429. The Duchess disembarked the following day (having been forced through illness and apprehension to rest for the remainder of Christmas Day). She and Philip celebrated their formal religious marriage two weeks later, on 7 January 1430, and the marriage was consummated shortly afterwards.
Accompanied by her husband, and by the Countess of Namur, Jeanne de Harcourt, Isabella then travelled through the main territories of Burgundy: from Ghent (16 January) to Kortrijk (13 February) to Lille, and then to Brussels, Arras, Péronne-en-Mélantois, Mechelen and, by mid-March Noyon, where Isabella, now pregnant, chose to rest through the spring, only leaving when Joan of Arc led a campaign against the nearby Compiègne. For several months afterwards, the Duchess was forced to deal with the rebellions and unrest of her husband's subjects and neighbours, as well as with administrative and financial issues, in all of which she proved equal to the task.
Isabella was not at first equal to the style and complexity of court life in Burgundy. Although the Portuguese court had been by no means austere in her time, it could not match the heights of fashion and flamboyance seen in Philip's court, one of the richest and most extravagant in Europe. The Portuguese infanta, described by the Burgundian embassy that had negotiated her marriage as appearing to their eyes as a nun when they had first met, and now dressed in loose clothing and flat over-panels to hide her pregnancy, looked particularly dowdy at her new court. More upsetting to Isabella, however, was her husband's behaviour. He had showered gifts on her when she had first arrived, and still more when she had become pregnant; yet, he made it clear that he had no intention of keeping his vows of fidelity and chastity. In contrast to the style typical of nobles and royalty at that time—to keep a succession of honoured favourites or mistresses at their court or home—Philip had no particular mistress with whom to embarrass his wife. Instead, he kept numerous women as his lovers, several at a time, most living away from the court, who would periodically present him with illegitimate children, of whom he had a great deal. In addition to these, he would flirt with the ladies of the court, on occasion placing one on the pummel of his saddle as he rode in ceremonial progresses. Philip's infidelities would cause Isabella a certain amount of grief during their marriage.
Isabella gave birth to her first child on 30 December 1430 at Coudenberg, a year after her marriage. The child, Antoine, was worryingly sickly: tiny at birth, he had a weak cry and a listless appetite, none of which boded well. However, his christening took place on 16 January 1431, and soon after both parents were once again attending to ducal business. By the autumn of that year, Isabella was once again pregnant with their second son, Joseph; more importantly, she had spent a long continuous period of time with her husband, and demonstrated her intelligence and abilities, as well as her commitment to Burgundian independence. Because of this, when Charles VII of France began attacking Burgundy in January 1432, Philip—leaving Coudenburg to defend Dijon—ordered, "You will serve the Duchess in her state and office representing me during my absence". This command was obeyed, and Isabella found herself treated with all the respect and deference she might expect as a regnant duchess.
Antoine and Joseph both died in 1432, but the duchess then gave birth to the future Charles the Bold on 10 November 1433.
Isabella was a very refined and intelligent woman who liked to be surrounded by artists and poets. She was a generous patron of the arts. In politics, she had a great influence on her son, but even more so on her husband, whom she represented on several diplomatic conferences and for whom she governed when he was absent. Most notably, she negotiated many of the marriages of the members of her court, among them the marriage of her son Charles to Catherine of France. She also took special pains on behalf of Mary of Guelders, who attended upon Catherine. Isabellala helped arrange her marriage to James II of Scotland, which would make her queen.
By 1457, however, she had withdrawn from the court and distanced herself from her husband, partly to side with her son in his estrangement with him, partly out of a desire to live a more devout and quieter life. She died in Dijon in 1471.
|Ancestors of Isabella of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundy|
Further reading 
- Taylor, Aline S. Isabel of Burgundy : the Duchess who Played Politics in the Age of Joan of Arc, 1397-1471 (Madison Books, 2001) ISBN 1-56833-227-0
Bonne of Artois
|Duchess consort of Burgundy
Margaret of York