How History’s ‘Knightfall’ Portrays Isabella Becoming the “She-Wolf of France”

As all good history buffs already know, Isabella of France was a woman before her time. Born in the 13th century, she was expected to marry who her father told her to without any hesitation. She would go on to carve out her own destiny in England and be hated for it by many. She helped depose her husband, Edward II, and dared to take a lover during a time when women weren’t supposed to do anything for themselves.

History’s Knightfall explores the final days of the Knights Templar, in which Isabella’s (Sabrina Bartlett) father, Philip IV of France (Ed Stoppard), would take them head on. It also pushes Isabella into the spotlight of history as the world’s most eligible princess.

Season 1 of ‘Knightfall’ shows Isabella being betrayed

Olivia Ross and Sabrina Bartlett
Olivia Ross and Sabrina Bartlett | Tony Barson/FilmMagic

The first major betrayal to the princess comes from her confidant, William De Nogaret (Julian Ovenden). This betrayal hits a little too close to home for Isabella, and shows her slowly unraveling from it all. She allows Prince Lluis of Catalonia (Marcos Franz) into her chambers before they are married, which of course comes to light. It turns out it was in fact De Nogaret who told her secret, and Isabella gets her first taste of ashes in her mouth.

She next learns that his betrayal goes even farther, as he has secret passageways throughout the castle, including around her rooms. He saw her in her room with the prince, and has been watching her for years. Needless to say, Isabella doesn’t take this lying down. She is disgusted that she ever called him a friend, and she handles the situation the best way she knows how.

Season 2 transforms Isabella completely

Isabella is being forced to marry Prince Edward of England in season 2, and her father wants nothing to stand in the way of her destiny. He has no idea how much his actions have affected Isabella, which becomes apparent in season 2. She is played by Genevieve Gaunt in the next season, and tells her father she would rather stay with him a little while longer instead of traveling to England.

“I haven’t seen you pray since Mother’s death,” Princess Isabella says. “Perhaps I should stay in Paris until all of this is over.”

“No, you are to marry Prince Edward. We cannot afford to make England our enemy,” says Philip. He gives his daughter some advice that will always stay with her and help her transform into the She-Wolf of France, her nickname during her rule in England.

“Promise me something,” her father says. “You are to be queen of England. You must always be the wolf, never the sheep, and you must never listen to the fools that surround you. This world only responds to the closed fist, not the open hand. Never forget that.”

“I’ll never forget any of your lessons, Father,” replies his daughter. “I will heed your instruction, and rule as if you were right there beside me.” This is a pivotal moment in the show, and seals her fate as the Queen of England.

The She-Wolf of France

Sabrina Bartlett
Sabrina Bartlett | Mike Marsland/WireImage

Isabella would be known as one of the most notorious women in English history. She helped lead an invasion on England that would result in the deposition of her husband, Edward II in 1327. This marked the first ever abdication of a king in the country. She took a lover and helped put her son on the throne, Edward III.

Isabella’s husband was known for lavishing many men with affections and was ineffective at ruling. This and a combination of other factors led to Edward II’s downfall, imprisonment, and subsequent death. Isabella is known to history as the She-Wolf of France for her actions. A woman with her own thoughts and feelings in what was a man’s world at the time. Knightfall does an excellent job of weaving her thread into the overall story. The first two seasons of Knightfall are out on Netflix.