Sunday, 24 July 2011

Elisabeth de Valois - Isabel de la Paz

Who was Elisabeth de Valois?

From Wikipedia: Elisabeth of Valois (also known as Elizabeth of Valois; French: Élisabeth de France or Élisabeth de Valois, Spanish: Isabel de Valois; 2 April 1545 – 3 October 1568) was the eldest daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici.

From Verdi's opera Don Carlos she is the unhappy wife of King Philip II of Spain, and in love with Don Carlos, Infante of Spain, their heir of the Spanish throne. It is true that it was initially Don Carlos who was to be her husband, but then the King decided to marry her himself. For a political marriage it was a happy one. Philip loved his young wife and doted on her. He who usually was a stern man, hard to please, was as transformed when with Isabella. 

The love story between Don Carlos and Elisabeth de Valois is not true. No faithful daughter of France would act so unworthy. The wild child Don Carlos was someone who would like sometimes to rebel against his father, but towards his stepmother only tenderness. Carlos and Elisabeth was the same age and died in the same year. Elisabeth de Valois who was of a tender nature naturally felt tender and rather motherly feelings towards the unhappy Don Carlos. 

In the opera Elisabeth de Valois is portrayed as someone opposed to the harsh politics in the Netherlands but in reality she was as Catholic as Philip II and wanted to crush the rebels of the faith as much as the king. Don Carlos on the other hand, would be willing to question faith and to be sympathetic to the Protestant movement something that to Philip and Elisabeth was nothing less than treason, treason to Faith and to Monarchy. 

No ordinary prison cell for the Prince of Asturias (Don Carlos) but his bedroom void of all dangerous materials. Guarded by Philips chosen men. Philip II did not kill his son as it became popular to tell in the Protestant countries, but he was perhaps helped to die earlier. That was made easier by the fact that the Prince was prone to excesses. When he ate, it was in excess and when he fasted it was also done in excess. Such things would make the frail condition of a young man come to an early end. To the King the Prince death came with the Prince acting as a true believer of the Catholic Faith. This comforted the conflicted King. 

But then a few months later also his Queen, the beloved Isabel de la Paz of the Spanish people, also died from childbirth together with their newborn son.

To read a Great Historian telling all about Philip II, Elisabeth de Valois, Don Carlos:

History of the Reign of Philip the Second, King of Spain, Vols. 1 and 2 [Kindle Edition]

William Hickling Prescott 
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