The most famous Isabella of France is, of course, the She-Wolf of France and Queen of England as the wife of Edward II. She seized power from her husband and crowned her son instead. This Isabella (or Isabelle) of France was completely different however, and she is now known to history as Saint Isabella of France.
She was born around March 1224 as the daughter of Louis VIII of France, who’s nickname was the Lion and Blanche of Castile. She was one of thirteen children, though not all lived to adulthood. She was just two years when her father died, and her brother became King. Her mother continued to oversee her education, and she was supposedly excellent at Latin.
She was very religious from her early life. She was allowed to keep Franciscan friars as her special confessors by papal bull. When a marriage to Hugh XI of Lusignan was suggested, she not only refused him but other suitors as well. She was determined to remain a virgin, though even the pope pressed her to accept a marriage proposal. Her brother began acquiring lands for her, where she wished to found a monastery, of the St. Clare of Assisi. Building began on 10 June 1256 in the Forest of Rouvray and was completed around 1259. It was called the Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin. Her equally religiously devoted brother gave her the money intended for her dowry, to use for the monastery.
Isabella did not become its abbess and instead lived in her own home nearby from 1260, where she did follow the rules and from where she would help the sick and the poor. She died in her house on 23 February 1270, still only 45 years old and she was buried in the monastery. For some reason, they decided to exhume the body, and miraculously the body showed no signs of decay after nine days. Miracles were said to have been wrought at her grave, and she was beautified in 1521, before being canonised in 1696. The monastery was closed after the French Revolution before finally being torn down in 1794. Saint Isabella’s feast day is 26 February.