The Tour de Nesle affair was a scandal that rocked the French royal family in 1314. King Philip IV’s daughters-in-law were accused of adultery, brought to light by Philip IV’s daughter, Isabella.
The adultery was said to have occurred in Tour de Nesle, a guard tower in Paris, bought by Philip IV in 1308.
Not only do I believe this is what led to the final years of the Capetian dynasty, but the rise of the hundred years’ war.
To get a sense of the scene, we must first look at the players involved.
In 1313, Isabella and her husband, Edward II of England, visited her family in France. After the puppet show her brothers, Louis and Charles, arranged for them, she had given specially made embroidered purses to her sisters-in-law. I’ve heard she had also given them to her brothers as well, but I’m not too sure if this is true or not.
Whether Isabella had her suspicions, or they were just genuine gifts, is up for debate.
It wasn’t until later in the year, some suggest at a dinner party held for Isabella and Edward II’s return to England, that Isabella noticed two Norman Knights, brothers Gautier and Philippe d’Aunay, wearing the exact same purses she had given to her sisters-in-law.
You might be thinking, they might’ve bought the same purses as she did? Don’t worry, I was thinking the same, but like I said earlier, Isabella had these specially made. This is where we are thinking, did she set this all up knowing the outcome? Or was she truly shocked?
Whatever the circumstances, this led to Isabella to conclude that her sisters-in-law were unfaithful, but didn’t bring it up until her next visit to France in 1314, when she informed her father.
To see if his daughter was telling the truth, Philip IV had spies keep an eye on Margaret, Blanche, Joan, and the two Norman Knights. It didn’t take long before the scandal was revealed true. Margaret and Blanche were accused of adultery and misconduct with Gautier and Philippe d’Aunay in the Tour de Nesle over a period of time. Joan was rumoured to have been present, some say involved, but because of the love and support from her husband, Philip, she was released from a year of house arrest and returned to court.
After Philip IV broke the news and arrested all involved, the Paris Parliament had Margaret, Blanche and Joan tried, with only Margaret and Blanche found guilty, they had their heads shaved and sentenced to imprisonment for life.
Gautier and Philippe d’Aunay were interrogated and tortured by French officials, both confessing to adultery, which then led to their horrible execution.
There are many theories on how this was performed. They were either first castrated then either drawn and quartered or flogged alive. None pleasant.
I begin to wonder; did these accused really love each other? Or was it all fun?
We are free thinking today, well, we don’t imprison and execute someone for cheating, no matter how the hurt spouse feels. But during a time where women, especially in the positions Margaret and Blanche were in, they were to be faithful, an image of an obedient wife. Knowing the risks, what were they thinking?
What I’m trying to say; even though I applaud female bravery and doing what majority of the male population were doing back then, I still need to question their stupidity. Maybe they knew the risks and didn’t care anyway?
Whatever the reasons, their actions had affected the French royal family and the succession to the throne. But that’s a whole other story I’ll be talking about in a future post…