Alys of France, Countess of Vexin
|Countess of the Vexin|
|Countess consort of Ponthieu|
|Born||4 October 1160|
|Spouse||William IV of Ponthieu|
|Issue||Marie, Countess of Ponthieu|
|Father||Louis VII of France|
|Mother||Constance of Castile|
Alys was the half-sister of Marie and Alix of France, Louis's children by Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the younger sister of Margaret of France. Just five weeks after Constance died giving birth to Alys, Louis married Adèle of Champagne, by whom he had two further children, including the future Philip II of France.
In 1177, Cardinal Peter of Saint Chrysogonus, on behalf of Pope Alexander III, threatened to place England's continental possessions under an interdict if Henry did not proceed with the marriage. There were widespread rumors that Henry had not only made Alys his mistress, but that she had borne him a child. Henry died in 1189. King Richard married Berengaria of Navarre on 12 May 1191, while still officially engaged to Alys.
Philip had offered Alys to Prince John, but Eleanor prevented the match. Alys married William IV Talvas, Count of Ponthieu, on 20 August 1195. They had two daughters: Marie, Countess of Ponthieu, and Isabelle; and a stillborn son named Jean.
Portrayals in fiction
Under another spelling, Alais, she appears as Henry's lover in James Goldman's 1966 play The Lion in Winter. She was played by Jane Merrow in the 1968 film adaptation, by Julia Vysotskaya in the 2003 TV adaptation and by Sonya Cassidy in the 2011 London theatre production. In Christy English's novel The Queen's Pawn (2010), Alais comes to England to marry Prince Richard only to become the mistress of King Henry II.
Alys has a minor role in Sharon Kay Penman's novels, Time and Chance (2002) and Devil's Brood (2008). In Judith Koll Healey's novel The Canterbury Papers (2005), Alys is sent on a mission to England to retrieve some letters from Canterbury Cathedral for Eleanor of Aquitaine. In Healey’s second novel, The Rebel Princess, Princess Alys confronts corrupt court officials and religious fanatics in the pursuit of her disappeared illegitimate son Francis, whose very existence could unsettle the thrones of England and France.
She was played by Katherine DeMille in The Crusades (1935); by Susan Shaw in the 1963 British children's TV series Richard the Lionheart; by Lorna Charles and Lucy Gutteridge in The Devil's Crown (1978); and by Rebecca Viora in Richard the Lionheart: Rebellion (2005).
|Ancestors of Alys of France, Countess of Vexin|
- W.L. Warren, King John, (University of California Press, 1978), 26.
- Some genealogical sources and websites, relying on P. Anselme, Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de France, 1725 (vol. 1 p. 77), state that Alys was born in 1170 and therefore that her mother was Louis VII's third wife, Alix de Blois (whom Louis married in 1164). The birth date of 1170 is impossible, however, not only because Alys was betrothed in January 1169, but because she must have been of marriageable age in 1177, when the Pope demanded that she be married immediately.
- Robert of Torigny, Chronicles of the reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I, ed. Richard Howlett, vol. 4 p. 240; John of Salisbury, Letters (ed. W. J. Millor, H. E. Butler) vol. 2 pp. 648–9.
- Roger of Howden, Annals 1177.
- Gerald of Wales, De instructione principis (p. 91).
- Chronica Monasterii de Melsa I 26 (p. 256).
- W.L. Warren, King John, 43.