Isabel of Conches

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Isabel de Montfort
Armoiries seigneurs Montfort.svg
Montfort sur Risle, Eure, Normandy
Saint-Rémy-l'Honoré, Yvelines, Île-de-France
Noble familyHouse of Montfort
FatherSimon I de Montfort

Isabel of Conches, (fl. 1090)[1] wife of Ralph of Tosny, rode armed like a knight during a conflict in northern France during the late 11th century [2] and was born in Montfort sur Risle, Eure, Normandy, in 1057.

Early life[edit]

She was the daughter of Simon I de Montfort.[3]

Marriage and issue[edit]

Isabel married Raoul II of Tosny, they had:

The legend[edit]

The chronicler Orderic Vitalis in the Ecclesiastical history describes Isabel in some detail.[6]

Orderic describes Isabel "joyful, generous, daring and well loved by all." He describes her in the hall of Conches, listening to knights talk about their dreams. Isabel unfortunately also had a conflictual relationship with her sister-in-law, Helewise of Evreux. The disagreement reached a point that her husband took up arms against William, Count of Évreux.[7] Both families came to open war in 1091–92, when William attacked Conches.

During the ensueing conflict, Isabel is said to have worn armor, joined her knights on the battlefield. The chronicler describes her in the following manner:

“ In war she rode armed as a knight among the knights; and she showed no less courage among the knights in hauberks and sergeants-at-arms than did the maid Camilla, the pride of Italy, among the troops of Turnus. She deserved comparison with Lampeto and Marpesia, Hippolyta and Penthesilea and the other warlike Amazon queens” He gives no further description of her role in the battle. Isabel may have encouraged the knights or she perhaps fought actively, as the comparisons to these warlike heroines seem to suggest.

A settlement was finally reached between the warring families.[8]

Later life and death[edit]

According to the chronicle, Isabel ended up in a nunnery where she “worthily reformed her life”. Isabel died on 24 April 1102, in Saint-Rémy-l'Honoré, Yvelines, Île-de-France, France, at the age of 44, and was buried in Rambouillet, Seine-et-Oise, Île-de-France, France.


  1. ^ Pennington, Reina (2003). Amazons to Fighter Pilots: A Biographical Dictionary of Military Women. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 541. ISBN 0-313-29197-7.
  2. ^ Edgington, Susan, and Sarah Lambert, Gendering the Crusades, Columbia University Press, 2002, p. 53- 54. ISBN 978-0-231-12598-7
  3. ^ Châtelain 1983, p. 86.
  4. ^ a b Mason 1979, p. 125.
  5. ^ Murray 2000, p. 31.
  6. ^ Johns Susan M., Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century anglo-normal realm
  7. ^ Hicks Leonie V., A Short History of the Normans
  8. ^ Barlow 1983, p. 286.