Alys, Countess of the Vexin
Alys, Countess of the Vexin (4 October 1160 – c. 1220) was the daughter of King Louis VII of France and his second wife Constance of Castile. She is also known as Alaïs, Adélaïde, Adèle, or Alix, but is not to be confused with her half-sister Alix of France, the daughter of Louis by his first wife Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Alys was a younger half-sister to Marie and Alix and a younger full sister to Marguerite. Alys's mother died in giving birth to her. Desperate for a male heir, Louis married Adèle of Champagne just five weeks after Constance's death. Five years later came the birth of Alys's half-brother Philip, eventually King of France, and six years later still the birth of Alys's youngest half-sister Agnes, Empress consort of the Byzantine Empire.
Relationships with royalty
As a child Alys was betrothed to Prince Richard of England and sent to England. There were unsubstantiated rumours at the time that she had a child by her prospective father-in-law Henry II of England. It was said of Alys that "except for her looks, the tales were none too good", as she was considered promiscuous throughout her life.
When King Henry died on July 6, 1189, her long-time fiancAc, Richard, succeeded to the throne but terminated their engagement in Messina in March 1191, on the grounds that she had borne a child by his father. She was sent back to France in 1195.
Her brother, King Philip II of France, had offered her to Richard's younger brother Prince John in 1192, but Queen Mother Eleanor of Aquitaine put a stop to that. Instead Alys was married on August 20, 1195 to William III Talvas, Count of Ponthieu, and they had three daughters: Jean (born dead), Marie, Countess of Ponthieu, and Isabelle. Alys was still alive on July 28, 1218.
Portrayal in fiction
Alaïs is the narrator of the historical novel Canterbury Papers by Judith Koll Healey (ISBN 0-06-052535-5).
Alys appears briefly as a minor character in Sharon Kay Penman's novel, Time and Chance.
In the 1968 film adaptation of James Goldman's play, The Lion in Winter, Alais is played by actress Jane Merrow. In the 2003 adaptation of the same play, Alais is played by actress Yuliya Vysotskaya. The play depicts Alais as the lover of King Henry II.
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