Iolanda di Valois, also called Iolanda di Francia (or Violante) or more commonly Duchessa Jolanda, was wife of Amedeo IX of Savoia and therefore duchess consort and regent of Savoy; she was the daughter of Charles VII of Valois, king of France and of Maria d'Angiò. Daughter of the French royals and sister of the future king of France Louis XI of Valois, Princess Iolanda was betrothed to Amedeo IX of Savoy (called the Blessed), at the behest of the relative families who met at the French court in Tours, when she was still infant; Iolanda, therefore, grew in the awareness that she would soon become the Duchess of Savoy.
In 1452 the expected marriage was celebrated with the young Amedeo IX, Duke of Savoy, Count of Aosta and prince of Piedmont who soon proved to be frail, undermined by epilepsy and characterized by the ineptitude to govern. Iolanda immediately left Chambéry for a more favorable climate for her husband's health, moving with him to Bourg-en-Bresse. From here, far from the court intrigues of the capital of the duchy, Iolanda lived with an initial detachment of his new role as Duchess of Savoy but soon learned to govern instead of her husband, more and more prostrated by the disease and dedicated to a growing mysticism and charity .
A woman with a strong vitality and energy, Iolanda was able to administer power with rare intelligence and diplomacy, until she was officially appointed Regent by her now infirm husband, in 1469. This appointment sparked the wrath of her brother-in-law Filippo (called the Senza Terra), Giacomo Romont-Vaud and Gianluigi, bishop of Geneva, who claimed their right to participate in the exercise of power. The major historians agree with the affirmation that the policy conducted by the Duchess Iolanda has contributed to strongly increase the influence of the Valois in the affairs of the Duchy of Savoy; the opposite would have been difficult, as she was a French princess. However, this consideration should not turn into blame or, worse, in the attribution of his total responsibility for the disorders and struggles in the Duchy, which instead were the inevitable consequence of the greedy aspirations of the brothers-in-law. Iolanda, in fact, managed to juggle cleverly, keeping his position firm, despite the numerous pregnancies, government duties and bias. Despite the countless adversities, the Duchess did not neglect to devote herself to the arts and the various public works. As a cultured woman as she was, she took advantage of the major intellectuals of the time, including Perinetto del Pino, to whom he commissioned the transcription of the ancient chronicles of the princes of Savoy but Iolanda also took care of the important legislative aspect: publishing the new code of the laws of the state which also included the latest regulations desired by Amadeus VIII. He also expanded the castle of Moncalieri, that of Moncrivello, acquired new land and later devoted himself to many interventions of public utility in the area: he founded hospices for the poor, made the Dora Baltea navigable, built the first hospital in Chambéry, the leper colony of Conflarns and subsidized the construction of some monasteries near Geneva. During the imprisonment of her husband Amadeus IX, Iolanda again appealed to her diplomatic skills and obtained the military support of the France of Louis XI (called the Prudente), managing to maintain the regency and mitigating the ambitious ambitions of the same brothers-in-law, rebel princes; as a guarantee of the rediscovered peace, Iolanda accepted the establishment of a Council of regency of which they could take part. In 1472, at the death of Amedeo IX, the Assembly of the Three States appointed the duchess Iolanda tutor of the very young Filiberto heir giving a follow-up, therefore, to the regency of the duchy. This new episode was received with great opposition by Prince Philip, who attempted a new civil insurrection, but to which he was not followed, because to oppose his own brothers and the people. Increasingly aware of the importance of giving a certain continuation to the dynasty, Iolanda devoted much to the education of the crown prince, ensuring the contribution of the best preceptors of the time including: Francesco Beroaldo, Francesco Filelfo and Nicolò da Tarso.
After a period of relative peace, the Duchess Iolanda had to cope with the ambitions of her cousin Charles I of Burgundy (called the Bold). Traditionally, the dukes of Savoy were allies of Switzerland, known at the time for its considerable military strength, but the growing power of the Duke of Burgundy, presaged a fruitful agreement with him and she, therefore, committed the imprudence of allying with Charles the Bold. He willingly accepted his military support but, in the aftermath of the defeats suffered at Grandson and Morat against the huge army of Swiss pikemen, he had her captured and imprisoned in the Rouvres castle, no longer trusting her. In the meantime the defeat suffered by the Swiss cost the Savoy the loss of the lower Valais and part of the Vaud. At the French court, meanwhile, Louis XI took the liberty of dividing the Duchy of Savoy, left without government, appointing as new regents the brothers-in-law of Iolanda: Gianluigi, who was assigned the Savoy and the bitter enemy Philip, to whom entrusted the Piedmont. However, the territories of the duchy again demonstrated their loyalty to the duchess mother, rising and sending some of their ambassadors to the court of Charles of Burgundy, to demand the release of their sovereign. It is not known how much the fervent participation of the feudal lords influenced the liberation and, in any case, decisive was the contribution of the brother-in-law Gianluigi who, taking advantage of the poor surveillance of the fortress of Rouvres, freed Iolanda, but not before forcing her to solemnly swear to consider herself enemy of the king of France Louis XI, his brother.
The return to Chambéry of Iolanda was not yet sufficient to restore the regency throughout the Duchy of Savoy, since Philip did not want to give back the Piedmont government and therefore the Duchessa was forced, unwillingly, to turn to the help of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Lord of Milan. For Iolanda this proved to be another imprudent choice, even if motivated by a noble feeling of revenge; Fortunately for him the feudal lords and the clergy of the Duchy of Savoy sensed the expansionist aims of Sforza, hidden behind the alliance and had time to organize a harsh revolt against the new invader and against the same Philip, who surrendered, returning the Piedmont to the Duchess battalion. In 1476 hostilities officially ended with the Treaty of Moncalieri which allowed Iolanda to regain the regency of the entire Duchy of Savoy; to further seal the peace obtained contributed the wedding of the eleven years old Filiberto heir with Bianca Maria Sforza, second-born of Galeazzo Maria.
Sheltered by the threats of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, who will be assassinated betrayed shortly after, the Duchy of Savoy enjoyed a brief period of peace that ended on 28 August 1478, when the duchess died in the castle of Moncrivello, at the time known by the French toponym Montcravel. Left an orphan, the thirteen-year-old heir Filiberto was the subject of pressure and dispute over the regency but he too died prematurely, leaving the government of the duchy to his brother Carlo. The body of Iolanda was buried in a chapel of the cathedral of Vercelli, next to her husband Amedeo IX the Blessed.