In Newgate Street in the city of London once stood the magnificent church of a Franciscan monastery. Entirely paved with marble, this royal mausoleum, built in the 14th century, was set to rival Westminster Abbey. Among the many crowned heads buried there was Isabella of France, Edward II's queen - one of the most notorious femme fatales in history.
Today, according to popular legend, Isabella's angry ghost can be glimpsed among the church ruins, clutching the beating heart of her murdered husband. It's also said that her maniacal laughter can be heard on stormy nights at Castle Rising in Norfolk. In literature she has fared no better. Christopher Marlowe's 'unnatural Queen, false Isabel' has also been described as 'a woman of evil character, a notorious schemer', and as the 'She-Wolf of France'. Tragic, cruel, tormented:how did Isabella acquire such a reputation?
Isabella was born in 1292, the daughter of Philip IV of France and sister to three future French kings. A pawn in the game of international politics, she was married at the age of twelve to Edward II of England. And so began a public and private life more turbulent and eventful than any heroine - or anti-heroine - of fiction.
Isabella lived through a long period of civil war. She bore Edward four children but was constantly humiliated by his relationships with male favourites. Although she is known to have lived adulterously with Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, accusations of murder and regicide remain unsubstantiated. Had it not been for her unfaithfulness, history may have immortalised her as a liberator - the saviour who unshackled England from a weak and vicious monarch. Dramatic and startling, this first full-length biography of Isabella will change the way we think of her and her world for ever.
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This is history which reads like a novel.Weir writes lucidly, with an eye for the details which bring the period to life. - Daily Mail
This compelling story is told in even tones.Weir carefully balances her subject's good points with her bad... Alison Weir succeeds in bringing to life a murky period of history, which has been shrouded in myth and legend.She makes us sympathetic to Isabella's plight, while acknowledging her faults, and helps us to appreciate how a resourceful and intelligent woman managed to cope and even triumph in difficult circumstances, at a time when political power was, with a few notable exceptions, the preserve of men. - Literary Review
This enthralling biography doesn't just correct the calumny of centuries, it provides a beautifully nuanced portrait of a fascinating lady and gives a vivid sense of the riotous realpolitik of medieval times. - Scotsman
This meticulous no-nonsense biography presents a fascinating story complete with puzzles. - Independent on Sunday
An utterly compelling, gripping and believable portrait of a formidable queen. - Washington Post
Brilliant, scholarly, and will be the most definitive study ever published. Congratulations to Jonathan Cape and Alison for a truly outstanding contribution to the study of medieval history. - Paul Doherty
Alison Weir lives and works in Surrey. Her books include Britain's Royal Families, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Princes in the Tower, Children of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry VIII: King and Court, and Mary, Queen of Scots.