Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: October 2015
Publisher: SilverWood Books
Set in the thirteenth century, the kingdoms of England and France are struggling over territory as the powerful Angevins threaten the French king. In regions far from Paris local fiefdoms disregard all authority.
The Tangled Queen is the story of the little known and very young Isabella of Angoulême who was abducted by King John in 1200. She became his second wife and queen consort, aged 12. He was the most reviled king in English history and his lust for her led to the loss of Normandy and the destruction of the Plantagenet Empire, which then brought about the Magna Carta.
Isabella came of age in England, but was denied her place in court. Her story is full of thwarted ambition, passion, pride and cruelty. She longed for power of her own and returned to France after the death of John to live a life of treachery and intrigue…
Excerpt from Isabella of Angoulême: The Tangled Queen Part 1.
Isabella smiled and yawned – it was time these chattering girls left. She dismissed them, haughty and impatient. Away they sped, some calling back to Isabella, jokes and remarks full of innuendo for her future. She frowned; this was not the way to treat a future queen.
‘Agnes, help prepare me for bed.’
Agnes closed the chamber door, unlacing the back of Isabella’s dress, folding the glorious red and gold silk into the large chest. Tomorrow Isabella would wear the blue gown, the splendid blue and silver fabric showing wealth and also loyalty. If red and gold had shown the power and wealth of the Taillefers, then the blue would mark their obedience and fealty.
Early the next morning Agnes was busy preparing a scented bath. Precious rose oil, drop by drop, turned the hot water cloudy. And then she was busy mixing the rosemary wash for Isabella’s hair. She would wear her hair loose today, and her small gold guirland.
Isabella woke up and saw Agnes looking at her, long and thoughtful, ready to make her stir, but she was already throwing back the covers and standing and stretching. Agnes nodded and together they moved to the bath, and Isabella slipped into the milky, perfumed water and rubbed the rosemary wash into her hair. She felt the water running down her back and shivered. Then she was being briskly dried by Agnes, who was determined to treat Isabella to the most thorough of preparations.
Her mother Alice entered the room and the three of them unfolded the wedding gown and dressed Isabella. Her chemise was soft and light, the dress heavy and cumbersome. Arranged within it, held within it as if caged, her face pale but proud, she moved to the window and looked down onto a courtyard full of people, horses, carts and wagons. A procession was moving through the crowd, with a stately canon and an even more stately bishop in the centre. The clergy were intent on their walk to the cathedral. Isabella clutched Agnes in a sudden fear. Then she rested her head on the window and took a deep breath. It was her wedding day.
I found it very difficult to like Isabella. Although she was only twelve years old she was not only an heiress, she was quite a self-absorbed young girl. Betrothed to the much older Hugh Lusigan, she fostered with him, learning the skills to run his home when they eventually married. Hugh was an honourable man who had postponed his wedding to Isabella, not willing to enter into marriage with a child.
A visit to the Lusigan’s from King John was to change Isabella’s destiny. With a bad reputation around women and young girls, John saw this beautiful rich young girl and wanted her. The thought of becoming Queen of England soon turned Isabella’s head. While John sent Hugh off on an errand likely to take several weeks, her parents, keen for such a prominent match took her home and allowed John to marry her.
Even at twelve, Isabella was very materialistic, dreaming of power and riches. Returning to England to have their wedding blessed and live with him at court, she soon found all John really wanted was her young body and her riches. He was not at all interested in her as his queen or in giving her any power.
The book tells of her life with John, one of disappointment and frustration. She has four children with him but spends most of her time almost exiled with them, cheated of the life at court she originally had planned. He does buy her expensive jewels but thinks nothing of taking the back to sell when he’s short of money.
John is a devious licentious man, extremely cruel and greedy, only interested in accumulating wealth and land and murdering those who get in his way. It is easy to understand why the barons rebelled and forced the Magna Carta on him. His greed, however, was such a singular focus in his life that it left him open to grave errors one of which cost him his lands in France.
This is an interesting historical account of Isabella’s life with John. Even after his death, she is kept from having any influence over her son Henry and the court he will establish. Part one ends as she plans to return to her homeland in France and left me wondering what was in store for this very unhappy and frustrated woman.
ABOUT ERICA LANE
I was was born in 1943 in Southampton and originally studied for the theatre. I moved with my family to Hong Kong in 1977 and worked and lived there for 20 years, writing English language textbooks for Chinese primary schools and managing large educational projects for the British Council.
Since living in S W France I have been very involved with a local history society and have researched many topics, the history of gardens and fashion being favourites.
Isabella of Angoulême began in 2011 at a writing workshop run by Philippa Pride, the Book Doctor. The story of this young queen was fascinating and although she appears as a character in some other historical novels I wanted to concentrate on her entire life and her importance to the English and the French and the role she played in the politics of power. Part Two is being written now and my head is more or less permanently in the thirteenth century.
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