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October for Isabella

October was a very significant month for Isabella, she was crowned Queen of England on 8 October 1200, aged about twelve. Her first child, a son who became Henry III was born on October 1st 1207, and on 19th October 1216 her husband King John died.

The coronation was in Westminster and Isabella had travelled up through France to Cherbourg to then cross the Channel and ride to London. Having been married in August to John, in Angoulême this journey must have taken about two months, with one known stop in Fontevraud Abbey where John introduced her to his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine. In Part 1 of The Tangled Queen I have written about the coronation in detail but here is a piece, which I wrote, in the first person, imagining Isabella and her experience of that time.

In late September we had crossed the sea from Cherbourg, the ship, a royal galley, long, low and slim. It was speedy with a good following wind, the sailors said that autumn gales would begin soon and that we were lucky to have the best sailing weather. John smiled at this and held my arm, as we stood and watched the waves. It was the first time I had seen such water, not rapid and deep like the Charente, the long river near my home, but wide, swelling and falling, and the ship cutting through the swell, always going forward, its dragon prow surging. We were accompanied by other vessels, full of men and horses and household goods.

Agnes was with me but suffered from the sea malady and spent her time below. I hoped she would revive on land, I would need her help for the coronation which John has planned for the eighth day of October. I am to be anointed and crowned, his Queen and wife. I know am deeply loved and turn to shelter in his arms as the wind drives us on to Portsmouth where we will disembark and ride to London.

London is big and bustling, we approach through the narrow crowded streets and I ride bareheaded, my long hair flowing down my back, my eyes always on John. He has vowed never to leave my side, and stays with me night and day. The crowd exclaims at our passing, another French queen, another Isabella. I toss my head when they murmur about his first wife, I will not think about her or any other women that my husband has taken into his bed. I know there have been many, he has laughed at my face when he told me how many.

‘Such sweet innocence,’ he said as he stroked my hair tracing its length to the end, ‘Such innocence and such beauty.’ And then he claimed what was his and my hair fell over us like a curtain that would hide the world.

We are to stay in the Palace of Westminster, the Royal Palace built on the Eyot of Thorns, the small island where the River Tyburn joins the Thames. A palace built by the river. A river that reminds me of home.

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