Aicha Zoubair

Jessica Bell

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Isabella: Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer @colin_falconer

* * * * *
Well, this is not how she has imagined it at all.
He has paid her no attention, none. He spends all his time whispering and laughing with this Gaveston. They are like two mating pigeons. She fights down her disappointment, and remembers what her father had told her.
Cherish him, give him your attentions, be sweet, gentle and amiable. Patience is your byword. You will make him love you.
The great hall is long and cavernous, pennants and banners hang from the hammer-beam roof. The windows and arrow slits have been shuttered against the English winter but it finds its way in anyway and the flags above her flutter in the draught. They have built up the fire with logs, but she shivers with cold.
The food is announced with heralds and trumpets, a swan stuffed with a chicken stuffed with capons. There are other plates of venison and boar, roasted and glazed. Edward gasps in delight as if he has never seen such wonders before. What does he usually eat at a banquet, stale bread and haddock water?
She is the subject of much attention, as she has hoped and expected. She is the new foreign curiosity. She does not mind; in fact she rather likes it.
“Look at them stare, Uncle. Will they love me here, do you think?”
“You are their queen. Of course they will love you.”
She watches the king. At first she thinks there are children crawling all over him; now she sees they are his dwarves and fools, they dress in bright colours and some even have their heads shaved like monks. They have names like Maud Makejoy and Greybread and he even lets them eat at the royal table, below the salt. He diverts himself by throwing food at them, he drinks too much and laughs too loud.
Now Gaveston leans forward and whispers in his ear. Up close he is breath-taking in scarlet and gold satin. His crucifix is studded with pearls and he wears a ruby ring, both among the presents her father gave to Edward as wedding gifts.
“Who is this Gaveston? He has not left Edward’s side since we arrived here.”
“Every king has his favourite.”
I should be his favourite, she thinks but dare not say it.
“Do not worry, your grace, he will not be at your Coronation.”
“You promise me?”
“The barons have made their position clear on it. You are not the only one unhappy about the king’s behaviour.”
This surprises her. No one has ever dared reprimand her father for anything. It is hard to image living in a country where a king might not do exactly as he pleases.
Edward takes a morsel from his trencher and places it between Gaveston’s lips. They look into each other’s eyes and laugh. The whole court sees this happen. Valois finishes his wine; some of it spills in his beard. He slams the goblet down on the bench and walks out, kicking one of the dogs as he leaves.
* * * * *
Isabella
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Genre – Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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