« 前へ次へ »
ISABELLA OF FRANCE,
QUEEN OF EDWARD II.
BY MARY ROBERTS.
“Sit not in judgment on them, they are gone;
Nor speak harsh words—thou know'st not what deep snares
Next in the procession of sister-queens passes Isabella of France. Her birth, exalted even among the great ones of the earth, for her father, Philippe le Bel, was king of France, and her mother Jane, sovereign of Navarre. The era in which she lived was that of chivalry, when knights richly caparisoned, and mounted on chargers covered with heraldic trappings, tilted at tournaments, and when, with the flourish of trumpets and loud cymbals, ladies awarded the victor's prize.
Methinks a beauteous, yet somewhat mournful vision, rises on the mental view. A fair child, scarcely thirteen years of age, stands before the high altar in the old Cathedral of Boulogne. Winds and tempests are abroad, with the moody breaking forth of sunbeams through the racking clouds, now lighting up the tombs and recumbent effigies with unwonted brightness, and again as suddenly withdrawing, when the pelting of rain is heard against the richly-storied windows; - typical, it may be, of the chequered lives that extend before the princess and her youthful consort, who plight their vows in the presence of four sovereigns and as many queens.
France never before witnessed such an assemblage at a nuptial feast. But who among the noblest and the fairest may vie with the bride and bridegroom, the one already surnamed the Fair, in consequence of her surpassing beauty, the other a noble-looking gentleman, tall and finely formed, with a profusion of light hair, denoting his Saxon origin?
Gorgeous spectacles Alit by,-feasts, and tournaments, and banquets in spacious halls; and often jostling one the other, because of their numbers and attendants, pass and repass the nobles of four kingly courts – now mingling in the dance, now riding forth with hawk and hounds, now meeting in small groups, with jest and pleasant conceit, or watching all comers and goers from the terrace walk belonging to the palace.
Forth from that palace of the olden time proceeds a fair young girl, nobly escorted and attended. A king and queen are seen on the steps of the grand staircase, with such befitments as pertain to their high estate; but laying aside their stateliness, and heeding not the acclamations of gathered thousands, their tears flow fast when that fair child is handed into her litter, and the bridegroom curvets beside her on his noble charger. Sad partings are there. “Young eyes look love to those who look again,” and grave and bearded men speak words of counsel to young courtiers, who appear somewhat serious, and rein their prancing steeds as if unwilling to depart.
The litter, with its attendants and armed men, moves onward through the avenue of trees; and right and left are riding the noblest peers of France, followed and attended by a long array of gallant gentlemen appointed to wait on the young queen.
That fair girl looks beautiful; her light hair falls in clusters round her neck; her eyes are blue, though somewhat dimmed with tears; and her hands, finely proportioned, seem fitted to hold a sceptre. Considerably in advance are
seen a train of horses, they are loaded with large bales, and led by men in royal liveries; and ponderously rings on its way a huge waggon, drawn by twelve oxen, with gilt horns and gaily-adorned necks, yet drawing with some effort the heavy-laden waggon and large oak chest which contains the wardrobe and jewels of the princess. The keeper of the robes tells, concerning the array of oxen and horses, that her royal mistress has with her linen and presents of great value, besides two golden crowns, adorned with gems and precious stones; twelve large silver dishes, and as many lesser ones; fifty silver porringers, and a number of gold and silver vessels, with golden spoons : that, further, the royal dresses are made of gold and silver tissue, velvet and shot taffety, and that the queen, her mother, gave her at parting six magnificent dresses of green cloth from Douay, six of rose scarlet, and six beautifully marbled, besides a variety of costly furs, four hundred and nineteen yards of linen, and six dozen coifs. Tapestry also, the lady says, are carefully packed in chests on the same waggon for the hangings of the young queen's chamber, figured in lozenges of gold, with the arms of France, England, and Brabant. Costly presents are also provided for the king, consisting of rings, and jewels, and precious articles, the product of the lapidary's skill, beautifully wrought and mounted. Alas, that those royal gifts should ever be recklessly transferred to that unworthy favourite Gaveston !
Hark to the gentle rippling of the ocean on the beach at Dover! Scarcely may that murmuring sound be heard amid the mingled neighing of impatient steeds, and human voices, and the rattling of wheels over the stony road. A vast assemblage is already gathered, and ever and anon come rushing down the steep towards the sea motley groups, all eagerly inquiring whether the queen has landed. At length a stately vessel nears the shore, and a deafening shout is sent up by gathered thousands. Noblemen and gentlemen begin to range themselves in lines, and soldiers, with large staves, are driving back the impatient crowds. Ladies mounted on palfreys, led by squires, timidly advance in order to receive the princess; they have come from their old castles, eager to shew their fealty; and among them is Alicia duchess of Norfolk, and the Countess of Hereford, with other ladies of distinction, for so the king commanded, that all honour might be shewn his queen on her way to Westminster.
Methinks the coronation is little in harmony with the splendid nuptials at Boulogne. Many of the English nobility look dissatisfied, and the queen's uncles, who accompanied her from France, angrily remark on the want of courtesy towards their niece. Words fitly spoken are good and profitable, but the Counts of Valois and Evreux, and the Duke of Brabant, high-chamberlain of France, seek rather to augment the sadness that ill befits the passing ceremonial. They even whisper in her ear, and their looks are full of defiance. Observe the indignation of the nobles when the envied office of bearing King Edward's crown is assigned to Gaveston, and the answering countenances of the queen's uncles. The spectators seem dissatisfied, and all goes wrong. It is nearly dark, torches are scant and small, and as yet the queen's table is unsupplied. The banquet, men say, is badly arranged, the provisions ill dressed; and instead of numerous attendants pressing one upon the other, eager to serve the guests, there is great want of these, and hence few of the ceremonials used on such great occasions are observed. All this proceeds from the mismanagement of Gaveston.
But youth is not long depressed, and the bride and bridegroom seem happy in their home at Eltham. The French nobles are returned, greatly exasperated at the public neglect -- even affronts -- shewn to their niece; and full of complaints to Philippe le Bel against Gaveston, who presided at the coronation, and drew away the attentions due by Edward to his bride. Ah, woe worth the day!
From the period of their interview with the King of France commence a tissue of political intrigues, and firm resolves to strengthen the discontented barons against Gaveston, -eventually, as it proved, against the king himself.
They are gone, however, and the young queen recovers her spirits. Days pass pleasantly: the king with his young bride ride and walk together, and the palace of Eltham resounds with cheerful voices. Years of happiness might have been spent beneath its roof, if the startling truth, that his treasury had been emptied in favour of Gaveston, did not press heavily upon the mind of Edward ; and the young queen feels for the first time that she is utterly without money, till the king her father, hearing of her distress, assigns for his daughter's maintenance the broad lands of Ponthieu, and directs Richard de Rokeslie, his seneschal, to give the queen's deputies peaceful possession of the same.
Days begin to lengthen, and green leaves are seen at Eltham. The temple-haunting martlet builds her nest among the jutting coinage of that old building, and far and wide are heard the songs of innumerable birds filling the wide forests with their melody. All look verdurous and joyful; but the poor young queen cannot rejoice with them. She is standing in a spacious oriel, dejected and gazing sorrowfully over the wide landscape, while the king is pacing up and down the terrace walks in an angry mood. He has been constrained by the Earl of Lancaster and his compatriots to dismiss the unworthy favourite; who, not contented with usurping the state and dignity of a king, and offending the nobility by his ill-timed raillery and personal affronts, controlled all state affairs, and led the king into a reckless course of dissipation, equally unbefitting his royal state, and most distressing to the queen.
The queen is much beloved throughout the realm, and receives every outward mark of respect from the nobles of the state; but her domestic happiness is sorely embittered by the sullen discontent of the king, and by discovering