In Newgate Street, in the city of London, stand the meagre ruins of Christ Church. On the same site once stood a royal mausoleum set to rival Westminster Abbey in the fourteenth century. 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, popular legends speak of how her angry ghost can be glimpsed among the ruins, clutching the heart of her murdered husband, and even the reputable publications of English Heritage maintain that the Queen's maniacal laughter can be heard on stormy nights at Castle Rising in Norfolk. Such stories paint a picture of a tragic, tormented, cruel and evil woman. In literature and poetry, she has fared no better with Christopher Marlowe calling her 'that unnatural Queen, false Isabel'; Thomas Gray appropriating Shakespeare's epithet 'She-Wolf of France' in The Bard (1757); and Kenneth Fowler describing her as ' a woman of evil character, a notorious schemer.' How, then, did Isabella acquire such a reputation? Isabella is known to have lived adulterously with Roger Mortimer for at least four years. But the evidence surrounding accusations of murder and regicide is unsubstantiated. Thus, what has condemned Isabella, in ways which no other queen has had to endure, is her sexual transgression. 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 and helped put a strong king - her Lover Mortimer - on the throne.
In the first, full-length biography of Isabella, Alison Weir revisits the facts of Isabella's life in a scholarly context in which women's personal lives do not dictate wholly the way we interpret their roles in the public world. A dramatic and startling biography which will change the way we think of Isabella and her world for ever.