The white cliffs appear through a curtain of rain. Isabella pays them scant attention. She has been sea sick since leaving the harbour at Boulogne and now clings to the side with her ladies fussing around her, those of them that are not themselves bent over the stern rail. A cold wind buffets her burning cheeks.
Dover castle appears briefly through another flurry of rain. All she wants is to be on dry land again. The Narrow Sea now stands between her and her father; she feels adrift.
She looks around for her new husband; he patrols the deck, wrapped in a red mantle, his servants getting in the way of his pacing. He pushes one irritably aside and searches the shore. Does he fear pirates? Once inside the harbour walls, the anchor splashes down; the royal barge is already on its way to meet them.
He goes ashore first, with his retinue of barons and bishops. Not a backward glance.
When she finally arrives at the quay Edward is lost among a huddle of courtiers. Her own people huddle around her, protecting her from the worst of the wind, while her uncles, Evreux and Valois, supervise the unloading of the baggage. The puddles are ruining her shoes.
The quay is foul, wet and reeks of fish. The forbidding walls of the castle appear through the mist of rain. The scarlet flags with their gold lions are the only colour on this dull day.
She catches a glimpse of the king, arm in arm with one of the gallants, a fine-looking man wearing more jewels than she has ever worn at one time, even for her wedding.
“Who is that?” she murmurs.
Valois makes a clicking noise with his tongue. “That’s Gaveston.”
“Is he a baron?”
“He thinks he is.”
Their eyes meet. This Gaveston smiles at her over Edward’s shoulder. But there is no time for pleasantries. Another flurry of rain sends them all scurrying for the litters.
A blast of trumpets and their escort clatters into position on the cobblestones. They enter through a massive gatehouse, bumping through a narrow passage into a broad bailey, which is a madhouse of smiths and horses and dogs. She sees a butcher sling a carcass on a hook to drain the blood into a tin bucket, women toss filthy rags into steaming vats. Noise, smell, a sea of grim faces. All this way and it is just like being back in Paris.
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Genre – Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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