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Royal Mother, Royal Son: Isabella & Edward III

Mother of Isabella and EdwardIsabella of France is often defined purely by the spectacular failure of her marriage to King Edward II. She was not the first (or the last!) English queen to suffer a lack of harmony, or even respect, within her royal marriage. The steps that Isabella took to avenge her unhappiness and loss of dignity, however, were unique in their extent and success.

Edward sent Isabella on a diplomatic mission to France, with far-reaching and fatal consequences. Isabella established an independent power base, invaded England, and overthrew her husband in the name of their teenage son. Edward II was imprisoned and then murdered. For three years, Isabella ruled England. Finally, her son Edward III grew to maturity and claimed his throne, toppling his mother’s regime.

Isabella’s prolonged and deadly struggle with Edward II has overshadowed all other aspects of her life. Her story has been interpreted as the degeneration of a queen and wife, in a downward spiral from guile to treachery to murder. Even Isabella’s ultimate loss of power to her son has been seen as the final chapter of her duel with her husband.

The extraordinary clash between Isabella and Edward II was played out on a public stage, to the disbelief and shock of all Europe. Behind the scenes, however, was another equally fascinating set of interactions between Isabella and her son Edward III. Conducted quietly and with discretion, their mother-son relationship remains one of the great mysteries of English royal history.
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Royal Castles & Cathedrals

Nottingham Castle

NOTTINGHAM CASTLE, Nottinghamshire

Nottingham Castle is renowned for its connections with Richard the Lionheart and his treacherous younger brother John, with Robin Hood, and with Edward III. Unfortunately, it was demolished in the 1650s and no longer stands. The site, on the top of a huge rock outcrop, is now a museum, housed in a late-17th century “castle” (actually an enormous mansion with manicured lawns).

It is a lovely mansion and museum. It cannot help but be, however, a major disappointment for the hapless medieval enthusiast who arrives hoping to revel in earlier centuries.

There are, however, still a few traces of the medieval to be found if the visitor has a strong imagination and some historical background. The museum’s exhibits on Nottingham’s long and illustrious (and occasionally blood-thirsty!) history are a good starting place.

The first Nottingham Castle was built by William the Conqueror two years after the Norman conquest of England. It was a simple wooden fortification but its position on top of Castle Rock made it almost impregnable. Henry II, the first Plantagenet, recognized the strategic importance of the site and rebuilt the castle in stone. He added a king’s bedchamber and a park, beginning the process of turning a fort into a defensible royal residence. During the reigns of his successors, Nottingham Castle was continually expanded, rebuilt, redecorated and modernized.

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