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Wedding of Edward II and Isabella of France

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On 25th January 1308, a young French princess walked up the aisle in the church at Boulogne in northern France. At only twelve years old she would have no inkling of how her life would turn out, all she was probably hoping for at the time was a kindly groom.

That princess was Isabella, daughter of King Philip IV of France, and the groom was the new king of England, Edward II. The match had been arranged several years before between Edward's father, King Edward I, and Philip. The wedding and attendant celebrations lasted for over a week, the French knew how to put on a good show, and Isabella was loved by her father, who wanted to see her off with a grand display. For the beloved princess it must have looked as if everything was going to be fine.

Sadly though this is one Royal marriage that will always go down in English history as a total disaster. When Edward and Isabella were crowned a month after their wedding, the young bride was almost completely ignored by her husband in favour of Piers Gaveston, his favourite. Historians have debated the nature of Edward's relationship with Piers for centuries, but regardless of whether he was bisexual or homosexual, Edward's actions were humiliating to the poor girl. Not only was she ignored by her husband, but Piers' activities stole the spotlight firmly away from the Queen, he even had tapestries bearing his coat of arms, in place of those of Isabella, decorating the banqueting hall for the post-coronation celebrations.

In the years that followed, Isabella and Edward really would have many instances of "for better or worse". While twelve was the canonical age for girls to marry in medieval law, biology didn't necessarily follow suit. Isabella finally fell pregnant four years after the wedding, but made up for it in the minds of the people by giving birth to the all-important son first time round. The boy would one day become King Edward III of England. She had to contend with Piers and then, after his death, the Despensers. Edward failed to protect her and provide for her, and eventually pushed her in to taking a lover (Roger Mortimer) and instigating a rebellion.

But in 1308 she could never have predicted any of that. Instead, on this day over 700 years ago, Isabella could only have imagined a glittering future.

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