They have brought me to Bermondsey Abbey—a prisoner. They have discovered our secret. They have destroyed our happiness. It was what we always feared, but that does not make it any easier to bear.

They have taken Owen. I do not know what they have done to him. They have separated me from my little ones. Edmund, Jasper and Owen…my beautiful sons and sweet Jacina, my little daughter. Where are they and what are they thinking? They are too young to be taken from their mother.

What harm have they done?

I used to say to Owen: “When I was young, I did as they wished. I had always known that royal princesses must accept, with bland acquiescence, the fate chosen for them. This I did. I played my part in uniting my poor tortured country with England. I did all that. Now, why should I not choose my own way of life? Why? What harm am I doing?”

Owen used to soothe me, but he was at times a very worried man. How brave he was, how noble! His anxiety was all for me.

I remember so vividly those first moments of ecstasy when we knew we must be together and, constantly, we were afraid that we would be discovered, and that someone would betray us. Most of my household were my friends, but there could be spies among them. How could one be sure?

I used to try to reassure myself and Owen. “I am of no importance now,” I would say. “Nobody is interested in me. They have taken young Henry away from me. That is all they care about. I have lost him, Owen. I have lost my baby. Oh, I know he is the King of England…the boy King. It is the way with all royal children. They are always taken from the mothers who love them. But now I have a new life with you, and I will live it…I will.”

And so it was and the years passed. We were lulled into a certain blind security. We convinced ourselves that we were safe…most of the time.

Perhaps we were careless.

It is too late to think of that now. Here I am alone, a prisoner—though they pretend that is not so.

“Queen Katherine is resting at Bermondsey Abbey as she is in poor health.” That is what they say.

And why is she in poor health? Because they have taken from her her husband…and he is my husband, for all they may say. They have already taken from her her firstborn, Henry, the King of England. They have taken all her beloved children. Poor health indeed! She would be in rude health if they would restore her to her family.

None would guess that I was under restraint. When I arrived, the bells of the Abbey rang a welcome. The Abbess was waiting to greet me. She gave me her blessing and sprinkled me with holy water. I was taken to the church and stood before the crucifix, and I prayed fervently that Owen might be free and my children restored to me.

Afterward the Abbess told me how honored she was to have the Queen of England in the Abbey and the best accommodation which could be provided was found for me.

But I was a prisoner. She knew I had been parted from all those I loved. But pretense must be kept up. I, Queen of England, had come to honor the Abbey of Bermondsey with my presence.

There is not exactly a lack of comfort here, though it is simple, after the manner of abbeys. But I would have been happy to endure any physical discomfort if I could be with my family.

My longing for them increases every day.

I am not old. Some would say I am in the prime of life. Thirty-five might be called that. Yet I begin to feel that my life is over. There are times when I awake in the night and put out a hand to touch Owen. Then a terrible desolation sweeps over me. “Where are you, Owen?” I cry. “What will become of us all?”

The peace of the Abbey is all around me, but there is no peace for me. I am envious of those black-clad figures who go hither and thither, their lives governed by the bells. It is the bells which tell me what they will be doing at various times of the day. Sometimes I hear their chanting voices. I see them working in the gardens. I envy them.

I long for news. But there is none. And I feel shut away in my own despair.

How long the days seem! I start to think of my life and what has led me to this. And then, when I think of the old days, I find myself reliving them. The hours seem to slip by and the bells tell me that another day is coming to its close.

I will go right back to the beginning. I will follow my life step by step. I will write it down, slowly savoring each scene. And I will ask myself how I came to end thus—a prisoner in Bermondsey Abbey.


My earliest recollections are of that drafty and comfortless mansion, the Hôtel de St.-Paul, in which, at that time, was incarcerated the man who was known throughout France as Charles the Mad.

There were six of us children living there: Louis, Jean, Marie, Michelle, myself and baby Charles. We had been put there because our mother did not know what to do with us, and as she had no great interest in our existence, the best thing seemed to her to be to shut us away.

Charles was just over a year younger than I. We all felt tender toward him because he was the baby and used to toddle after us with a rather bewildered look on his little face which was appealing. In truth, we were all rather bewildered.

Moreover, we were often hungry because there never seemed enough food to go around. The soup grew thinner every day until it was more like water. Louis used to ask for more. He was more important than the rest of us because he was the Dauphin—and he felt that entitled him to privileges.

He was promptly told that there was no more, so that was the end of the matter.

We had a governess who was always whispering to the nurse. “It’s a shame and a scandal,” she used to say. “Poor little things…and her going on as she does.”

We listened avidly. We knew there was something odd about the place and we—at least the little ones—were quite unaware of what it was. Louis might have known something and he might have whispered it to Jean, but they were the eldest and boys. We were the young ones…and girls at that—with the exception of Charles, who was only a baby.

Marie was different from the rest of us. When we complained about being cold and hungry she would say: “It is God’s will. We must accept what He gives us and be grateful to Him.”

“How can you be grateful for what you do not have?” asked Michelle.

“If you do not have it, it is God’s will that you should not,” insisted Marie, “and we must all be grateful to Him.”

I wished I could have been like Marie. It must be wonderful to feel there was something virtuous about being cold and hungry.

While the rest of us shivered in bed at night, even after having covered ourselves with everything we could find to keep ourselves warm, Marie would be kneeling by the bed, her hands and feet blue with the cold, thanking God.

Marie was different from the rest of us, and it was Michelle and I who were the closer friends.

One day stands out more clearly in my memory of those early days than any other.

It was winter—always to be dreaded for there was never enough wood to keep the fires going, and to be cold and hungry is so much worse than merely being hungry.

I did not realize it at the time, but it must have seemed very strange to our nurse and governess and the few attendants who were in the Hôtel that, although we lived in such misery, the days were conducted as though our upbringing was the normal one for children of our rank.

We had our lessons every day; and on this occasion we were all seated at the table in the schoolroom and our governess was attempting to teach us, when suddenly the door opened and a strange creature stood there.

We children all stared at him in wonder.

He was very pale and his hair was in wild disorder. He wore an elaborately embroidered jacket, the splendor of which was impaired by a tear in the sleeve and stains down the front.

Our governess gave a little start and for a few seconds seemed uncertain what to do. Then she rose to her feet and bowed with great respect.

We children all sat staring at the intruder.

I caught my breath in terror when he approached the table for he was truly an alarming sight.

“My children,” he began, and I noticed at once that he had one of the most musical voices I had ever heard.

Louis surprised me. He must have suddenly realized who the man was, for he rose from his chair and knelt before him.

The man stared down at him. He put out a hand and touched Louis’s head; and I saw the tears running down his sunken cheeks.

“You are Charles,” he said, in his beautiful voice. “Charles the Dauphin.”

“No, Sire,” replied Louis. “I am Louis the Dauphin.”

“But Charles …”

“Charles is our younger brother now, Sire.”

“And what of Charles…Dauphin Charles …?”

“He is dead, Sire. He was ill…and he died.”

The man stared ahead of him and his lips trembled. He smiled suddenly and said: “And you…Louis…you are now the Dauphin.”

“Yes, Sire.”

“Louis…when did you last see your mother?”

“I do not remember. It was a long time ago.”

“My child, I have been ill…but I am better now. Yes. I shall be better now.” He looked at us children sitting there at the table watching this scene in bewilderment. He held out a hand to us.

We looked questioningly at our governess, who nodded to us, implying that we should rise and go to him.

He looked at us all in turn.

At length his eyes rested on me. “And you, little one?” I was surprised that I was no longer afraid of him.