Genre: Historical fiction
Published: June 2011
Source: My own book
Orphaned at a young age, Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, seeks a strong husband to keep her hold on the vast lands that have made her the most powerful heiress in Europe. But her arranged marriage to Louis VII, King of France, is made disastrous by Louis’s weakness of will and fanatical devotion to the Church. Eleanor defies her husband by risking her life on an adventurous Crusade, and even challenges the Pope himself. And in young, brilliant, mercurial Henry d’Anjou, she finds her soul mate-the one man who is audacious enough to claim her for his own and make her Queen of England.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was married to Prince Louis of France when she was 15 and he was 17. He was raised in a monastery and would rather have wanted to be a monk. Which we do see through out this book. He is pious and rather spends his time on knees praying than doing anything else. While Eleanor was raised in the more free spirited court of Aquitaine and can’t understand the darkness of Paris. I had also not realized who tiny “France” was. It was nothing really and the country as it is today was made up from different parts. So this marriage is a disaster from the start and that they had 2 kids is a miracle.
We also follow them on their failed crusade to the holy land and get to read about the rumours of her and her uncle. By now I really liked the Eleanor portrayed here, she was so strong and she tried her best. She was certainly not a meek woman of her time. I really enjoyed how O’Brien portrayed her.
The only time I was unsure about Eleanor was when she married Henry Plantagenet. She seemed weaker. He was such a womaniser but sure after a marriage like her first she needed a strong man to help her guard her lands, and he was young, virile and certainly had a reputation among the ladies. The book did make me wonder about these two, they sure had a lot of kids. There was that big age difference and then their split that is not show in this book and how the kids rebelled. But in the end, perhaps they did like each other and I am sure they quarrelled and made up a lot 😉
O’Brien does weave a great story about the early life of this marvellous woman that was queen of two countries. Was talked about a lot and managed to divorce her first husband. It was well-written and it made me want to try more books by her and see how she brings other characters from history alive. Because that is truly what she did for me, she brought them to life.
I also must talk about something I had heard about but which was brought to my attention so well here. That in those days it was sure best to keep young heiresses under lock and key. Because any man who wanted riches could just ride up kidnap and marry that woman and that was it. What a time to live in. Poor women.