I’m ashamed to say it didn’t click for me who the main character in the novel was until there was a line in here about her son, Richard, being “lionhearted.” That was when I put two and two together, what with her youngest son being named John. I’m ashamed because Eleanor of Aquitaine is a legendary historical figure by any account. You saw her, even if you might not have realized it, in the Robin Hood movie with Russell Crowe. She had a smaller part in that movie, but even then she was crafty, intelligent and partially frustrated with the role of a woman in the court during the high middle ages.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was active in fostering troubadour poetry and the tradition of courtly love. She was thrown in prison on and off for years because she supported her sons (Henry the Younger and Richard the Lionheart) in rebellion against their father, her husband, Henry II. Eleanor was loved and respected, according to historical documents, by her subjects, though there were a lot of rumors about her in history, wilder than you might expect.
This novel revolves mainly around the relationship Eleanor and Henry II have. It’s a volatile one, to say the least. It’s interesting how Weir paints it, as even at the end of Henry II’s life, after he has thrown her in prison and been with other women and she has betrayed him in ways, she still admits a love for him as he was before he became a king, and a remorse for what could have been versus what is.
As I said in my earlier blog post about Weir, she sticks to the facts. She was first a nonfiction author, so everything that can be backed up is backed up while she uses her imagination to fill in any voids in the written history.
“What is the point of a historical novel (or film, for that matter) based on a real person if the author does not take pains to make it as authentic as possible?” Weir wrote in the author’s note to Captive Queen. “…Many people – myself included – come to history through historical novels, and many will never make that leap from such novels to history books; they rely on the novelist to tell it as it was, and to set the story within an authentic background, with authentic detail.”
That’s why I like her. Like her previous works that I’ve read – The Lady Elizabeth and Innocent Traitor – I enjoyed this book and give Weir a continued thumbs up to keep writing. I’m looking forward to getting A Dangerous Inheritance, her newest novel that is coming out this year.
Here is the synopsis from the back cover of Captive Queen:
“Nearing her thirtieth birthday, Eleanor of Aquitaine has spent the past dozen frustrating years as wife to the pious King Louis VII of France. But when Henry of Anjou, the young and dynamic future king of England, arrives at the French court, he and the seductive Eleanor experience a mutual passion powerful enough to ignite the world. Indeed, after the annulment of Eleanor’s marriage to Louis and her remarriage to Henry, the union of this royal couple creates a vast empire that stretches from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees—and marks the beginning of the celebrated Plantagenet dynasty. But Henry and Eleanor’s marriage, charged with physical heat, begins a fiery downward spiral marred by power struggles and bitter betrayals. Amid the rivalries and infidelities, the couple’s rebellious sons grow impatient for power, and the scene is set for a vicious and tragic conflict that will threaten to engulf them all.”