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Sep 26, 2011

Review: The Lady of the Rivers: A Novel (Cousins' War #3) by Philippa Gregory

Simon & Schuster October 18, 2011
Hardcover, 464 pages
ISBN 978-1416563709
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:
Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of nineteen she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her house-hold for love, and then carved out a life for herself as Queen Margaret of Anjou's close friend and a Lancaster supporter - until the day that her daughter Elizabeth Woodville fell in love and married the rival king Edward IV. Of all the little-known but important women of the period, her dramatic story is the most neglected. With her links to Melusina, and to the founder of the house of Luxembourg, together with her reputation for making magic, she is the most haunting of heroines.

Philippa Gregory's third novel in the Cousins' War series focuses on Jacquetta of Luxembourg, who later becomes mother to the Queen of England. Her story is a fascinating one, and it is made quite entertaining Gregory-style. In Gregory's previous novel The White Queen (2009), we are introduced to the legacy of Melusina when Elizabeth Woodville captures the eye of Edward IV and the stigma of witchcraft that the Woodville women are surrounded with. With this installment on Jacquetta, we are immediately brought into this magical element of Jacquetta's upbringing and the legend of Melusina. Those readers who dislike this fantasy theme should not bother reading the book, as it is a large fragment of the story.

The White Queen centered around Elizabeth Woodville, who was Jacquetta's eldest and beautiful daughter. The Lady of the Rivers moves back in time a bit, to Jacquetta and her story of survival, love and loyalty. (Could have been a publisher's decision because two years ago Gregory was going to do the third book on Elizabeth of York: The White Princess). A young Jacquetta is forced to leave France as she is married off to England's Duke of Bedford, who is on a mission to find the mystical answers to all things unknown, along with that pot of gold. Poor Bedford seems like a creepy little man, sadly for him. Meanwhile, Jacquetta finds a friend and protector in Richard Woodville who acted as Bedford's right hand man. Once Bedford dies, Jacquetta throws caution to the wind, and usurps all authority in declaring her love for Richard.

Her story develops around the turmoil of England as they struggle to hold on to the lands in France that the late Henry V worked so hard for, but the young and weak Henry VI is ill advised and caught between the rising factions of the Cousins' War. Jacquetta embraces her new country of England, and serves the Lancastrian King and Queen as she hopes against hope that her new husband Richard Woodville won't be killed in battle. The love that grew between Jacquetta and Richard is lovingly portrayed and one can easily imagine, through Gregory's eyes, how the unlikely pair found a lasting love that brought forth quite a brood of Woodvilles. There were repeated mentions of the blue eyes of Richard, but he was always in the background of the other novels I had read so it was nice to see him form into a handsome blue-eyed person with a knack for quickly making babies. He was quite the star in this novel, with his loyal and gallant characteristics, not to mention sex appeal.

Jacquetta and Richard live out their life in fear of witch hunts as they do the royal bidding. Margaret of Anjou is insufferably unqueenly in this portrayal and her husband Henry is either a pious robot or a recluse. The city of London is a mob of dejected souls and Richard Duke of York is mentioned as the most-wished-for-wanna-be-king.. and other loose characterizations are formed and maintained throughout the story. The phrase 'Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset' is drilled into my head as he is mentioned umpteen times and who is not so subtly hinted as being in love with the Queen. History is a bit of a glazed backdrop as Gregory focuses the crux of the novel on Jacquetta and her experiences as Gregory imagines them as Jacquetta stands by the Queen's side while her Richard goes off to fight for them. Historical buffs for the Wars of the Roses may be a bit bored and put off by the lack of dramatic emphasis in areas where we would expect them as the mystical elements play the stronger part in this telling.

Of course, as with all Philippa Gregory novels, there seems to be a major uproar when the fiction outweighs the history, and this is no different. I could not get a handle on what exact title Richard Woodville had (squire/knight/chamberlain/baron/commander whatever he was at any given time), and then since we truly know very little about Jacquetta herself except for royal occasions where she was present, Gregory fills in the rest with lots of gorgeous babies. I can't remember my phone number sometimes so I wouldn't dare attempt to find any historical accuracies, but I am sure that those readers who pursue inaccuracies within Gregory's fiction as a sort of sport will be able to point them out to you. This reader doesn't care, I love the genre of historical fiction because of the entertaining accounts of historical figures, and Philippa Gregory usually captures that need for me with flair (most of the time).

I have no idea what type of schedule the author keeps, but I think that her recent popularity may have zapped some of the story-telling skills that she once demonstrated in earlier novels. Gregory is one of the more well-known authors of  historical fiction with a following of many critics and has a lot to live up to. I would personally wish for something a bit more in-depth and rounded out characters, while others wish for a bit more accuracy in the details. Jacquetta Woodville, Duchess of Bedford, mother to a Queen.. Gregory has the potential to turn her life into quite a story with creativity and that midas touch that once made Gregory so popular...

However.. the last half of the book did not quite match the expectations that were solicited in the first half as I wished for a lot more substance and a lot less of the repetitive silliness that she emphasized when utilizing various rumors of the time. I really wanted this to be a fabulous read that entertained and absorbed me, but this time Gregory comes up short. I think that newcomers to the Wars of the Roses era would enjoy this novel, much like once upon a time I was a rookie in regards to the Tudor era and Philippa Gregory wrote some intriguing introductions to the Tudors with The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance.  Also recently released which I recommend as a brief summary on the main protagonists of Gregory's Cousins' War series is The Women of the Cousin's War (my review), which is a collaborative effort with authors David Baldwin and Michael Jones.

Sep 20, 2011

{{Giveaway!}} Review: Sunrise of Avalon (Trystan & Isolde Trilogy Book #3) by Anna Elliott


Sunrise of Avalon (Trystan & Isolde Trilogy Book #3) by Anna Elliott
Simon & Schuster Touchstone September 13 2011
Paperback 448 pages
ISBN 978-1416589914
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Great big Four stars!

She is a healer, a storyteller, and a warrior. When Britain is faced with threats both old and new, the strength of her love may be the kingdom's downfall . . . or salvation.


Their love has overcome endless obstacles. Never ones to shy away from danger, former High Queen Isolde and Trystan, a mercenary with a lonely and troubled past, have already endured a perilous journey to keep the underhanded Lord Marche from the throne of Britain. But now a new traitor lurks amongst the kings on Britain's High Council - and just when they've realized the depth of their love for each other, a new danger calls Trystan from Isolde's side to test the strength of their secret marriage vow. Only Isolde knows that she is carrying Trystan's unborn child.

As Britain's armies prepare for a final battle in which they will either turn back the tide of the invaders or see their kingdom utterly destroyed, Isolde must undertake yet another daring mission - one that will bring her even nearer to a secret that Trystan has kept for seven long years. As the clouds of war gather, Trystan and Isolde must once again fight to protect Britain's throne. Together, they hold the key that can defeat the Saxon king, Octa of Kent, and Lord Marche. But the cost of Britain's sovereignty may be their own forbidden love.

Based on the earliest written version of the Arthurian tales, Anna Elliott's Sunrise of Avalon breathes new life into an age-old legend and brings the story of Trystan and Isolde to an unforgettable end.
Having read Anna Elliott's first two novels in the Trystan and Isolde series, I knew I had to read the final chapter, Sunrise of Avalon. The first two books set up the scene and the nature of the characters of Trystan and Isolde along with their legacies, which brings us to the third book and the final battle for the fate of Britain. Book one, Twilight of Avalon, was actually one of my favorite reads on 2009, as it was my first Arthurian/Dark Ages read which had really enthralled me. Book two, Dark Moon of Avalon, developed the storyline and the struggle of Britain versus the Saxons, along with the relationship between Trystan and Isolde.

The plot of the Avalon books feature Trystan's battles on the field as well as his own personal demons, as Lady Isolde learns to preserve herself and her integrity in the midst of warring men. The love story that begins in book one continues on to book three as we hope that there will be a happy ending once and for all for Trystan and Isolde. However, there are quite a few obstacles that block the path to love, and the Kings of Britain wouldn't mind having Isolde's land for their own.

Lady Isolde has inherited the gifts of the 'seeing' power from her legendary grandmother, Morgan, and she uses the gifts to help give her peace of mind of Trystan's whereabouts. He has all but shut her out, and she hangs on to the hope of his love by the threads of the magic through Trystan's dreams. Isolde hopes she can break through Trystan's hardened exterior as she harbors the secret of her pregnancy, but she is lucky enough to have faithful friends who would risk their lives for her as she travels through harsh lands. Daka, Piye, and Hereric all return in this finale, as well as King Madoc and the evil King Marche as they all are supposed to be saving Britain from the hands of Octa of the Bloody Knife. The characters are the stars of the books, as the author diligently endears them to us, along with the hope that Trystan and Isolde can hold on to their lives and their love while helping to keep Britain out of enemy's hands.

Anna Elliott's voice is pure and unwavering, and her setting and character descriptions are expertly told throughout the storyline. She shifts the writing tones as she navigates from Trystan's to Isolde's point of view, but it is done with ease. The plot seems simple enough: finding true love and keeping it throughout war, but the author knows how to pull the reader in because of the way she writes and endears the characters and the setting of Dark Ages Britain to us. The Twilight of Avalon trilogy is a fantastic mix of romance, hope, danger and magic and I would definitely recommend this entire series as it is the epitome of the phrase masterful storytelling. I cannot wait to see what Anna Elliott will write next!


Read my previous Anna Elliott posts here.
On towards the Book Giveaway!! The publisher is offering two lucky followers a chance to win this book!
To enter, just comment with your email address and let me know if you have read any Arthurian or Dark Ages books before.

For extra entries, tweet or facebook this post, and leave me those links in the comments. (+1 each)
For one more entry, like the Burton Book Review Facebook page.

Open to USA only, and ends September 30, 2011. Good Luck!

Sep 19, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books (formerly The Printed Page) where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. Mailbox Monday is now  on tour, and this month’s host is Amused by Books. For review, I received the following three:


Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir
I have been coveting this biography on Henry VIII's famous mistress for quite awhile, and now that it is finally here, I am swamped with books to read. Of course.
From Ballantime Books, October 4, 2011:

 Mary Boleyn (c.1500-1543) was no less fascinating than her ill-fated queen consort sister Anne. In fact, her own claims to fame are numerous: She was not only an influential member of King Henry VIII's court circle; she was one of his mistresses and perhaps the mother of two of his children. In addition, the apparently prolific Mary was rumored to have been also a mistress of the King's rival, Francis I of France. Alison Weir's Mary Boleyn substantially redeems her subject's reputation by disputing her scandalous portrayal in Philippa Gregory's novel The Other Boleyn Girl. Our most detailed view yet of a power behind the throne. (P.S. With titles like Elizabeth and The Lady in the Tower, Weir has carved out a niche as one of the foremost biographers of British royalty).

Alison Weir will also soon visit the USA for her book tour, visit her site for an updated list of dates.

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
I have heard great things about this author, but haven't had the chance to read any of his work thus far. I have read that this new biography reads like a novel, and since I know nothing of Catherine the Great, I am intrigued!
From Random House, November 8, 2011:
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.


Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones.


Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the “benevolent despot” idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for thirty-four years the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as “the Messalina of the north.”


Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her “favorites”—the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement.


The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives.


History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.
And now for some fiction, His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm:

The chilling story of Lucrezia de Medici, duchess to Alfonso d'Este, His Last Duchess paints a portrait of a lonely young girl and her marriage to an inscrutable duke. Lucrezia longs for love, Alfonso desperately needs an heir, and in a true story of lust and dark decadence, the dramatic fireworks the marriage kindles threaten to destroy the duke's entire inheritance-and Lucrezia's future. His Last Duchess gorgeously brings to life the passions and people of sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara.

Originally published in 2010, Sourcebooks is reissuing for October 2011 publication.  I am intrigued to see how this one differs from Loupas' The Second Duchess, which I really enjoyed.

Which of these titles has caught your eye? I am looking forward to all of these!

Sep 14, 2011

BBAW Community & Finding your Place

Today’s topic at BBAW!
The world of book blogging has grown enormously and sometimes it can be hard to find a place. Share your tips for finding and keeping community in book blogging despite the hectic demands made on your time and the overwhelming number of blogs out there. If you’re struggling with finding a community, share your concerns and explain what you’re looking for–this is the week to connect!

The Book Blogosphere has grown by leaps and bounds since I started blogging in late 2008, and it is impossible to keep up with all the blogs I would like to. Since I work full-time and have a 9 year old and a 4 year old, I don't have as much time as I used to. At first when my free time started to dissipate, I did become overwhelmed because I felt like I was not participating as I should. Then I had to realize the purpose of my book blog, and that it was for personal reasons and should not be treated as a job. We do not get paid monetarily for reviewing, and it is a hobby, and I should always step away if I begin to feel stressed.

There are a few number of blogs that I comment on regularly. I try to follow on Google Reader, but mostly that is a once in a month type thing that I browse through. And when I do try and comment on Blogger platform blogs, the comment forms that are embedded do not allow me to post with my gmail/google/blogger account, so all that happens is that I get frustrated with the technology. I would like to comment, but sometimes I just can't, and for the pure fact that it is a rare occurrence for me to have something to actually add to the conversation- I get really annoyed when I attempt to and I cannot. That's when I stop blog hopping.

I have found that the best community feature that has helped me is the Facebook platform. Others use twitter, but since that is a real-time conversation type thing, I find that it is useless to keep up. Facebook has been the best thing for me and easiest to keep up with. Most of my facebook friends are actually bookish friends.. so if you want to be my friend there you are welcome to!

Sep 13, 2011

BBAW Interview Day!

Today at BBAW we are interviewing bloggers who are new to us. Unfortunately.. my partner has been in the hospital due to a car wreck!! Interviews are the last thing on her mind, and I wish her her Godspeed and good health, and a swift recovery!

I still want to join in the fun.. so I am interviewing YOU!

Please tell me.. who you are, where you blog, how long you blog and what is one totally awesome fact about yourself? What are you so super duper double proud of that you want everyone to know?? C'mon, get out your bragging skills and let's hear 'em!

Sep 12, 2011

BBAW 2011: Community

It's Book Blogger Appreciation Week again.. and I just wanted to take the time to participate in my small way to highlight those key bloggers whom I appreciate the very most because they take the time to comment and provide feedback on my blog.

Today the BBAW crew prompts us with: "Today you are encouraged to highlight a couple of bloggers that have made book blogging a unique experience for you."

After a few years of 'blogging', I have found that I actually have stepped a bit away from the various facets of blogging and have been able to focus on the purpose of this blog: Reviewing Books for the Purpose of Reading Fantastic Books.

With that in mind, I have found a few blogs that I have continually enjoyed, but I will always enjoy Arleigh from www.Historical-Fiction.com for her camaraderie, and for her well written reviews. I have not found a single person who can beat those concise reviews that always seem to point out something that I was wanting to evoke in one of my own reviews.

And for reviews and the new release alerts on my favorite genre of historical fiction, I go to Daphne from Tanzaanite's Castle Full of Books. Pretty much a one stop shop there, and I've found I add the most books to my wish list because of her. That toppling TBR pile.. It's all her fault.

So here is a big Thank You to these two ladies for their always informative blog posts that keep me plugged into the Historical Fiction genre. Thank you Arleigh and Daphne!!

Sep 8, 2011

CAT THURSDAY!

Something a little fun and different today... Today is CAT THURSDAY over at the True Book Addict's site.. and she says every second Thursday she'll feature Authors and their cats..so without further ado..
Future AUTHOR!! ME!!!



Now THAT'S really LOL, right?!
But there I am reading one of my fave authors, Georgette Heyer.
Pictured is Sweetie, our cutie pie we adopted in May. She has quickly attached herself to me. She sees me sitting anywhere and she rockets right to me because she knows she'll get some loving (and safe haven from four year olds!).

If you want to see more cat pictures from today's link-up, visit the True Book Addict!

Sep 6, 2011

Review: The Women of The Cousin's War by Philippa Gregory

Women of the Cousins' War

The Women of The Cousin's War by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin & Michael Jones
Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, September 13, 2011
Hardcover 352 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:Four Stars

The Women of the Cousins' War is an attempt to shed light on three important women of the Wars of the Roses, which Gregory refers to with the old fashioned name of the Cousins' War. The Duchess refers to Jaquetta of Luxembourg, minor French nobility who married into English nobility of the Lancastrian side and who would probably have had a satisfied life if things ended there. Her first husband John, Duke of Bedford was the third son of Henry IV. When he dies, Jacquetta defies convention and marries Richard Woodville, who was merely her first husband's chamberlain. Philippa Gregory writes the first portion of The Women of the Cousins' War as a sort of prelude to her novel, The Lady of the Rivers, her third installment in the Cousins' War fictional series.

David Baldwin writes the second portion of The Women of the Cousins' War on the Queen Elizabeth Woodville, daughter of Jacquetta, mother of the lost princes in the tower, mother-in-law to Henry VII. Elizabeth Woodville underwent much scrutiny when she married the younger Edward IV, who enraged all nobility by bringing the large family of Woodville upstarts into the royal fold. She encounters foes on all sides, from the scheming Warwick to the King's own brothers. Baldwin previously wrote a biography on Elizabeth Woodville, one of the few written.

Finally, Michael Jones brings us the third portion of The Women of the Cousins' War with his writing on Margaret Beaufort, mother to Henry VII, who against all odds persevered throughout the tumultuous Cousins' War and eventually was able to see Lancaster restored to the English throne via her own son. All three of these women are main protagonists in Gregory's novels The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Lady of the Rivers.

In the roughly forty-seven page introduction, Gregory explains that there is very little known about the female significant others of times gone by because women were simply considered irrelevant. Sometimes we have dates of birth and dates of death, and then a little can be filled in between the lines based on certain battles and where their husbands had traveled. And that's exactly what Gregory provides us with when discussing Jacquetta of Luxembourg. As forewarned by Gregory herself, the actual lines that were devoted to Jacquetta in Gregory's section of The Women of the Cousins' War were full of probably's and maybe's with a summary of the Wars of the Roses. The last few pages focus a bit more on Jacquetta and her family, her legacy and the stigma of being a branded a witch (which she miraculously survived a trial intact).

David Baldwin's portion on Elizabeth Woodville read much quicker, and the tone of Baldwin's writing is pitch perfect. He calls into account more of Elizabeth's actions during the events of her marriage to Edward IV, and he didn't overlook some details that I had previously not comprehended. It seems that Edward IV had a peculiar way of ignoring rules and making stuff up as he went along to whatever suited his current needs. King Edward had even declared a countess legally dead in order for her lands to be distributed, even though she was very much alive. It becomes more understandable of the unrest at the time when Edward ignored the Yorkist nobles' alliances with families regarding betrothals, bequeathals and land disputes. Even though most of the disgruntled nobles placed the blame on "the upstart Woodvilles", we cannot but help but wonder where Edward's mind was once he continued to stir the pot more and more. And so the magic/witch/evil spell factor comes back into play, because certainly Edward would not have knowingly been such an idiot when he married the Woodville widow...and he certainly would not normally have misplaced all his trust with the Woodvilles who were (up till then) staunch Lancastrian supporters. I had read Baldwin's non-fiction book on Elizabeth Woodville a few years ago and I recall enjoying it more than other WOTR non-fiction. His writing in The Women of the Cousins' War was just as enjoyable.

Michael Jones then writes of Margaret Beaufort, and we learn about her family and her own father's tragic life. He had committed suicide when Margaret had turned a year old, but as Jones tells it, he was never far from her mind. Jones writes of John Beaufort's tragic exile, his plundering the spoils of battles, enraging the pious Henry VI, his ultimate suicide and ponders what effect did these events have on Margaret? Jones emphasizes Margaret's political acumen and her very act of survival during those politically treacherous times with appraisal. There were a few more details of Margaret's family that I had not realized before, and her family's name going back and forth in and out of royal favor occurred more than I had realized. Margaret's ultimate success of seeing her son on the throne of England, and finally her grandson succeeding the throne without protest, must have been sweet success indeed.

The Women of the Cousins' War is a quick read without bogging down the reader with minutia of details regarding the many angles and intrigues of the Wars of the Roses, and is a worthy resource (family trees, illustrations, notes and sources, and index included) for those who wish to know the real story behind the formidable women featured in Philippa Gregory's novels of the Cousins' War.

Sep 1, 2011

RELEASE DAY! Guest Post: Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

In honor of Elizabeth Chadwick's release day today I wanted to present this article written by Elizabeth Chadwick which was previously posted in June.

Lady of the English paperback has been released by Sourcebooks and you can also look for the beautiful hardcover from the June UK release by Sphere at the BookDepository or Amazon.uk. I really enjoyed this newest medieval novel from Elizabeth Chadwick (my review can be found here).

UK release, Sphere, 6/2011
Two very different women are linked by destiny and the struggle for the English crown. Matilda, daughter of Henry I, is determined to win back her crown from Stephen, the usurper king. Adeliza, Henry's widowed queen and Matilda's stepmother, is now married to William D'Albini, a warrior of the opposition. Both women are strong and prepared to stand firm for what they know is right. But in a world where a man's word is law, how can Adeliza obey her husband while supporting Matilda, the rightful queen? And for Matilda pride comes before a fall ...What price for a crown? What does it cost to be 'Lady of the English'?

One of the most favored historical fiction authors of our day, here is Elizabeth Chadwick, as I asked her to set the scene of her new novel for those who might not be familiar with The White Ship disaster and the ensuing struggle between Empress Matilda and King Stephen. I myself had read When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman which begins with the White Ship Disaster. That book got me started on this fabulous journey of the medieval era, and it is with eager anticipation that I get my reading pleasure back to that historic time period.



US release, Sourcebooks 9/1/11
LADY OF THE ENGLISH

Setting the Scene

On November 25th 1120, King Henry I of England was at Barfleur in Normandy preparing to return to England. He was in settled middle age, but still looking to the future. His eldest son William was in his late teens and being groomed to eventually succeed his father as Duke of Normandy and King of England. Henry's daughter Matilda, also in her late teens was Empress of Germany. Henry's wife, Matilda, had died two years ago, but Henry was now looking to remarry and had already set matters in motion and was contracting to wed Adeliza of Louvain, a young woman of similar age to his daughter. Adeliza was accounted beautiful and pious, and Henry was keen to marry, and hopefully beget more legitimate heirs beyond the two born of his first wife. Henry had something of a reputation for liking the ladies and fathered at least a score of bastards on various women.

But that cold winter's night in Normandy, everything was to change. Henry set sail first in daylight with a lot of older, sober court members, but left the youngsters including his son and several of his illegitimate offspring, to their carousing and pleasure. It was the last Henry ever saw of them. The White Ship foundered when it hit a rock in Barfleur harbour, and sank without survivors save one - a butcher who clung to a spar and was washed ashore.

Henry's whole game plan had to change because now the only legitimate heir to the throne was his daughter Matilda in Germany. He went ahead with his marriage plans, but it became obvious that no child was going to be forthcoming from Adeliza. Young and beautiful though she was, she did not quicken. Henry began to cast around for a successor and his gaze fixed upon his nephew Stephen, son of his sister Adela. Stephen had an older brother Theobald, who would become count of Blois, and a younger brother Henry who was destined for the priesthood. Stephen in the middle seems to have attracted King Henry's interest and approval. He had grown up at the court with tragic young Prince, and had only been saved from drowning himself because he was suffering from a stomach upset and preferred not to embark on the fated White Ship.

Henry married Stephen to Matilda of Boulogne, who was kin on her mother's side to the old Royal Saxon house of England, thus giving Stephen a firm claim to the Crown. There was another claimant to the throne too, a young man called William le Clito. He too was Henry's nephew, but an enemy because he was the son of Henry's older brother, Robert. Henry had defeated Robert in battle way back in 1106, and had had him cast into prison ever since - where he was subsequently to die. When le Clito was old enough, he took up his father's gauntlet and laid claim to England and Normandy. However Henry's grip was strong and sure, and although le Clito fought hard, he was hampered by a lack of resources and his threat to Henry was to end in 1128 when he died from a poisoned battle wound.

In 1125 the Emperor of Germany died untimely, leaving Henry's daughter Matilda a widow. Suddenly there was a new player in the game. Henry summoned Matilda home and had the barons swear to her as their future sovereign. This did not sit well with many of his lords and clergy, but Henry was so strong a King, and ruled with such charisma and iron that no one dared oppose him. However, he did not cast off Stephen entirely. As I have him say in LADY OF THE ENGLISH:

‘A prudent man keeps more than one horse in the stable, but there is always one he prefers to ride.’

And that is exactly how I believe Henry felt. He could play one off against the other. If one displeased him or if policy changed that he could turn to the other. I also think that he was hoping to live forever, or at least until his grandson's were grown up. Externally he might have prepared to meet his own mortality, but internally he had no intention of giving up his fistfuls of power.

When he did eventually die – (did he jump or was he pushed?) The Blois faction were well placed to seize the Crown, and I think their swift action was premeditated. Stephen was at Wissant which was a short sea journey from England, and his brother Henry was at Winchester and in control of the Royal Treasury. You tell me whether there was a conspiracy or not!

Matilda on the other hand was in Anjou with her husband and sons, and newly pregnant again. No one came galloping to offer her the crown. Instead it was all stitched up by the Blois faction and the reluctance of barons to accept a woman on the throne, when they could have a man.

Nevertheless, they had sworn their allegiance to Matilda, and Matilda had not only her own right to fight for, but that of her small son, Henry - and fight she did, to the great cost of the lands involved, the people, and herself.

Adeliza helped her in that fight. Indeed Adeliza was immensely important to Matilda. After Henry died she married William D’Albini, a young baron who was a staunch supporter of Stephen. But despite her loyalty to her husband, Adeliza was determined to do what she felt was right by old obligations and ties. When Matilda came to England to fight her corner, it was Adeliza who gave her a safe landfall.

LADY OF THE ENGLISH begins the story in 1125 when Matilda is setting out from Germany to return home, and Adeliza is despairing that she will never bear Henry an heir. Both women were titled ‘Lady of the English’ in their lives, and and that's why I chose it for the novel. It was always given to the Queen of England in that period, and although Matilda never gained the Crown, she was acknowledged with that tribute.

THANKS SO MUCH TO MS. CHADWICK!!
Also, please visit some of my other Elizabeth Chadwick posts, which includes reviews of previous titles. Additionally, you may visit with Elizabeth Chadwick on her blog and website. Also, very helpfully Elizabeth Chadwick has kindly supplied us with a Suggested Reading Order for her novels which can be found here.