Thursday, 19 January 2012

Kim's Review: The Captive Queen

The Captive Queen is the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine - the only woman to have married the King of France and the King of England.

Eleanor is an educated, strong willed woman married to Louis VII the king of France when she is 15. Though she gives him 2 daughters, she soon tires of his monastic ways and the disapproval of his court. Her chance encounter with Henry of Anjou at the French court, inflames her passions and she seeks a divorce from Louis on grounds of consanguinity.

Henry is as ambitious as her and while his father is Count of Anjou, his mother Matilda is the daughter of Henry I - King of England. Matilda claims that her right to the throne is stronger than that of the current incumbent - her cousin Stephen.This makes Henry feel like he has a right to the English throne and he focuses all his enrgy on fighting for it through wars and political alliances.

While Henry is dashing and charming, he is also moody, a womaniser and vicious.The captive queen focuses on the tumultous relationship between Henry II and Eleanor and Thomas Beckett. Henry's final betrayal by Beckett makes him suspicious of the loyalties of his own wife and children. Hence he refuses to hand over any responsibility to his sons and uses his children as political pawns on the chessboard of Franco-English-Germanic politics.

Eleanor who feels strongly for the rights of her own children, supports them and Henry interprets that as her betrayal and has her locked away in a castle with only one peasant maid for company who is also instructed to share her bed.

Its a very interesting story told from the perspective of Eleanor who has been reviled in history as the cause for most of the wars fought in her time.

Alison Weir is a wonderful story teller and draws the reader into the tale completely. By the end of it, there would be hardly anyone who would blame Eleanor for her actions.She comes across as a strong, independent woman who would have been very comfortable in todays world. But she was too independent for her time.

Rating: 4.5/5

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