Select one of the keywords
Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine    by Alison Weir order for
Captive Queen
by Alison Weir
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alison Weir, author of both excellent historical biographies and fiction (including Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey, The Lady Elizabeth, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, and Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster), now turns her hand to the tale of one of the most turbulent royal relationships ever, that of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II of England.

As the novel opens, Eleanor, heiress of Aquitaine in her own right, is Queen of France, but has born her monkish husband Louis VII only two daughters, largely because of his reluctance to come to her bed. Ignored by her spouse, the passionate and lovely Eleanor has indulged in two brief affairs, one with Geoffrey, Count of Anjou. Now in 1151, Geoffrey has brought Henry, his arrogant eighteen-year-old son and heir, to the French court. Despite her previous liaison with the father, Eleanor is immediately struck by the son's 'deep and powerful sexuality.' The attraction is mutual, and they make plans to end Eleanor's marriage to Louis, be together permanently, and build an empire side by side.

Eleanor persuades Louis to seek an annulment and secretly arranges to wed Henry. But, though their marital bed is all that she had hoped for, the full political partnership that she anticipated does not materialise. Eleanor is particularly unhappy that Henry ignores her wishes with respect to her own Duchy of Aquitaine. She bears him sons, tolerates his mother Matilda's hostility, and does her best to win the hearts of his English subjects. But she is unable to like Thomas Becket, who rises quickly in the king's favor. Though Becket seems 'the ideal administrator and diplomat', Eleanor distrusts his influence over Henry, as he competes with her for control of affairs.

Alison Weir shows how, over time, the grand passion that began Henry's and Eleanor's relationship is diluted by the realities of power, by Henry's surprising deference to Becket, and by Eleanor's support of her sons' (particularly Richard's) ambitions. She makes credible Becket's murder and Henry's subsequent regret; the king's turning from his queen to a younger, more malleable lover, Rosamund de Clifford; Eleanor's long and cruel imprisonment; and Henry's growing conflict with his own sons - all of which ultimately pull apart what Eleanor and Henry had built together.

If you've ever wondered about the tumultuous life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, you won't go wrong reading Alison Weir's fascinating imagined version of it. Though I didn't enjoy it quite as much as The Lady Elizabeth, Weir does her subject justice in Captive Queen.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Historical books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews