'The Plantagenet Prelude' by Jean Plaidy.
The life of Eleanore of Aquitaine is chronicled in this novel. A forthright, highly spirited, clever and beautiful young woman who at the age of 15years succeeded her father as the Duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitiers. She was keen to show the world that a woman could rule as well as any man. Therefore when the French Prince Louis was mentioned as a possible suitor,although not to her personal liking , she submitted to the marriage as the role of queen was her goal.
This was not a happy marriage , Louis was a weak man, one more suited to a monastery than a court. Consequently Eleonore's eyes wandered to various other men.On meeting Geoffrey Plantagenet, Henry's father the two became lovers. In addition to their personal meanderings Eleonore also found that she could discuss affairs of state with Geoffrey and he valued their critical discussions. However, this relationship soon ended when Eleonore met his son, Henry, a man 12 years her junior.But one with a violent temper who was easily enraged.
'She had seen him lie on the floor and gnaw at the rushes in his fury.There were times when she thought he would go mad, for his eyes would be wild, his nostrils would flare and he would resemble a lion to which people compared him.'
Although mother to two daughters by Louis, she was determined to end their marriage and although unwilling Louis eventually agreed to a divorce.
Her relationship with henry had already produced one child by the time of their marriage in 1152.
Married life in England brought the death of her first son . But more children were born and for a time their lives were happy.
As Eleonore had taken numerous lovers, so Henry's eyes began to wander. A mistress of long standing was given a residence in the castle grounds unknown to his wife and this continued for many years.
Henry's chancellor at this time was Thomas Becket, a man of humble origins but an honest and upright character.The friendship between the King and Thomas flourished . Eventually Thomas was made Archbishop of Canterbury and thereby head of the church in England. Following this were many clashes between state and church and in particular between King and Archbishop as Henry tried to rule both establishments.
''I would remind you, ' he said ,'that when I was chosen to become Archbishop , before my consecration I was delivered over by the King to the Church of Canterbury, free from all secular claims. I place my person and the Church of Canterbury under the protection of God and the Pope.''
During these harsh times Henry's temper knew no bounds and consequently his reign was badly scarred and his life with Eleonore would never be the same. Her children would become her solace and her revenge on her husband.
This is the first book in 'The Plantagenets' group. I have already read it's sequel ' The Revolt of the Eaglets', which I thoroughly enjoyed. However,this particular book I found a little slow at first but once a few pages in the story was as engrossing as all 'Plaidys'.