The Queen’s Pawn
I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation, smart reviews for modern readers on Sirius XM Book Radio. The book is The Queen’s Pawn by Christy English.
I’ve gotten three books this year about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and another handful about her royal descendants. That’s more than I’ve received about Elvis or Michael Jackson, and only slightly less than Jesus. Why is the story of a woman who lived over eight hundred years ago, who left no letters, wrote no world-changing laws, and was essentially locked in a tower for much of her later life, still such a compelling figure? There were lots of queens, empresses and ladies who had lives of drama and passion, but Eleanor she was different. She was educated, she could read and write in Latin, she went on Crusades, she had a head for politics and was a master manipulator of people and events. Her only blind spot, if you can call it that, was her undying love for Henry. (Not the Tudor Henry, he came a bit later. Also, this Henry married only once.) He was either a just and good king or a bi-polar nightmare; I guess that depended on whether or not you were married to him.
Christy English loves Eleanor, that much was abundantly clear from my reading of The Queen’s Pawn. She uses the technique of having our queen narrate every other chapter, and contrasts her worldly and educated voice with the very young, very naïve Princess Alais of France. Alais is Eleanor’s ward and the intended of her son, and she serves as a murky mirror to the older woman.Ê Try as she might, Alais is just too tenderhearted to really dive in to the political games which consume the family. And when Henry takes a liking to the young girl, what’s she going to do? Tell the king no? (You can’t tell the king no.) She’s out of her depth in every way.
While we might have come a long way in terms of sanitation and air conditioning, power games, love, lust and loyalty or its lack will always be thoroughly modern. Maybe that’s why the story of Eleanor and Henry continues to inspire.