Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Forbidden Queen by Anne O'Brien

This is a review also for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Recently I read The King's Concubine by the same author. Being a fan of historical fiction and loving reading such fiction about real persons, this was a very good book. It was also about Alice Perrers, of whom I did not know, and even the king, Edward III, to which she was the mistress, and the queen, Philippa of Hainault, I didn't know that much. But after such a book, it is easier to grasp history as well.

It was with great happiness that I downloaded The Forbidden Queen by the same author. She does not make you disappointed. It seems as always, well researched, and she is able to make the persons come alive. This book is about Catherine of Valois that were wed to Henry V in 1420. She was a young, naive girl, having grown up in a monastery. She fell in love with her husband. The times were turbulent so most of the time he was off fighting in the war with France. She bore a son in December 1421, the future Henry VI, which the father never saw. He died of dysentery in France in 1422.

Catherine of Valois
The future Henry VI, being only a child could not govern. An interim government was led by his uncle, Catherine's brother-in-law, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. They did not get along and her life as a very young widow was not easy. She was the Dowager Queen and as such did not have too much space to live her own life. Normally, a Dowager Queen was already old but she was only 21 years old, and the future prospects bleak. In principal she was not supposed to marry again.

Henry V
The book mostly tells the story of these times and she actually did marry again, and at least according to the book, had a quite happy life. I will not spoil the whole story by telling in detail what is happening. Anne O'Brien manage to describe her life, and the life of the times in a very compelling way. You can visualise it, as you read. She weaves her story around known events and make it all very exciting and thrilling to read. I usually check a little bit of real history while, or after, I read historical fiction, and she seems to follow well actual events.

What I like about books like these is that they tell the stories of the queens and wives who are, mostly, not very visible in our history books. It also feels great to read historical fiction and concentrate on a specific time. I have read a fictional book about Richard III, this books takes place in the beginning of 15th century. I am now reading The Kingmaker's Daugther by Philippa Gregory which takes places a little bit later in the 15th century.

Reading historical fiction taking place in the 15th century you run into the War of the Roses; the fight between the two houses of the Plantagenet; Lancaster and York. Philippa Gregory has written lovely books about this time. To me the whole affair has been rather confusing and I have not been able to separate the families and their fights. Here, and in The Kingmaker's Daughter, however, it fall into place, at least partly.

Catherine married an Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur from Wales, more known in England as Owen Tudor! They got four children. The eldest son, Edmund, Earl of Richmond, married Margaret Beaufort and their son Henry became the future Henry VII! He is from the house of Lancaster. He was fighting to conquer the throne from  Richard III (house of York), which he finally did when Richard III died in the battle of Bosworth in 1485. He married Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV (Richard's brother and predecessor) and thus uniting the two houses and starting one of the most successful royal dynasties in England. Are you with me?

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