My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The last of the trilogy covers the last thirty years of Eleanor of Acquitaine’s life. The book starts with her still imprisoned by her cruel tyrannical husband Henry the second. His four sons are still champing at the bit with their controlling father who will not relinquish control of any part of his massive territory of England, parts of Wales, part of Ireland and the western half of modern day France.
A perfect storm is brewing with the sons in their twenties now, with a failed coup that led to their mother’s imprisonment and dissatisfaction still simmering against their father and uncertainty over their futures. Meanwhile Eleanor can do nothing to help them, or even communicate with them from her prison in Sarum Palace (modern day Salisbury). Henry tries to force an annulment by dangling her freedom with the unattractive prospect of being pushed into a nunnery as part of the bargain. The battle of wills continues and it leads to sixteen years of imprisonment of a wife by her husband which ends only with her husband’s death, when her sons liberate her and finally take the crown. The problem is that since Henry never gave a clear cut apportioning of territory, the sons battle amongst themselves to out-do each other and grab the crown for themselves. The youngest son, John is not one to recognise primogeniture and accept his older brother King Richard will have to be king before him, and he plots and sabotages for the crown with King Philippe of France.
Of the eight children Eleanor has with her second husband Henry the second, six die before her, for various reasons ranging from sickness, to accidents to childbirth. When Eleanor finally dies at Fontevraud Abbey, where her tomb, and the tombs of her husband King Henry II, her third son King Richard and her third daughter Joanna lie, her youngest child King John holds the throne and loses most of the empire that Eleanor and Henry fought for. King John went on to become one of the most infamous kings of British History, the Magna Carta king.
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