Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: The Road To Compiegne

This one is the second in the Revolution Series by Jean Plaidy- and I absolutely loved it!  Moving on from the first book, (Louis the Well-Beloved- see my review here),  which portrays Louis from birth to the beginning of his relationship  with La Marquise de Pompadour- in this volume, Louis goes from well-beloved by his people, to completely loathed. Hunger is prevalent and the country is in turmoil, but Louis rather than owning up to his responsibilities, lives in complete denial while alienating himself all the more.  He can no longer travel to Paris due to the extreme danger it poses him.  The people are enraged and blame his excessiveness and abiding loyalty to La Pompadour for their misery.  He is considered a weak ruler that takes counsel from his mistress to reign over the country.
La Pompadour certainly had her say in politics and did advise Louis on all matters of state, however, much of her say was based on how Louis felt- literally. When Louis was down and feeling horrible about himself, Madame la Pompadour would do anything in her power to make him feel as though it wasn’t his fault- this set her in an advantageous position: She became the person he most wanted to be with- his true friend and confidante...someone he would always want around him.
For La Pompadour, Louis meant everything.  She needed to keep him happy and content in all ways...BUT- there was one area where she just could not keep up with him.  Louis was an insatiable lover and La Pompadour, who was rather frail in health, could not deliver...so, she thought of a little solution.  In order to keep Louis ‘content’ she provided him with young (but not particularly bright or ambitious) young girls to service him.  Meanwhile, she strategically moved out of Court to her own place, in order to offer the people a diversion- Now no one could say that she was coercing the King in matters of politics or as a ‘mistress’. She would now be known as his ‘good friend’.  This way she covered her reputation, kept the King by her side for all emotional comfort (which he constantly needed) and gave him his pleasurable diversions.
This plan would go on until the very end.  When La Pompadour died, in came La Du Barry; A complete turn-around in terms of class and composure.  Yet, Louis was bewitched by her to his very last days.  The book also brings us Louis’ daughters and the longing, yet never fulfilled relationship they so needed with their dad. There was much competition, slyness and direct confrontations all for the love of their father.  It was a constant trial to rid him of his mistresses (they never succeeded).  Marie Antoinette also appears by the end of the novel.
Excellent book about a period I am most fascinated by- so I’m now really looking forward to reading Extravagant Queen.
I love this series!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The World’s a Stage by Kathleen Kellow (Jean Plaidy)

It seems Jean Plaidy has surprised me once again!

I’ve been wrapped up in a novel by Ciji Ware titled Wicked Company, which features fictional characters for the most part, but also touts a host of real historical figures. One such is the 18th century actor/playwright/theater manager David Garrick, who is also one of my favorite personalities in the novel. He is kind and understanding of Sophie’s struggles and helps her by encouraging and employing her talents at Drury Lane.

Reviewing some of Plaidy’s older (mostly unavailable) titles, I found that she published a novel based on David Garrick (1960)!

The World’s a Stage: The true story of the eighteenth century British actor David Garrick and his lover, Peg Woffington

I can’t find a description, unfortunately. I think I will start a petition to get all of JP’s older novels reprinted! It’s very discouraging to find gems like this but no way to order them.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

new Plaidy reprints!

Next year Random House is breaking out of the Queens of England and Tudor series (finally) and publishing reprints of Madonna of the Seven Hills and Light on Lucrezia! They will be available to purchase January 18, 2011.

Somehow I think the new HBO Borgia show has something to do with the decision to print these, but whatever the reason we here at Royal Intrigue are glad to know they are continuing to reprint Plaidy books. We are crossing our fingers that they don't use 1/3rd portion of a period lady in the wrong era dress! Bring back the portrait covers, please!!!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We're Back! Happy Birthday Jean Plaidy!!

Eleanor Alice Burford Hibbert (Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, etc)
September 1, 1906 - January 18, 1993

What is it about Jean Plaidy that has millions of readers so fascinated by her writing? Obvioiusly her prolific style and impeccable historical accuracy are major reasons why so many people love her books- BUT, there’s something more than just that...if you’re hooked on Plaidy like we are here at Plaidy’s Royal Intrigue, you’ll get what I mean...don’t you find that her characters literally come to life...almost like spirits telling their own story? I always get that feeling. It’s almost as though the characters had some private meeting with her where they shared a real heart-to-heart and then Plaidy got privy to writing all about it. Another thing that always seems to amaze me, is that (in my experience) I’ve yet to read a book of hers that I didn’t get totally sucked into-Yes- her books capture my entire attention and set me off to the very time and place-always!

It’s all so mysterious. And while we’re on the topic of mysterious; what about the Plaidy Lady herself...I believe she’s the most mysterious yet! I wish I could come across some bit of biography or tip on how she lived her life- something (besides the only source we have on her so far- read it here) that would shed some light on how she went about her writing and life.

So, Arleigh and I thought how nice if we could honor her Birthday with an improvisation interview (a mock interview if you like;)- Just to get a feeling of what a conversation with her might sound like.

Let’s see..what would Plaidy say...

Let us know if you thimk she waould have said it diffefrently! Join in the fun!

1. Is there a particular period that fascinates you most? Which one and why?

I think it's apparent that I prefer writing based on my own country's history, though I cannot claim a particular favorite era. I enjoy giving voice to the misunderstood and there are very many among the British royalty and nobility who fit into that category.

2. Of all the novels you’ve written, which is your favoirite- why?

I quite enjoyed exonerating both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard in Murder Most Royal, before writing their own individual stories in The Lady in the Tower and The Rose Without a Thorn. Henry VIII was a most interesting character to develop owing to his need to quell his conscious yet follow his desires. The careful reader will pick up on my disdain for the man, though I feel I did him justice.

3. Favourite character? Favourite royal?

I heartily enjoyed writing the witticisms and jolly nature of Charles II in my trilogy: The Wandering Prince, A Health Unto His Majesty and Here Lies Our Sovereign Lord. You can also find quips from him in related novels on his wife, brother and nieces. Charles is my favorite royal for his humor, courage and loyalty. He charmed the people, walked among them and helped extinguish the Great Fire with his own hands. He did not discard his wife, though she was barren and Catholic. Oh yes, he was unfaithful, but respectfully so and never did he dishonor her as Queen. He may have been lackadaisical in the political and religious arenas, but we see with his brother, James, how being otherwise cost the throne.

4. Is there any historical figure that you have not written about that you wish you had?

Many, but a writer has to tell the stories that demand to be told. Fifty years of writing is a wonderful gift and I have done with my time as well as I could. I'm sure my readers would have appreciated more novels set on the Continent, but it cannot be denied that the British monarchy is full of tales enough to busy any writer. I did, however, venture from England under my nom de plume Victoria Holt; places such as Italy, Southern France, Australia and the Orient.

5. We know that you typed away diligently at your typewriter on a daily basis. What was your source of inspiration? a particular muse perhaps? And what special advice can you give aspiring historical fiction writers?

I love to travel and discover new places, which leads to fantastical story lines and wonderful characters. I've spent my later years on cruise ships exploring the world, and it's all the muse one needs! As for advice: read as much as you can. Reading is experience. Had I not had so much free time in my youth I do not know if my love of history would have been established.

6. Lastly, Ms. Plaidy is there anything you would like to share with us regarding your private life…(some of us would love to know your favourite colour, if you own a pet, had a best friend…?)

I am not overly fond of animals, except perhaps the exotic birds I have encountered on my travels. Sadly my solitary lifestyle does not afford me the opportunity to confide in any one special person, but I have many friends with whom I correspond regularly. My favourite colour is Royal Blue.

And we end this BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION with a gift to you Plaidy lovers! One brand new Arrow reprint (UK version) of Madonna of the Seven Hills to a lucky winner! This giveaway is open worldwide and ends September 13th.

"In a castle in the mountains outside Rome, Lucrezia Borgia is born into history's most notorious family. Her father, who is to become Pope Alexander VI, receives his first daughter warmly, and her brothers, Cesare and Giovanni, are devoted to her. But on the corrupt and violent streets of the capital the Borgia family is feared, and Lucrezia's father causes scandal, living up to his reputation of 'most carnal man of his age'. As Lucrezia matures into a beautiful young woman, her brothers are ever more protective and become fierce rivals for her attention. Amid glorious celebrations their father becomes Pope, and shortly after Lucrezia is married - but as Borgias the lives of the Pope's children are destined to be marred by scandal and tragedy, and it's a fate that Lucrezia cannot hope to escape."

For those who may be wondering just where in the heck Lucy & Arleigh have been... well, it's been a very busy summer! We plan to be more active so look for new reviews and posts soon! The Jean Plaidy Challenge is still open and the pages will be updated shortly. Thank you all for visiting!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

review: A Favorite of the Queen

A Favorite of the Queen

By Jean Plaidy

Also printed as Gay Lord Robert and Lord Robert

The story begins with Robert Dudley’s father at the execution of his father, Edmund Dudley, who had been used as an example to the people that the new King Henry VIII would please his people. The elder Dudley was Henry VII’s cruel tax collector and as such deserved to die a traitor’s death. John Dudley grew up to regain both his family fortunes and titles, though it was hard-won through battle and diplomacy. He formed the right connections at court, married his children off well and set them on the path to prosperity. Unfortunately for the Dudleys, their reins on the government ended when they supported Lady Jane Grey instead of Mary Tudor on Edward VI’s death.

Elizabeth and Robert met in childhood through the royal children’s classroom. He found her haughty, yet fascinating and she found him too outspoken for someone she deemed beneath her. They next meet at the Tower when each is imprisoned by Queen Mary. Elizabeth is free to walk the grounds and soon finds a way to communicate with Robert, which soothed them both during those perilous months.

As promised, Robert was the first to inform Elizabeth of her sister’s death and she instantly made him Master of the Horse. From here the story is less detailed and moves swiftly through Elizabeth’s reign with Robert at her side. One of the most impressive parts of this novel is the descriptions of Elizabeth’s mindset. For example:

Pages 241-242

“To England the Queen was a symbol. She gathered handsome and chivalrous men about her; they must be gallant and adventurous. She wished to be to them a fair ideal, the mistress they all wished to serve because they were in love with her perfections; yet she was the mother, and their welfare was the clearest concern of her life. She was Woman, warm and human, yet because she was an anointed Queen, she was invulnerable and unassailable. She wanted her men to be bold, to perform feats of courage and adventure for her sake; these she rewarded with her smiles and favors. She was a spiritual mistress; they must be faithful to her; they must perpetually seek to please her, their thoughts of her, must be the words and thoughts of lovers. They must all be in love with her; to them she must be the perfect woman. But they must never forget that she was mistress of them all. And while to her handsome and gallant courtiers, to her statesmen and soldiers, she was the queenly mistress and beloved woman, they must constantly remember that to her people she was Mother—the all-embracing Mother-and her thoughts and her energies were directed toward the good of her people. She wished England to be a happy home for her people—a prosperous home—and as, to her belief no home could be happy and prosperous unless it were peaceful, she abhorred war.”

The book description of the reprint puts emphasis on the death of Robert’s first wife, Amy Dudley, which is understandable even though that particular event was not the basis of the story. Plaidy wrote an Author’s Note to explain her thoughts on the mysterious death and why she came to the conclusion that it was, in fact, a murder arranged by her husband. However, Amy death continues to haunt Robert throughout his life and in this sense Amy’s story is one of the main focuses.

This is not an amazing read for the Tudor expert, or really even the casual historical fiction fan with knowledge of the Elizabethan times. I cannot claim one event from the book was new to me, but then I have also read Queen of This Realm and My Enemy the Queen, which are both detailed reads on Elizabeth, Leicester and Lettice by Jean Plaidy. It was a good refresher, especially with the Queen’s martial issues, foreign relations and much philosophizing on her thoughts and behavior. Overall, I count it as an enjoyable read, but not one of my favorite Plaidy novels.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Author's Note: A Favorite of the Queen

Jean Plaidy says:

In writing of what is undoubtedly one of history's most puzzling relationships, it is perhaps advisable to add a few remarks in order to justify the conclusions to which I have come. This is particularly the case with regard to the mysterious death of Amy Robsart.

All that happened on that Sunday morning at Cumnor Place will never be known. Was Amy's death due to accident, suicide, or murder? After studying available records my verdict cannot be anything but murder.

Consider the facts: The Queen was being pressed by her ministers to marry. She could not bear to forgo the attentions of Robert Dudley, and Robert could not give up the hope of sharing the throne. Thus Robert's wife Amy stood in the way of the two ruthless personalities. The Queen, in politics the soul of caution, had always been reckless in love. Scandal was circulating throughout the country concerning the relationship of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley. People remembered Thomas Seymour. Before Amy died there was a strong rumor that her death was being planned; and when it was said that Amy was suffering from a fatal malady, many believed that to be a false rumor set in motion to explain the death which was to follow. So persistent were the rumors, that a physician refused to attend Amy, fearing to be accused of administering poison should she die. This was the state of affairs when her minister, Cecil, returning from Edinburgh, found the Queen strained and nervous, and, to his astonishment, heard from her lips that Amy would soon be dead. Cecil, appalled, hurried from the Queen, and was so distraught that, coming face to face with the Spanish ambassador, he could not keep his suspicions to himself. "The Queen and Lord Robert Dudley are scheming to put Lord Robert's wife to death!" is what he said--according to the Spanish ambassador. And a few hours later Amy was found dead.

Why should the Spanish ambassador have written those revealing dispatched if the contents were untrue? Spain was no enemy of Robert's at that time, and Robert had won Philip's approval at St. Quentin.

An accident to Amy resulting in her death at such a time so convenient to Elizabeth and Robert is surely too incredible a coincidence to be accepted.

As for the suggestion of suicide, if Amy had wished to kill herself would she have chosen a method which, she must have known, might not result in death, but merely add acute pain and misery to her remaining years? Would any woman destroy herself in such a painful way in order to avoid being murdered?

Everything points to murder, apart from Amy's strange conduct on that Sunday morning in sending all her servants to the Fair. Why did she--in perpetual fear of murderers--clear the house of all the servants on that day which was to prove so tragic to her?

I have looked to her maid Pinto for the explanation, because from her first came the suggestion of suicide. It seemed that this suggestion came simply and unwittingly from Amy's maid; but was Pinto such a simpleton? What if the suggestion were not rung from her, but deliberately given? Might she not have known the true reason why the house was deserted on that Sunday morning? Let us consider what a woman would do when the whole country was hinting that she was about to be murdered. How would a devoted maid behave? As for my interpretation of Pinto's feelings for Robert, it must be remembered that, during his two and a half years' exile, he had lived in Norfolk and would have come into continual contact with Pinto; and if we can discover little of Pinto's character, we know much of Robert's.

It is the novelist's task to present a convincing story and, when the characters actually lived, to adhere to facts obtained by research, only diverging from them with good reason, e.g., when they are unknown, and then only making careful and responsible deductions as an aid to the completion of the story. Therefore I offer my views of what happened at Cumnor Place in the summer of 1560.

A Favorite of the Queen was also published as Gay Lord Robert and Lord Robert.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Plaidy Ladies in Louis The Well Beloved...

Here are are a few special Plaidy ladies in Louis XV’s life.  These can all be found in Louis The Well Beloved, Jean Plaidy   (see my review here).
All of these dames affected the King's life in particular ways.  I loved that Plaidy includes them all with so much detail revealing their very personal nature and relationship with the king. 
Here they are:
Duchesse de Ventadour

The very first love of Louis’ life was la Duchesse de Ventadour. This lady who gave herself completely to the upbringing, educating and raising of baby Louis, was in fact his governess.  La Duchesse de Ventadour was like his mother for the young king, since she took over his charge from the moment his whole family died (one after the other parcticallly)...The King would remember no other ‘Maman’ in his life than the adoring Duchesse de Ventadour. One can only imagine if Louis would have ever survived the disease that afflicted his whole family, had it not been for Maman Ventadour.  After seeing what little use the doctors had been to the dauphine, dauphin and older brother of the king- the governess would not let any of these men near the little guy.  She nursed him back to health herself.  What a grand lady indeed.
 Marie Victoire, Comtesse de Toulouse
 Another adoring female in Louis XV’s life was Marie Victoire, Comtesse de Toulouse, the only family member to be closest to Louis after the death of his family.  The Comtesse was married twice and both times to a descendant  of  Madame de Montespan (mistress of Louis’ great-grandfather, Louis XIV)...First to Montespan’s grandson and subsequently, to her son (sired by Louis XIV- such an intricate connection- ahh those royals!).  So, back to her relationship with Louis; The Comtesse de Toulouse lived in Versailles and ws very close to Louis- like a mother to him.  She never needed to make appointments to see the King and was allowed to attend many of his meetings.  The King also shared with her his private documents, news and private affairs. 
Infanta Mariana of Spain
 She was brought to France as Louis’ betrothed when she was just a little girl of 3 and Louis was but eleven.  Needless to say, the young king was NOT interested in this puny little child.  The Infanta however charmed everyone with her beauty and innocence.  She was infatuated by the King and hung on every moment hoping he would utter even just one word to her.  Sadly, when she was sent back to her country (the political arrangement having changed route), she was devastated (and Louis honestly could not care less).  But, life goes on and the Infanta later married Joseph I of Portugal.
 Madame de Prie ( Jeanne Agnès Berthelot de Pléneuf
The infamous Madame de Prie (read my previous post on her here), needed to find a suitable wife for Louis- one that would not jeopardize her own powers at court...The best possible choice was:
Marie Leszczyńska
 Marie Leszczyńska, was the daughter of the exiled King Stanislaw of Poland.  She was by no means pretty, nor exceptionally bright, she was older than Louis by at least 5 years; her family did not have any power politically; practically a non-candidate in the eyes of France.  So why her? Basically, Marie the Dauphine was a threat to no one(and that suited Madame de Prie just fine). But, lo and behold, Louis fell madly in love with her! For ahile they lived a life of marital bliss…until the Queen became overly religious to the point of abstaining from her marital duties on every Saint’s day on the calendar.  What lent to this diminishing and downright avoidance of ‘love’ can certainly be attributed to the almost yearly pregnancies (they had 12 children together!)- And as mentioned in a previous post; Louis’ voracious and lusty appetite was insatiable…basically, the Queen was exhausted by him.
Enter the Mistresses:
Now, the King was not at the time a filanderer of any sort.  Louis, although insatiable, was also very loyal.  There had never really been time to initiate the King in the ways of ‘Courtly Love’...but once it was made known that the King had had enough of the Queen’s refusals...the initiation quickly took place.
Louis was practically thrown into the arms of one of the Nesle sisters (from this family, there would be more than one...).  Enter the very willing; yet very shy...
Louise Julie de Mailly
Louise Julie de Mailly, Comtesse de Mailly soon became Louis’ inseparable partner.  She was sweet, gentle and never demanding.  In fact, the first time she ever met the King, she became competlely overwhelmed and could barely speak to him. Their meeting was a fiasco.  When finally they were reunited (by the powers who put this duo together), de Mailly showed less resistance, and much more willingness- this in itself paved the way for Louis to satiate his desires.  Together they enjoyed a rather peaceful time...too peaceful perhaps; for the moment de Mailly’s younger sister, Pauline Felicite, demanded that she be brought to court, everything changed. Ousted, yet by another sister-mistress, the subdued Comtesse de Mailly was expulsed from court and ended up in a convent.
Pauline Felicite de Mailly
Pauline Felicite de Mailly, Comtesse de Ventimille, soon ousted her own sister to become the King’s favourite.  She caught his attention through her wit.  Outspoken to the max, the King was in awe with her- and madly in love to boot.  Never had he encountered such a feisty lady.  She was fun, strong, smart and could hold her own against any man.  A sweetheart, though, she was not.  Ruthless in her ways, she liked to dabble in the King’s politics and this did not please the people.  Comtesse de Ventimille died when giving birth to Louis’ son.  Louis mourned her to no end.  He was inconsolable...until of course, he met yet another Nesle sister:
Marianne de Mailly, Duchesse de Charteroux

This sister was the most beautiful.  Her trick to win the King’s heart was her approach in consoling Louis in the death of her sister- his deceased mistress.  She conned him into believing that they shared a love for Ventimille. Eventually, this so-called friendly relationship, switched gears to end up in, where else but; the King’s bed.  La Duchesse de Charteroux appeased the King’s sensuality while invigorating his sense of battle.  Off to war went the King, pushed by the Duchess’s behind- the- scenes politics.  It was only when the King became suddenly ill that all his guilt broke loose.  To absolve himself of all sins, repentance was necessary – the mistress had to go.  When the people heard this, they were ecstatic! But on her way out, the Duchess was nearly mauled to death.  This is not what killed her; death became her suddenly not too long after leaving the king.  There is some speculation that the King did spend some time forgetting her by being entertained by yet another of the sisters (the last one, thankfully), but not for long.  Madame de Lauragais was but a mere note in passing for the King already had his eye on the notorious...
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson: Madame de Pompadour

What a beauty!  At the age of nine, a gypsy predicted that she would one day become the King’s Mistress.  With that foretelling, her mother made it her purpose in life to have the young Jeanne Antoinette receive the highest education and training in becoming the perfect young lady fit for a king.  That she became, and the King quickly took notice of her.  Although he had once stayed as a guest at her chateau a while back while on a hunting trip(really- that was the extent of that unexpected visit), they met again much later during a masked ball given at the Court. Louis was immediately enthralled by her.  She left her husband (after all, she only got married because it was proper formality that a King’s mistress be married-imagine!) to move in at Court.  There she was primed and propped for etiquette and the ways of the Court.  Never leaving his side, Madame de Pompadour delighted and entertained the King in every way.  Could this enchantress keep up with the King’s insatiable lust?  How long would her grasp hold onto Louis XV?
Enough of these Plaidy Ladies for now...We will see more in the sequel:  The Road to Compiegne.
Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: Louis The Well Beloved

This deliciously French historical on Louis XV, the Well- beloved (le bien aimé) just led me to further embrace my passion for reading Plaidy. Simply put: History at its best. Yes, I did say history, because no matter that Plaidy’s novels classify as HF, you just need to read one to immediately understand that this is an accurate version of the past retold in its best form.

The story begins with the Sun King, Louis XIV (Louis XV’s great grandfather) on his death bed, his life imminently ending. From the moment the Sun King holds his little great grandson and tells him that he will be his successor, I fell in love with the little guy who would become the Well beloved of all of France.
If it weren’t for his great grandfather and uncles, Little Louis was left practically an orphan after the sudden deaths of both his parents and older brother. The only one left to mother him was his governess, whom he became completely and totally attached to (in my opinion, this in itself probably set the stage for loving in a grand way, all the subsequent ladies in his life).

It was incredibly interesting to read about Louis’ coming of age as a Little King admired by all. From the beginning we sense his kind nature and desire for closeness and intimacy (with the privileged few, mind you). Even more important, Louis stands out as one whose great aversion to any type of conflict or breach of etiquette was mega- or borderline insane.

Louis The Well Beloved takes us through Louis ’life, his reign and his loves...and of these, there were quite a few. Louis, in his all consuming passion for the ladies, was, believe it or not, incredibly faithful (especially for those times...and in France!). Without going into too much detail, I will mention the obvious Mistress, Madame de Pompadour; notorious for winning the King’s heart (she wasn’t the first nor the last though...). I love the way Plaidy portrays her in this novel. It’s a refreshing look at someone whom I thought to have been quite the opposite (well at least in this first book of this series).

Plaidy also brings in Louis’ children (mostly daughters) and shows us the King as an overly protective, doting
- father.  we get a good taste of what the princesses were like as well.  Louis was also a most loving husband. Yes, another surprise, this Queen was blessed with Kingly love. Too much love, in fact- Louis was insatiable. Sadly we see how their love slowly digressed- but the respect remained and neither was really to blame. Louis really tried.

As far as the country went, France loved her King. Louis could do no wrong. It was all the fault of either his ministers, tutors, queen or mistresses. Louis was their hero, but how long could they sing that tune? The seeds of the Revolution were slowly taking root. For how long could Louis remain The Well Beloved?

I f you love French history, and all the eccentricities of etiquette taken too far, along with a good dose of rapturous forbidden love- this Plaidy is for you. I absolutely must read 'Road to Compiegne' next- which is the sequel to this one.

Excellent !

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Detrimental Plaidy Lady: Madame de Prie...

I’m presently reading Louis The Well Beloved and could not wait for the end of the book, or my review before bringing up one very influential woman of the court at the times (not in a good way though..)
               Jeanne Agnès Berthelot de Pléneuf- better known as: Madame de Prie
by Jean-Baptiste Van Loo (1684-1745)
Madame de Prie (1698- 1727) was very present in the life of the young Louis XV.  As mistress of his uncle Louis Henri, Duc of Bourbon, she had a say in everything.  The latter was the grandson of Louis XIV (through his legitimized daughter... but that’s another story).  Anyhow, the Duc of Bourbon was legally in charge of the country and of the young King Louis XV for awhile...but his guidance and ruling were all under the influence of the grand ruler herself- Madame de Prie.
She was only 21 when she actually set foot as a predominant figure in the French court. Nonetheless, this dame was experienced anD ruthless to the max.  The whole country hated both her and the Duc for rising prices and all that was spent on lavish extravagances to benefit the two of them. Advancement is what it was all about for her.  She wished to rule France this way forever- and the best way to do that was for her to choose a rather seemingless, harmless and totally banale bride for the King-This way she could go on her merry way of ruling with her lover along the sidelines and reaping the benefits as the true queen 'herself'.
Who better to suit the situation than Marie Leczinska, whose father was nothing more than an exiled king of Poland? You couldn’t get any lower.  Plus, the queen-to-be was more than a few years older and, not that pretty at all.  Yet- Lo and behold, when the 16 year-old Louis first set eyes on her, he became totally infatuated by her.  Love, love, love.  First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage...
This could have been all fine and dandy, except that Queen Marie felt completely in debt to Madame de Prie and the Duc, so she of course was duped into believing and also being part of their scheming- a total naive.  The main plot was to rid themselves of Fleury, the King’s beloved Tutor.  The Duc and Company thought he was too close to ruling supreme because of his influence on the king...so, they needed to get rid of him.
Needless to say, the king caught on and that was the end of all of Madame de Prie’s scheming.  Exiled to Courbepine, the grand lady sipped her own poison and committed suicide the following year.

Note:  Throughout my read, I may be posting more villain laides- leading to my book review.  Stay tuned.  Louis VX’s life was filled with ladies and vixens it seems..

Saturday, April 3, 2010

my newest Plaidy: Milady Charlotte

Milady Charlotte (originally published under Kathleen Kellow)


Based on fact this is the dramatic story of Charlotte Walpole, who left her comfortable Norfolk home to act at Drury Lane, married Sir Edward Atkyns, and attempted to rescue Marie Antoinette from the guillotine.

It is also the story of Homer, the passionate, impulsive girl from the Cornish parsonage who, unwanted in her own home, joins her distant relation, Charlotte, in London.

Involved with the are Richard Danver, in the service of the British government; Jean Pierre de la Vaugon, serving the French government, the aristocrat who cannot hope to escape the attentions of the mob; the lecherous Sir Edward; and Sophie, the young girl for whom the guillotine is waiting.

The story, moving swiftly from the Cornish parsonage to London, Norfolk, Lille and Paris, tells of the loves and adventures in the lives of two very brave women. It will delight all readers of Jean Plaidy's memorable novels.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jean Plaidy non-fiction

Jean Plaidy wrote several non-fiction books on the Spanish Inquisition and I found that A Triptych of Poisoners is also non-fiction. I just received a 1971 Hale edition of the book and after perusing it for a while and looking it up online I finally came to the conclusion that it's not fiction. It's so funny that it's hard to tell the difference! The cover looks like her other Hale covers and the description on the book jacket does not specify that the book is not fiction, but there are illustrations and photos. Perhaps the biggest clue is that there is no dialog. Anyway, here is the book description.


What makes men and women commit murder? Is it environment and upbringing? Or is it some characteristic unaffected by surroundings and contacts? In this triptych, the author has sought to answer these questions by an analysis of the lives of three notorious poisoners, each guilty of more than one murder, and living in different periods of time.

First is Cesare Borgia, most notorious of all poisoners, who among his many crimes was suspected of the murder of his brother, and was the self-confessed murderer of his brother-in-law. Sadistic and sinister, even for fifteenth-century Italy, his brief life was one of the most evil ever lived. Was he to blame for his sins? Or does the blame lie with an indulgent parent and a barbaric age?

Second is Marie d'Aubray, Marquise de Brinvillers--beautiful, reckless poisoner of seventeenth-century Paris. Marie and her lover Sainte-Croix sought to discover the lost secrets of the Borgias, that she might remove those who stood between her and her family fortune. Visiting the Paris hospital as a Sister of Mercy, experimentally trying out her concoctions on the patients, Marie was indifferent to the sufferings of others. Was she to blame?

Last comes Edward Pritchard, the Glasgow doctor. Living mid-way through the Victorian era, the doctor was as knowledgeable in the art of poisoning as his predecessors and had no compunction in removing any who stood in his way.

In these studies Jean Plaidy discloses the similarity in all three and asks: Whose is the guilt?

Monday, March 15, 2010

book review: The Three Crowns

*The above edition will be released November 2, 2010

This is one of the Plaidy novels that has several mini-stories, though mostly focuses on the upbringing of Mary, daughter of the Duke of York and future Queen of England, and William of Orange. I’ve read The Queen’s Devotion (a reprint of William’s Wife) and had found it to be one of my least favorite Plaidy reads because she was not a strong protagonist. Had I known this one was mainly about her I may not have been so eager to read it.

It starts out with a lot of Charles II, so if you’re a fan you will enjoy his personality and witticisms. Jemmy, the Duke of Monmouth is a main character, and one of Mary’s favorite companions. The Duke of York, of course, plays a major role, at first with his Duchess, Anne Hyde, and then the story of Mary of Modena is expanded on from her early life.

One of the characters Plaidy surprised me with was a friend of William of Orange when they were children. They were thrown together with an idea of a possible future marriage (which did not end up happening). The lady turned out to be Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate, who later married Louis XIV’s brother, Philippe, who had been married to Charles II’s favorite sister, Minette. I have read of her in a couple of books, so it was fun to see her as a sort of wild child in this novel.

I was not looking forward to reading about Elizabeth Villiers, who was jealous and catty toward Mary from the start, because I knew she’d end up William’s mistress and I had enough of her from The Queen’s Devotion, but she wasn’t part of the main story. William’s personality was explained in much more detail and this is where Plaidy’s psychology background really shows. He is absolutely deplorable, yet you understand why he is this way. Mary, however, is a bit harder to figure out. My 21st century mind boggles at her meekness toward William; you just want to rebel for her.

The Three Crowns refers, not to the three candidates for the throne when Charles dies as I thought, but to a prophesy at William of Orange’s birth. The candles gutted out and when the midwife held him up in the air, she saw a light over his head that looked like to her three crowns. This was interpreted as England, Scotland and Ireland.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

cover deja vu

First of all, 'The Complete Tudors' is in ebook format and I don't really blame them for recycling the cover.

But this I don't agree with:

I mean, there is a century between Mary Queen of Scots and William of Orange and Mary. Not that I am an expert on dress, but if you have these two books on your shelf it just seems silly to have identical covers.

And below (I could not get the full size image to come up) replaces one of my favorite Plaidy covers.

I wished I were more of a fan of the new covers, but I'm just not. I appreciate that they are still reprinting my beloved Plaidy, but the portrait covers were fabulous... why change them? Marketing I suppose.

It's not just with the new Plaidy covers, but historical fiction in general. I really love Elizabeth Chadwick's covers; they show enough of the cover model to get a good visual and they are all very different. But, in general, I don't much like photographs of models in period dress. I like paintings, portraits and vector art (Victorian, paisley and elegant swirls).

What do you like in a cover?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

Someone, please reassure me, but I thought the Regency era started in 1811. This novel covers the end of Charles II's reign through William and Mary.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Author's Note: Here Lies Our Sovereign Lord

***Plaidy left a handful of Author's Notes among her many books, and as they are well-worded and enlightening I thought I would post them here occasionally. This has been typed from the 1973 Putnam hardcover edition.***

It is so generally believed that Charles died a Catholic that I feel I must explain why I do not hold that belief. The deathbed scene has always worried me a great deal because I have felt it to be out of line with Charles' character. Therefore I was anxious to find a convincing explanation.

It is true that Father Huddleston came to him on the night before he died, and that Charles made no protest when it was suggested that he be received into the Catholic Church; but when all the facts are considered I think there is a viewpoint, other than the accepted one, which serves to explain his acquiescence.

On that Sunday, the 1st February, 1685, he ate little all day; he passed a restless night and next morning, while he was being shaved, fell down 'all of a sudden in a fit like apoplexy'. He never fully recovered, although he had periods of consciousness during the next five days which were spent in great pain aggravated by the attention of his physicians who, not knowing what remedies to use, applied most of those which they had ever heard. During those five days, hot irons were applied to the King's head, pans of hot coals to all parts of his body, and warm cupping glasses to his shoulders while he was bled. Emetics, clysters, purgatives, blistering agents, foul-tasting drugs, and even distillations from human skulls, were given to him - not once but continually. Spirit of sal ammoniac was put under his nose that he might have vigorous sneezing fits, and when he slipped into unconsciousness cauteries were applied to revive him. So that in addition to the pain of his illness he had these tortures to endure.

He knew that he was dying on the Monday, yet he made no effort to see a priest. When Bishop Ken begged him to receive the rites of the Church of England he turned away; but this was a natural gesture, for he was suffering great pain and discomfort, and he had never been a religious man. All through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday he had been , as he said, 'an unconscionable time a-dying', and on Thursday night the Duke of York and the Duchess of Portsmouth (who both had their reasons) brought Huddleston to his bedside; and at this late hour, according to those few people who were present, Charles joyfully received Huddleston's ministrations.

I believe that Charles was too ill to resist the importunings of his brother and his mistress. I believe that in that easygoing manner which had characterized his entire life he gave way as he had so often before. That is if, after four days of acute agony, discomfort, and intermittent unconsciousness, he was even aware of what he was doing.

According to Burnet. Ken pronounced the absolution of his sins over the King's bed, and in his last hours Charles said that he hoped he should climb to Heaven's gate; 'which', goes on Burnet, 'is the only word savouring of religion that he was ever heard to speak'.

Charles' attitude to religion had always been constant. He had modelled himself on his maternal grandfather, Henri Quatre, who had ended religious strife in France when he changed from Huguenot to Catholic, declaring that Paris was worth a Mass. Charles believed that religious toleration was the way to peace. He was tolerant to Catholics, not because he was a Catholic, but because they were being persecuted. He had said of Presbyterianism: ''Tis no religion for gentlemen.' This was during his stay in Scotland when he had been forced to hear long prayers and sermons every day, and repent of so many sins that he said: 'I think I must repent that I was ever born.' He had declared: 'I want every man to live under his own vine and figtree.' But this did not mean he was Catholic.

His attitude to the Church was often frivolous. He had in his youth been hit on the head by his father for smiling at the ladies in church; and as Cunningham says, 'he had learned to look upon the clergy as a body of men who had compounded a religion for their own advantage'.

To his sister Henriette he wrote: 'We have the same disease of sermons that you complain of. But I hope you have the same convenience that the rest of the family has, of sleeping lost of the time, which is a great ease to those who are bound to hear them.' He greatly regretted that he had not been awake to hear delivered to Lauderdale a reproof from the pulpit: 'My lord, my lord, you snore so loud you will wake the King.' Burnet, who was a large and vehement man, had once when preaching thumped his pulpit cushion crying: 'Who dares deny it?' to which Charles answered audibly: 'Nobody within reach of that devilish great fist.'

It was Charles' belief that God would never damn a man for a little irregular pleasure; and he had declared his conviction that the greatest sins were malice and unkindness. Such a man would, in my opinion, never 'play safe' at the eleventh hour. He had borne great pain with immense courage and patience which astonished all who beheld it. He was not afraid of death. If he believed that malice and unkindness were the greatest sins he must also have believed that he had sinned less than most men of his age.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New cover for Royal Road to Fotheringhay

"Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland at the tender age of six days old. Her French-born mother, the Queen Regent, knew immediately that the infant queen would be a vulnerable pawn in the power struggle between Scotland’s clans and nobles. So Mary was sent away from the land of her birth and raised in the sophisticated and glittering court of France. Unusually tall and slim, a writer of music and poetry, Mary was celebrated throughout Europe for her beauty and intellect. Married in her teens to the Dauphin François, she would become not only Queen of Scotland but Queen of France as well. But Mary’s happiness was short-lived. Her husband, always sickly, died after only two years on the throne, and there was no place for Mary in the court of the new king. At the age of twenty, she returned to Scotland, a place she barely knew.

Once home, the Queen of Scots discovered she was a stranger in her own country. She spoke only French and was a devout Catholic in a land of stern Presbyterians. Her nation was controlled by a quarrelsome group of lords, including her illegitimate half brother, the Earl of Moray, and by John Knox, a fire-and-brimstone Calvinist preacher, who denounced the young queen as a Papist and a whore. Mary eventually remarried, hoping to find a loving ally in the Scottish Lord Darnley. But Darnley proved violent and untrustworthy. When he died mysteriously, suspicion fell on Mary. In haste, she married Lord Bothwell, the prime suspect in her husband’s murder, a move that outraged all of Scotland. When her nobles rose against her, the disgraced Queen of Scots fled to England, hoping to be taken in by her cousin Elizabeth I. But Mary’s flight from Scotland led not to safety, but to Fotheringhay Castle..."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Challenge Update!

Happy March everyone! We currently have 14 challengers in the 2010 Jean Plaidy Reading Challenge and here are the stats so far:

Arleigh - 2

Christina - 4

Lizzie - 3

Susie - 1

Good work everyone, and those of you who have yet to pick up a Plaidy this year... what are you waiting for??? Okay, I know we're all busy and have huge TBR stacks, so you're forgiven :) Please remember to email us when you've finished a book, and we would also love to link to your reviews! royalintrigue @ gmail . com

What Plaidy novel do you plan to read next? I'm up for just about anything, but have been eying my Stuart saga: The Three Crowns, The Haunted Sisters, The Queen's Favorites

Friday, February 26, 2010

March 2 (Tuesday) reprints!

I'm sorry about the lack of updates here. This has been a very busy month with reading and writing. I've had my nose in quite a lot of non-fiction lately, and mostly just chapters here and there in books, so I can't even claim an entire book on my list. Amy alerted me to the publishers *finally* releasing the cover of A Favorite of the Queen. I'm not a fan of these covers at all... I liked the ones with portraits so much better... but I am am pleased that Plaidy continues to be released. If you are not very familiar with her old titles, please take a close look so that you're not running out and buying one you already have.

A Favorite of the Queen has been published as Gay Lord Robert and Lord Robert.

For a Queen's Love has been published as The Spanish Bridegroom.

"Torn between her heart’s passion and duty to her kingdom, a young queen makes a dark choice…

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester was the most powerful man in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. Handsome and clever, he drew the interest of many women—but it was Elizabeth herself that loved him best of all. Their relationship could have culminated in marriage but for the existence of Amy Robsart, Robert's tragic young wife, who stood between them and refused to be swept away to satisfy a monarch’s desire for a man that was not rightfully her own. But when Amy suddenly dies, under circumstances that many deem to be mysterious at best, the Queen and her lover are placed under a dark cloud of suspicion, and Elizabeth is forced to make a choice that will define her legacy."

"Power-hungry monarch, cold-blooded murderer, obsessive monster—who could love such a man?

Set against the glittering courts of sixteenth-century Europe, the Spain of the dreaded Inquisition, and the tortured England of Bloody Mary, For a Queen’s Love is the story of Philip II of Spain—and of the women who loved him as a husband and father.

Philip was a dark and troubled man, who, like many royals, had been robbed of his childhood. His first marriage, a romantic union with childlike Maria Manoela, brought him tragedy and a troublesome son, Don Carlos. Then followed marriage with the jealously possessive Mary Tudor, a political union that ultimately failed to bring Philip an heir that would solidify the unified power he so deeply desired. And finally, marriage again to a young bride Philip stole from his unbalanced son, sowing the seeds of brutal murder. But history is seldom what it seems, and in the hands of beloved author Jean Plaidy, we hear another side to the story of Philip II—the most powerful of kings who was at once fanatic, murderer, husband, father, and lover."

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Bastard King, Part 2

Harold Godwin had landed in Normandy, though he was aiming for Flanders to negotiate the return of his brother and cousin (who had been taken prisoner in the place of Earl Godwin) and to gauge the atmosphere concerning the upcoming accession of the English crown. Edward the Confessor was ailing, and whether intentional or not, he had let more than one man think he had chosen him as his successor. As the Count of Flanders, Baldwin, was both powerful and wealthy, he made a good ally. Harold’s brother, Tostig, was married to the Count’s eldest daughter, while William of Normandy was married to the younger, Matilda.

But Harold was in William’s hands, and though treated with due respect, was nevertheless a prisoner. Matilda decided it would be best to betroth him to their eldest daughter, a girl of 10 and thirty years his junior. Unable to protest, Harold accepted outwardly, but knew in his heart that his long-time mistress and children were his true family and he would not take this child as his bride if he could get back to England. William had other demands: Harold must send his unmarried sister to Normandy to marry as William pleased and he must swear to help William to the throne of England when King Edward died. If he would swear these things, Harold would be allowed to return to England. This Harold agreed to do and the oath took place in Bayeux.

In front of a large company, Harold placed his hand on a chest draped with cloth of gold and once he made his promises the cloth as removed and the chest opened to reveal the relics of saints. Harold was none too pleased at this bit of deceit, and though he loathed breaking promises made over the relics, he did so under duress, and so believed he would be forgiven. William and Matilda did not believe he would break his promises easily and so they allowed him to return to England.

Soon after his return, King Edward died and the people accepted Harold with alacrity. He was officially crowned and when William heard of this he seethed with anger. He would set forth to England, but needed time to prepare, and while this was being done, he sent Harold a letter allowing that perhaps Harold took the crown because the people asked it of him, though he must move aside (of course) and he asked him to keep to his other promises, of marriage to William’s daughter and to send his sister to Normandy.

The said sister had died, and so Harold jauntily offered to send her body to William, and he added that he had already wed, and so he could not take William’s daughter, nor would he forfeit his crown to William. No, Harold had not married his mistress, but the sister of a couple of troublesome Earls in the north (Northumbria and Mercia) to stop an invasion from that part of the country, which was more willing to take a Viking (Hardrada of Norway) rather than a Saxon.

Of course William was frothing at the mouth at this point. His ships readied, he was only waiting for a fair wind to take them across the channel. Tostig, who had been in Flanders with his wife’s family, decided to stake his claim as well and the best way to do this was to back the Norseman, Hardrada.

Hardrada, attacking the north, found it was ready to fall into his hands. At nearly 7’ tall he was like a god at the head of his army. However, he was defeated by Harold when an arrow went through his neck. With their mighty leader down, the Danish army withdrew and Harold hastened to the south to meet William of Normandy. Because his men were tired and exhausted, William had the upper hand and won the battle, killing not only Harold, but all of his brothers. Both Harold’s mother and mistress came before William and begged for his body and a proper burial, but William sent them away. He wanted no martyred saints to mar his claim to the English throne.

William finally had his prize: England, but not security or peace. The people of England accepted him, but did not like him. He had harsh laws, especially those of hunting in the king’s forests. Soon he sent for Matilda and she was crowned Queen of England. The royal family was looked on fondly once the children were visible to the people. There were uprisings, but William dealt with them quickly enough. His major problem became his oldest son, who wanted his due: the Dukedom of Normandy. This part of the story reminded me so much of Henry II and his sons, as they too fought their father for his lands while he still lived.

Matilda had captured all the events from the Norman Conquest in an exquisite tapestry (now known as the Bayeux Tapestry). Even the comet in the sky (Haley’s Comet), which struck fear into the hearts of many, is depicted on it. Historically, Matilda has been ruled out as the maker of the tapestry, but it fit nicely in the story and gave her a purpose for the times William was away. Even so, she still harbored hate for the Saxon who spurned her and after she became queen, she found a way to get revenge. William had given her permission to build a castle in England on the land of her choice, and so she took Brihtric’s home and had him imprisoned and then killed. William found out the details of this little debacle and took his own revenge on Matilda. He had loved her and been completely faithful, and that she thought of this Saxon all the years of their marriage upset him mightily. So he did as kings will, and took a mistress.

The mistress ended up murdered and, of course, Matilda had arranged it. She and William had a lover’s quarrel and then got over it, as if the murders were of no matter. They then had fights over their sons. Robert, the eldest, was keeping unsavory company just to enrage his father. He then became friendly with the French king. William traveled often to Normandy to take back his castles and strongholds, but Matilda was secretly sending their son funds to keep his army going. This was the final rift between William and Matilda.

During one of these squirmishes with Robert and his vassals, William was injured and fell from his horse. Strangely enough Robert saved his life and they made a truce. Because of this, Matilda died happy, but it did not last. William was later headed to war against the French king and Robert did not show. William died with a prophecy on his lips: though his son Rufus would follow him as King of England, his youngest son, Henry would be greatest of all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Bastard King, Part 1

This is the earliest century Jean Plaidy ever published: 11th century France & England and, as an era I am currently researching, I felt the need to write a detailed synopsis of the book, to help myself better remember the events that took place. While this is not exactly a review, I thought I would post it and it comes in two parts. Part 2 will be posted in a few days. I would give a spoiler warning, but the book is written in such a way that it is mostly facts and will only be surprising to those unfamiliar with the time period. The interesting part of the writing is, of course, the personalities and motives she puts to her characters.

The Bastard King covers the life of William the Conqueror, also known as William the Bastard, as he was the bastard son of Robert, Duke of Normandy circa 1027-1035. The story begins in 1026, when Robert spies a beautiful young woman doing laundry in a stream near his castle. He must have her and her only concession is that she be brought on a horse in plain daylight as his official mistress. This is Arlette, daughter of a tanner, and she gives birth to William and a daughter. Though Robert was married to highborn lady, he did not live with her and produced no legitimate children. Feeling the need to expiate his sins, as many did during this time, he decided to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Before he left, he went through the rituals of bestowing the Dukedom on his son, bastard though he may be, and had the vassal lords swear to uphold their promise to obey him. He then made his farewells to Arlette and deposited his son with the King of France, to further his education and to serve as his protector in his father’s absence.

Many times, those who made the arduous trip to Jerusalem never returned, and this is what happened to Robert of Normandy. Per Robert’s prearrangement Arlette married a lord, of whom she grew fond and had more children. William, a boy of 7, stayed with the King of France for a while longer, but returned to his lands when disquiet among his vassals demanded it. During his adolescence there were attempts on his life and many who thought that if a bastard son could inherit, well, there were many such in the land and they all had equal claim. Thus William the Bastard spent his life, from a very young age, fighting for his rights.

William had come to hate the word ‘bastard’. Once, during a siege, the occupants of the castle threw hides over the side and beat them with stick. This, they implied, was to ridicule William for his maternal grandfather, the tanner. He heard their chant of ‘bastard’ and this incensed him. When the castle finally surrendered, he had the men horribly disfigured, cutting off their hands and feet. Normally a fair ruler, this act of horror would be noted by future conspirers, though there were several to come.

As a young boy, William had met and befriended the two sons of Emma and King Ethelred of England, Edward and Alfred, who were in exile in Normandy, as Emma’s second husband, the Danish Canute, had won the throne of England. It was her wish (and that of Canute) that her son from her second husband, Harthicanute, would be the King of England. As events progressed in England, a certain Earl who had come from humble beginnings began to rise: Earl Godwin. This earl married into royalty and affianced as many of his children as possible likewise; he clearly had his eyes on the throne of England, and as he was a Saxon, born and breed, the people liked him better than the Danes or the Normans who held the throne. This ‘kingmaker’ was much like the 15th century Warwick.

On the inside cover of the book (at least if you have the Fawett Crest paperback) you can read an excerpt which details the meeting of William the Bastard and his future bride, Matilda of Flanders. Matilda, smarting from being spurned by a handsome Saxon ambassador, decided the next man to ask for her hand would likewise be spurned, and this happened to be William. She called him a bastard and said that she, as a granddaughter of the King of France, was too high for the Duke of Normandy, owing to his illegitimacy. William then did the most uncouth thing: he rode to Flanders, found Matilda on her way to mass, pulled her from her horse by her hair and beat her. “I received your reply,” he said, “This is mine.” He then rode away, later to feel ashamed of his behavior and complete attraction to the beauty he had abused.

Matlida, amazingly, decided this proud, determined man was the one for her, and the two did have similar ambitions. Though the King of France, disliking William for his vast strength in combat, set the Pope against the marriage, as he felt it would make William much stronger. However, the excommunicated couple happily wed and started a family. William sent a mediator to Rome to work for his cause, as an excommunicated Duke found his underlings begin to revolt with just cause.

An interesting fact about Matilda: until 1954, she was thought to have only been 4’ 2” tall through various historical reports. Her grave was exhumed (in 1954) and her skeleton found to be about 5’. Her stature wasn’t mentioned by Plaidy until her first son was born with extremely short legs (compared to his very tall father). She uses this as one of the reasons Richard, their second son and the one who most favored his father, was William’s favorite, while Robert is Matilda’s. This preference will come to play later in the book, as the happy couple begin to side with one child over the other.

William found he had a claim to England, as his friend, the once-exiled Edward, was now restored to the throne as Edward the Confessor, thanks to the mighty Earl Godwin. As Edward took a vow of celibacy, no heirs were to be born and he chose William to follow him (of course William had royal blood through his father and a stronger claim through his wife Matilda). Godwin, however, had other plans. He had several sons and one was married to Matilda’s sister. Through this link William was kept informed of the Godwin clan, including the most likely to usurp, Harold. As it happens, when old Godwin died (an interestingly supernatural death) and Harold, meaning to visit the Count of Flanders to raise support for his claim, washed up on the banks of Normandy (as Plaidy puts it, “a valuable piece of flotsam”). The two rivals for the English throne had finally met.

This completes Part 1 of the story… come back for Part 2 soon!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Currently on Paperback Swap!

The Jean Plaidy novels on PBS right now are:

The Lady in the Tower
The Rose without a Thorn
Here Lies Our Sovereign Lord
The Queen and Lord M
The Queen's Confession (Holt)
A Health Unto His Majesty

There are also several Holt and Carr novels. Just a heads up for those who use the service!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Plaidy Challenge update & Giveaway winner!

So far we have 12 challengers for the 2010 Plaidy Challenge with a total of 4 books read! Keep up the good work :) To view the members just follow this link:


What Plaidy novel are you reading next? I really NEED to read The Bastard King because it's a time period I am researching (late Anglo-Saxon to the Conquest), but I just love the Georgian series! I have a couple of books before I get to read another Plaidy, so I'll decide between now and then.

The newest Three Rivers Press reprints are coming out right around the corner! For a Queen's Love is a reprint of The Spanish Bridegroom (which I have already in HC) and A Favorite of the Queen is a reprint of Gay Lord Robert (which I also have through Arrow in a reprint titled Lord Robert). These come out March 2, 2010!

ANNOUNCING THE WINNER OF FLAUNTING EXTRAVAGANT QUEEN: Felicia J.! Congratulations Felicia and thank you all for participating!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review: Victoria in the Wings

Victoria in the Wings is not, in fact, about the girl who became Queen Victoria, but of how she became the heir apparent when there were so many in the running. The story begins with the death of Charlotte, the Regent’s daughter, and the unrest it caused the royal family, as she had been the only legitimate grandchild of King George III. Two of the sons were prevailed upon to marry and produce heirs: William, Duke of Clarence and Edward, Duke of Kent. Protestant German wives were provided and the race began!

Lurking in the background, however, was the fifth son, Ernest, the Duke of Cumberland and his wife, who was not accepted into the family, though she was of noble birth. Both had a reputation for ambition and a cloud of suspicion over mysterious deaths. Though they had a son, he had little chance at the throne as long as Clarence and Kent provided heirs.

We are introduced to Adelaide, Duchess of Clarence, who is the gentlest woman imaginable, and Victoria, Duchess of Kent, who is like a lioness with her cub (the future Queen Victoria). Every member of the royal family seems to quietly watch the others for news of pregnancies and unfortunate failed attempts. As you may imagine, there wasn’t an abundance of good cheer among the Hanovers.

Adelaide, however, was a joy to read about! She was the only person among the entire family who loved all children and was completely sweet without a jealous bone in her body. She insisted the Duke’s children by Dorothy Jordan live with her and their mother’s portrait stay in the family home, looking down on their happy arrangement. That she eventually became Queen is my only consolation for what she endured – the failed pregnancies, calming of her husband’s sometimes eccentric nature and the rivalry with his brothers. The book ends at George IV’s death, though we get a feel for the new reign of King William IV and his gentle Queen Adelaide.

As for Victoria, it is the beginning of her imprisonment in Kensington Palace. While it was necessary to keep her confined and watched throughout George IV’s reign (as he kept the murderous Duke of Cumberland close at hand) her later confinement is an attempt by her mother, along with her comptroller (and perhaps lover) Sir John Conroy, to subdue her so they could be the power behind the throne when the time came. The next book in the series is The Captive of Kensington Palace.

This is one of my favorite Plaidy novels! There is so much intrigue and plenty of personalities are represented: those to love and those to hate. The Duchess of Kent shows many negative qualities and it is very apparent that she would become overbearing toward her daughter. It is said that King William IV purposely lived until her 18th birthday so that she would be of an age to rule without a regent (her mother).

George IV is to be pitied, as he is old and very sick, and wants his Maria, but is still too proud to recall her. He hangs on to his last mistress even though he has no love for her, or even a wish to have her around for company, as she is a selfish, stupid woman. He simply doesn’t want to be ridiculed or die alone. And though George is in such a condition, he is still the most elegant man in the country and can charm those around him effortlessly. Such complexity is the magic of Plaidy!