The Short Version:
Historical Fiction from one of the Grand Dames of the Genre who wrote prolifically under several pseudonyms from from the 1950s into the 1990s.
Why I Read It:
As a fan of historical fiction I’ve wanted to read one of her books for ages, but kept putting it off. The What’s in a Name 3 Challenge provided the perfect opportunity. I needed a book with a ‘title’ in the title and since many of Jean Plaidy’s books were about royalty, I knew I could find one.
This is a fictionalized memoir of Katherine of Valois. Born a French princess, she was married to Henry V of England as part of the treaty signed when her father agreed to let Henry take the crown of France. She adopted her new homeland and gave Henry an heir. After Henry’s death, her son was taken away from her to be raised as a young king was expected to be. Lonely in her adopted country, desperately missing her son, Katherine found herself involved in a relationship with a former soldier of her late husband’s army. This relationship was clearly inappropriate for the Queen Mother and the secret marriage brought Katherine the true love of her life. The soldier’s name? Owen Tudor. Yes, the daughter of the King of France, who became the Queen of England is also the link by which the Tudors later claimed the throne.
It was an interesting, but fairly dry fictional memoir. Katherine tells her story, but it’s in a somewhat distanced way. Her emotions are reported, but don’t really let the reader get emotionally involved with her. The history is well researched. Katherine’s life, and the backdrop of her story is the Hundred Years War, the conflicts between France and England as well as Joan of Arc. There’s a lot that happens during Katherine’s life, but it reads too much like a well researched history text to truly draw in the reader.
The first part of the book about the war and eventual surrender of France did get me thinking about one of my favorite movies of all time. Because of reading this we ended up watching Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V over the weekend. I think it’s one of the best film versions of a Shakespeare play. Coincidentally, that movie was released the same year as this book.