Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Queen's Daughter/ All the Queen's Players

I realize that I haven't blogged a couple books that I've read. Thanks to a recent post from an anonymous new friend, I feel more encouraged to keep writing my posts. Most of my life has actually been spent reading every genre but historical fiction; it's just been the last 2-3 years that I've almost exclusively read them. I apologize there is no variety, but this is what I love. The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry was pretty good, it was a quick and easy read. The book is about Joan, the youngest daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II of England. She has 4 older brothers that are quite older than her, but Richard dotes on her more than the others. Growing up at Court she is in between her parents, who are usually fighting and eventually her mother is banished and basically imprisoned. Her father keeps her with him for some time, basically as a hostage, and then sends her to her mother for a time.

King Henry, her father, is always in some fight or another with her brothers Henry and Richard. They are of age to gain some kingdoms and land, but still childish and young. They constantly wrestle and war with their own father to get what they want. Eleanor often comes to the aid of her children, which is why she was banished so she couldn't meddle anymore. Joan is married off at a young age to the king of Sicily, and she basically lives like a child for more years until the queen mother forces them to finally consummate the marriage. Her husband William was often sick, distant and much older than her so he treated her indifferently. Despite many years of marriage they had no children. He died of a long illness and she was taken captive immediately after his death by Tancred of Lecce who had usurped the throne. Her brother Richard finally comes to her aid almost a year later, and she sets sail with him to Catania and Saladin. Joan basically becomes her brother's right hand, and assists him in all things. He marries Berangeria, and Joan is often keeping her company as her brother is busy and not very interested in his wife.

Joan reunites with her mother, who is now quite old, and it has been many years. Joan has become wise in the politics of life and court, and aids her brother, even when she disagrees with him. During her time in Sicily, her brother Henry had passed away and then her father. Richard was now King with her brother John as heir, and her mother ordered her to be by his side. He seems different and is often commanding and cruel to Joan, and tries to marry her off a few times. In Richard's attempts to win Jerusalem, Joan disagrees with some things he does and is banished for a time. Joan comes into contact again with Count Raymond, a childhood friend and crush. He proposes marriage to her and they live happily enough together. Upon the birth of their second child, Joan dies in her thirties. Not much was written or remains from her life, other than the fact she had 2 husbands and died after the 2nd birth. I found the story interesting because Joan's powerful and well known parents, and the bloody feud between brothers and father. I'm sure Joan had to be an intriguing person considering especially who her mother was.

All The Queen's Players by Jane Feather follows Rosamund Walsingham, cousin to Cecil Walsingham the queen's secretary. Her mother had passed away after many years of illness, and she was the youngest child and left with just basically her brother Thomas. Her brother works for their cousin Cecil, and soon brings Rosamund to court to meet him and the queen. She becomes a junior lady of the Queen's, and soon discovers that court life can be quite dull. She makes some friends that try to ruin her reputation, but don't succeed. Will Creighton is who she falls in love with; she had met him once at a play and found him intriguing. Rosamund worked for Cecil and was told to draw everything she saw, and the Queen also desired her to draw things for her as well. She was quite gifted, but her skills weren't used for long. She is discovered missing when she was supposedly sick, and is banished from court. Queen Elizabeth likes her ladies to be circumspect and clean, and when they are found not to be, she sends them away in disgrace or even sometimes imprisonment.

Rosamund goes to stay with Cecil and his wife for a time, and then he decides to send her to serve Mary Queen of Scots, who had been imprisoned in various stages in England for nigh on 18 years. She had been stripped of her titles and even her royal chair and hangings, but still she proudly tried to persevere. Cecil commanded her to draw or write to him everything she saw or heard, and she was sent to her as a pretend Catholic. As Rosamund serves Mary, she grows to appreciate and admire her strength and courage. Although herself mostly Protestant, she admires the courage and faith that Mary has. Cecil works tirelessly to bring the Scots queen down, and eventually finds letters of plots to rescue her and put her on the England queen's throne. Cousins, Queen Elizabeth has a hard time actually accusing a fellow sovereign and woman to death. All those involved in the plot are put to death, and Rosamund is forced to watch. Eventually, the courts try Mary for treason and she is found guilty. She is beheaded with an axe, and Rosamund is there to witness the scene for Cecil.

After her service, Cecil allows her to be free and she goes home for a time. Will comes to visit her there to continue their assignation, but is suddenly killed in a sword duel when an old nemesis from court comes to fight him. Forced to mourn his death in secret, so no one would know who her lover had been, she is soon married off to Sir Roger Askew, a widower and rich man. They live quite happily and have children together. I admit, this wasn't my favorite book. I left out some details of the plays of the time, as that was in the book quite a bit. Rosamund's brother had a friend Kit Marlowe, who was a marvelous and brilliant playwright of the time. He met an early and unfortunate end, and the author sets the basis of the book during that time because she wonders what a brilliant mind like his could have done had he lived longer. I didn't care for Kit in the book, because the author made him homosexual and included far too many details in the book of it. It was far too explicit for my taste, and not necessary to the plot. I wouldn't recommend the book simply because of the sexual scenes in the book.

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