I'm honored to welcome Christy English, author of THE QUEEN'S PAWN and her new novel TO BE QUEEN (Pub date: April 5, 2011; NAL Trade, 400 pages, $15.00) about the tumultuous early years of that most fascinating of medieval queens, Eleanor of Aquitaine. It seems we never tire of this original independent lady, whose feisty attitude and zest for life, as well as enormous celebrity quotient, blazed a trail of scandal across her world; in other words, in today's world, she would have had paparazzi chasing her on motorcycles! Though she's most famous for her tempestuous marriage to Henry II, with whom she loved, battled and ended up imprisoned by, for a time, her early life is my favorite - full of the dramatic tumult that shaped her into the queen she became. Christy's novel promises a riveting, fresh account of how Eleanor grew into her crown.
Please join me in welcoming Christy English.
Eleanor of Aquitaine and The Search for Charlemagne by Christy English
Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great, King of the Franks, united all the lands of modern day France and Germany under his rule. His empire only lasted one generation after his death, but it lived on in the minds of the people he left behind. Eleanor’s Ancestor Charlemagne founded the Duchy of Aquitaine, which was passed down through the centuries in Eleanor’s family, finally coming through her father’s hands to her in 1137. Charlemagne and all he achieved loomed large in Eleanor’s imagination, and with her marriage to Louis VII of France, she saw how she might regain some of Charlemagne’s former glory by uniting France and the Aquitaine, as well as Gascony, Poitou and all of her other holdings.
Eleanor hoped to put her son on the throne after Louis and make him a second Charlemagne. Her unborn son would rule fairly under the law, would render justice, and all importantly, keep the power of the Church in check. Eleanor discovered only one problem with this plan. She and Louis did not have a son. Louis VII was perfectly happy to accept what he considered to be “God’s will” in his youth, to accept the fact that he and Eleanor did not have a son and would not until God sent the boy. Louis constantly prayed for such a son to come to them, but neglected Eleanor’s bed, the only way a son would ever be born to France. After the Crusade in 1148, Eleanor knew with all certainty that her dreams for a united France under her son’s rule were in vain. She worked for an annulment for her marriage in Rome, and once Abbot Suger, Louis’ spiritual father, the largest obstacle to their annulment, died in 1151, Louis began to work with her. Rome granted their annulment, and in March, 1152, Eleanor rode home to her capital at Poitiers.
Eleanor did not retire to her lands and marry one of her own barons. Instead, she united in alliance and in marriage to Henry, Duke of Normandy. Henry was a young man when she married him, nineteen years old, eleven years younger than herself. Eleanor and Henry were married for less than two years when Henry won the throne of England, and she and her new husband were crowned King and Queen of England. Eleanor and Henry’s first son, William, had already been born and she was pregnant with their second son, Henry the Younger, when they were crowned.
Their empire stretched from Scotland and Ireland to Wales and England, and in France they controlled the territories of Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Aquitaine, Poitou and Gascony. Between Henry and Eleanor, both with their inheritances and with what Henry had re-conquered at the point of the sword, they ruled a larger empire than had been seen in France since the time of Charlemagne. Though time would divide Henry and Eleanor from each other, and their sons from their father in countless rebellions and struggles for power, at the time of her marriage to Henry, Eleanor had realized her dream of a large empire that she might one day pass on to her son. After Henry II’s death, her favorite son, Richard the Lionhearted, ruled all the lands of his father.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Christy. We wish you all the best of success! TO BE QUEEN: A Novel of The Early Years of Eleanor of Aquitaine is available for pre-order and will be in bookstores on April 5. If you want to learn more about Christy and Eleanor’s adventures, please find visit her at her website.