Louis X, Marguerite, Guccio Baglioni, Robert of Artois
The Strangled Queen is the second book in Maurice Druon's nail-biting The Accursed Kings series. The novel follows on from The Iron King and finds medieval France in turmoil after the death of one of its most successful and respected Kings, Philip the Fair. His son Louis has inherited the Kingdom but does not possess the brilliance of his late father and is easily swayed in making decisions by his bold and charismatic uncle Charles of Valois. Charles is of the old ways of France and hated most of Philip the Fair’s new bureaucratic methods which modernised the Kingdom. In addition, Charles hated the new methods most of all because they raised the middle class into the social elite. He wants France to return to the era of chivalry and the time of powerful nobility. To do this, Charles manipulates his weak nephew by promising him a new marriage after the embarrassment of Marguerite of Burgundy (Louis wife) and Philippe d’Aunay’s affair. However, to achieve his goals Charles must first remove his greatest rival Enguerrand Marigny, the old King’s closet advisor, from the French court.
Meanwhile, Marguerite of Burgundy and her sister Blanche are still been held prisoners by Louis X, whom is awaiting the appointment of a new Pope to divorce his marriage from his adulterous wife. The miserable dark cell is enough to crack the once beautiful and powerful Queen of France and forces her to write a confession that states her marriage was never valid. However, after no news is heard from the King after the departure of the letter, Marguerite’s future looks very bleak and when new condemning evidence is discovered against Marguerite and her protector, Enguerrand Marigny, her future also looks very short…
I found this book much better than The Iron King. Don’t get me wrong, I did really like the first book, I thought as a historical-fiction novel it was probably one of the best I’ve read this year because it was so full of historical detail. However, as a thriller I didn’t think it was that thrilling and thought marketing the novel as ‘the original Game of Thrones’ was very misplaced. The Strangled Queen on the other hand totally fits this bill! It was full of political intrigue, plots and betrayal that I loved and like The Iron King, Druon’s historical detail was top notch. Coupled with the intrigue, Druon successfully and entertainingly shows the weakness of the French crown at the start of the thirteenth century.
This was a great novel and has got me really excited to read the next book in the series The Poisoned Crown, which from the sound of its title already sounds epic! I’d suggest this book to anyone who likes historical-fiction, especially authors such as Bernard Cornwell and his Grail Quest series. I’d also suggest it to fans of Game of Thrones because as George R. R. Martin explains in his Forward note at the start of the book, this novel was the inspiration behind GoT.
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