The epic story of the queen who founded the Tudor dynasty, told through the eyes of her loyal nursemaid. Perfect for fans of Philipa Gregory.1
When her own first child is tragically still-born, the young Mette is pressed into service as a wet-nurse at the court of the mad king, Charles VI of France. Her young charge is the princess, Catherine de Valois, caught up in the turbulence and chaos of life at court.
Mette and the child forge a bond, one that transcends Mette’s lowly position.
But as Catherine approaches womanhood, her unique position seals her fate as a pawn between two powerful dynasties. Her brother, The Dauphin and the dark and sinister, Duke of Burgundy will both use Catherine to further the cause of France.
Catherine is powerless to stop them, but with the French defeat at the Battle of Agincourt, the tables turn and suddenly her currency has never been higher. But can Mette protect Catherine from forces at court who seek to harm her or will her loyalty to Catherine place her in even greater danger?
When I saw the gorgeous book cover, and saw the word "Agincourt" in the title, I knew I had to read "The Agincourt Bride". After all, Brannagh and Thompson's film version of "Henry V" is on my list of Top Ten Favorite Movies - Ever!
We, who have the luxury of hundreds of years to digest and dissect these long-ago events of history will doubtless be shocked and sometimes disgusted by the actions of people at this time, who were called 'nobles'. For the royals, the dukes and duchesses, counts, barons and the like, it was a cush gig. Especially the royal family - meaning mostly the Queen, as the Charles VI was mostly not in his right mind. The best that money could buy - of everything, was ordered, received ... but rarely paid for. And the tradesmen dared not refuse to supply the goods or services.
Any woman who feels overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood can look at Queen Isabeau and instantly feel better about her own skills. The narrator, Mette, feels sorry for Princess Catherine, saying that her only taste of luxury until she came of age to be married off in the cause of France was at her birth, a glittering social event, witnessed by far too many men of the court. After that, she was turned over to the Royal Nursery, run by a woman who was paid to provide for the childrens' wants barely provided for their needs, pocketing most of the money. Mette used to sneak in bread and food from her family's bakery to feed the royal brood, so that they would not starve to death. The Queen either knew none of this, or didn't really care, so long as she could run off with one of her lovers the moment the King had one of his 'spells'.
After reading "The Agincourt Bride" and having some weeks to think it over, I have come to the conclusion I would not have lasted very long in 15th Century France, as a tradeswoman or a peasant. If the lower-classed servants could not leave the room when 'nobles' passed by, they had to turn to the wall, so they would not see or make eye contact. No. Oh no. Even H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS, NO! (And I don't say that lightly, but some things are just wrong.) I would have had a few choice words for the Queen in the garden, the day she breezed into town to take away the two princes and one of the older princesses, so the Duke could marry them off with his children or nephews and nieces. At least I might have made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the "Shortest Stint as a Servant in the Royal Household of King Charles VI of France" and "Bloodiest Pink Slip".
"The Agincourt Bride" is like a fine tapestry that spans an entire wall of a castle gallery: rich, finely detailed, gorgeous in color and material. Hickson masterfully weaves historical events with dashes of fiction in order to provide us with an eminently readable story, told from a female point of view (Mette's, mostly). How unfortunate most women of all classes and anyone born "not rich" were back in those days, and how fortunate we are to have authors like Joanna Hickson to turn to the back of the rich tapestry of recorded history and show us the knots and tears and hidden 'mis-steps' that were made in order to have a nice looking picture on the front.
Anyone interested in the Middle Ages, French or English history, would do well to add "The Agincourt Bride" to their physical or electronic libraries. The sequel, "The Tudor Bride" is already in print.
Joanna Hickson became fascinated with history when she studied Shakespeare's history plays at school. However, having taken a degree in Politics and English she took up a career in broadcast journalism with the BBC, presenting and producing news, current affairs and arts programmes on both television and radio. Now she writes full time and has a contract with Harper Collins for three historical novels. The Agincourt Bride is the first. She lives in Scotland in a 200 year old farmhouse and is married with a large extended family and a wayward Irish terrier.
Joanna likes people to join her on Twitter (@joannahickson) or Facebook (Joanna Hickson)and says if you can't find her she'll be in the fifteenth century!
(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.)
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