Blanche d’Alpuget’s critically acclaimed historical fiction quartet Birth of the Plantagenets, set in the court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitane.
Geoffrey the Handsome, the virile and charming Duke of Normandy, seduces Queen Eleanor of France to spy for him in the struggle between Normandy and France and Normandy and England. Said to be the most beautiful woman in Europe, and very rich, Eleanor has not been able to give birth to an heir for France. Her liaison with Geoffrey could remedy that – or lead to her downfall and Geoffrey’s death. But what begins with cool calculation becomes a passionate affair.
Despite his love for Eleanor, however, Geoffrey has larger plans: to help his warrior son, Henry, seize the English throne from the uncle who usurped it from its rightful heir, Henry’s mother. When Henry is forced to intervene to save the lives of his father and Eleanor, he falls foul of the French queen-and madly in love with her Byzantine maid. Should he become King of England, however, this dazzling foreign girl will never be acceptable as his queen. These two relationships, both forbidden, both perilous, are at the centre of a tale of consuming ambition, family vengeance and political intrigue set in the glorious flowering of troubadour culture, mysticism and learning that is 12th century France.
In The Young Lion, Henry, great grandson of William the Conqueror, inherits Normandy, aged 17. Urged on by his mother, Empress Matilda, he determines to re-conquer England for family honour, but to do so he needs the wealth of the headstrong Eleanor of Aquitaine. Their marriage of convenience is astonishingly fecund and they begin to found a dynasty. However, it carries ominous undertones for both spouses.