Captive Queen follows Eleanor of Aquitaine from her youth as the French King Louis wife to her dying days in her beloved Abby of Fontevrault. The story reads like life, sometimes merry and romantic and other times frustrating to tears. Eleanor started out as many of us dowith ambitions and dreams and a desire for true love. And like many discover, things just arent as simple as our own needs. Eleanor is a relatable character in each of her stages of life, and her emotions are well conveyed as she matures and her situation changes. I appreciated the genuine passion she had with Henry, and at the same time, I felt her frustration with him for his lack of acknowledgement of her as a capable queen in her own right.
One of the things that I connected with was Eleanors struggle to maintain her individuality and her authority as a duchess and a queen when the whole worldeven her husbandwanted to melt her existence down and mold it around Henry. This struggle to be a person and not just someones wife is something that a lot of women go through and can relate to, and Eleanors was on a grand scale. Not only did she have herself to look after, but her people as well, and Henry obviously didnt have much know-how in dealing with her rebellious lords. Oftentimes, I was frustrated with how she settled to letting him hold so much power and make decisions, but I realize that that settling would have been so subtle for her that she wouldnt have even realized it was happening. I think part of it too is that Im looking backwards across time, and so expect more from a womans perspective.
The most powerful part of the novel is her prolonged imprisonment. I guess after fifteen years, she would have reached some kind of peace with it, but even after all of those chapters, I couldnt. I burned with indignation and the injustice of it, that Henry would think he could do something like that, and that their world condoned it. The only thing that made it better was the hope that her children were working for her release. I was disappointed that they didnt free her sooner, but you cant re-write history, and even if you did, that wouldnt have erased the exile she experienced. It just flabbergasted me that she was held captive like that and the whole world let it go on.
I liked the way the novel went back and forth between an eagle-eye perspective and a first person one. It helped me to keep the big picture in mind as well as understand what was going on with each character. This is the kind of approach thats difficult because its easy to end up losing either the big picture or the characters, but Weir did a good job of keeping them balanced and supplemental.
This is exactly the kind of book that Ive come to appreciate recently because its a mix of historical events and people and fictional embellishment. They say reality is stranger than fiction, and in the hands of the right historical novelist, theyre right. Captive Queen is a good read worth taking a look at, and Weir is an author worth keeping an eye on.
This novel covers the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was a very head strong queen. Her first marriage to King Louis VII of France ended in a divorce leaving Louis very bitter (which is very clear throughout the story). Eleanor did have various affairs during this marriage, one of which was a man named Gregory, her future father-in-law. Gregory's son, Henry of Anjou (Henry II) is destined to be the next King of England. Eleanor falls immediately in lust and him likewise. Their love affair is full of passion and leads to many children. But like many marriages, it starts to unravel due to greed, paranoia and adultery. Eleanor believe their marriage was going to be a partnership in all ways including in the ruling of England. Henry has other ideas and is very power hungry. He even plays games with his children causing them to fight amongst themselves and against him. During her marriage to Henry, Eleanor never thought about having an affair and thought Henry was just as faithful (and if you know anything about this time period, you know he wasn't). When she is confronted with Henry's fair Rosamond, Eleanor is absolutely devastated. It really was heartbreaking to read. It is amazing how back then a man could have many affairs and not be blamed but if a women is even suspected of it, it is treason and the punishment is usually death.
All in all this was a wonderful read. One criticism that I have is once the story got to Eleanor's long imprisonment I thought the book started to read very much like a history book. It seemed to jump from one scene to another with not much story weaved in between.