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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction at its best!
Catherine of Valois is one of the most intriguing of medieval queens. Largely drawing on knowledge gleaned from Shakespeare's Henry V, Catherine was an important (although not necessarily the most important) component of the peace settlement between France and England after the English victory at Agincourt in 1415 which left much of the French nobility dead on the field...
Published 15 months ago by Kate

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps Less Than Credible in Parts
This is an account of the early life of Catherine de Valois, wife - if rather briefly - of Henry V, the warrior Lancastrian king who won back much of Edward III's empire in France. The story is told by the woman who was her wet nurse and became her Mistress of the Wardrobe when she grew up, Guillaumette or Mette for short.

The tales of Catherine's very early...
Published 14 months ago by Brett H


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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction at its best!, 4 Jan 2013
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
Catherine of Valois is one of the most intriguing of medieval queens. Largely drawing on knowledge gleaned from Shakespeare's Henry V, Catherine was an important (although not necessarily the most important) component of the peace settlement between France and England after the English victory at Agincourt in 1415 which left much of the French nobility dead on the field. How would a young girl deal with being married off to a king that had brought her country to its knees, effectively robbing her own brother of his royal inheritance? In The Agincourt Bride, Joanna Hickson takes just such a look and reveals a far more complicated and remarkable, even shocking, story, brought to life with a prose that is so light and full of feeling that it almost dances across the page.

At the heart of the novel is Catherine and her wetnurse Mette. Recently delivered of a stillborn son while still a child herself, Mette had been removed from her home and placed in the royal household as wet nurse to baby Catherine, the tenth child of a mad king and a proud, bitter queen. Neglected and almost forgotten, Catherine grows to love her surrogate mother Mette to the extent that she can never be without her again, however much the queen and her agents seek to keep them apart. For as soon as the princess is of an age to be useful she becomes a pawn, caught in the petty wars between members of the House of Valois, dividing Catherine from her brothers and sisters, and placing her in the utmost danger, not least at the hands of John the Fearless, the Duke of Burgundy and a monster. No wonder, then, that the often promised but frequently withdrawn hope of a marriage to Henry V offers the tantalising chance of an escape to the brave, loyal and vulnerable Catherine. There is only so much that a nursemaid can do to protect her charge.

The great success of The Agincourt Bride is the extent to which Joanna Hickson makes the reader care about the characters of the young princess and Mette. But also not just these two. Catherine's brothers and sisters might not be always sympathetic but they are clearly the victims of their mother and her dubious alliances. As a nurse, Mette has her ways of calming the stresses of Catherine's siblings in ways unique to each individual. She has extraordinary empathy and, despite the suffering that she herself must endure, her love for Catherine remains paramount. Then there is mad king Charles. It is impossible not to feel for a man who believes that he is made of glass and could shatter at the slightest touch.

The novel takes us on a tour of France's royal castles and convents. It is a largely female world, with its confined inhabitants occasionally granted exciting glimpses of lethal jousts, receiving messengers with news of battles or advancing armies. They are at the mercy of events and have to deal with it through fortitude and wit. We watch as Catherine grows skilful at fencing verbally with her mother and the Duke of Burgundy.

There is little chivalry in this world despite its pretensions but the courtship of Henry V and Catherine is wonderful to read. So much is at stake and it's important to remember how young Catherine is. It is a dance regulated by the most stringent of rules and executed with the most graceful of movements. Beneath the surface, though, there is death on the battlefield, violence to women and deceit. The courtly games of the feast or bedchamber have their counterpart in the violent, terrifying streets of Paris and the secret staircases and passages of cold, bare castles.

I loved The Agincourt Bride! It is beautifully written with such a lightness and humanity about it. It is so easy to read and a pleasure from start to finish. It is also genuinely shocking. Men had the battle of Agincourt but the women here have equal dangers to face. Henry V is one of my favourite figures from history and Joanna Hickson brings him alive for me. Catherine was less familiar but it was a pleasure to get to know her and Mette. This is historical fiction at its best and I've had a wonderful two days in its company. I look forward to its follow up, The Tudor Bride. I am grateful for the review copy.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a very well written historical novel, 20 Nov 2012
By 
Mrs. A. Wright "wright0072" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
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I really enjoyed this book. It is the story of Catherine of Valois from her birth until her marriage to Henry V. I had read nothing of Catherine's early life and nor had I read of French politics at that time. The story is told through the eyes of Mette who was Catherine's nursemaid from birth. The life of the French both royal and common at that time is well and vividly described sometimes a bit too graphically. It is difficult to separate fact from fiction as the tale is told seamlessly. It is compellingly told and gripped me from page 1. I really had to finish it but yet there was much to feel sad about. Perhaps it helps to explain Catherine's behaviour in her marriage. If I have any criticism it was that I found French politics a little confusing at times but I think it was a very chaotic time. As a debut novel I cannot praise the author highly enough and look forward to reading further works from her
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps Less Than Credible in Parts, 26 Jan 2013
By 
Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
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This is an account of the early life of Catherine de Valois, wife - if rather briefly - of Henry V, the warrior Lancastrian king who won back much of Edward III's empire in France. The story is told by the woman who was her wet nurse and became her Mistress of the Wardrobe when she grew up, Guillaumette or Mette for short.

The tales of Catherine's very early life are intertwined with those of the other royal children, but particularly her youngest brother Charles, who by various twists of fate becomes the Dauphin despite being the fourth son born to the House of Valois. It is quite hard to believe that any royal children would be treated in the way that the author catalogues Catherine's upbringing, even if born to a woman as careless as she would have us believe Queen Isabeau was.

We hear very little of Catherine subsequently, in the years she spent at the Convent at Poissy, but she reappears as a girl aged 13 to be used as a pawn in order to seal a peace treaty with England. The remainder of the book traces the following period of about six years, finally leading up to her marriage and arrival in England for her coronation. And there it ends, quite abruptly, in 1421.

Joanna Hickson draws her characters convincingly and the reader warms to Mette, the narrator, as a sensible, kind hearted and loyal substitute mother for the young Catherine. The mad king of France is also well drawn which helps us to understand how the country was overrun by the English with such a leader. However, the novel feels over drawn out in the years between Agincourt and Catherine's marriage and at times does verge on the tedious. The Duke of Burgundy is portrayed as `the devil' but it is rather unbelievable that in fifteenth century France, even given his powerful position in the war torn French kingdom, he could or would have treated a daughter of the House of Valois and the future bride of the English king, in the way suggested here.

I feel this book suffers from the author's clear intention to create two books out of the life of Catherine de Valois, when possibly one might have made more dynamic and focused reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A TERRIFIC READ, 25 Jan 2013
By 
Mrs. C. Swarfield - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
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This book engaged me from the first page - and l could not wait to pick it up and continue
reading. If like me you are a fan of Phillipa Gregory then you will absolutely adore this.

Fate plays a big part in the life of Mette who by pure chance becomes a wet nurse to a new
born princess after the still birth of her own baby boy. The baby princess is Catherine
whose father is a mad king and her mother is a very bitter and proud queen. As the tenth
child of the marriage Catherine is forgotten and neglected by her parents and Mette becomes
so indespensable to Catherine that she refuses to be parted from her no matter how hard
outside forces conspire to keep them apart.

Without giving away to much of the plot this is a beautifully written book with such
an abrupt ending I cannot wait for the sequel.

Historical fiction at its best - read and enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Founder of The Tudor Dynasty, 25 May 2013
By 
Angela Lovelace "Angela" (Essex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
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I first became aware of Catherine de Valois as an historic figure through William Shakespeare's Henry V. She left quite a legacy in the fact that she was the daughter of King Charles VI of France and wife to Henry V of England. Catherine was also the mother of Henry VI of England, and through her secret marriage with Owen Tudor, the grandmother of Henry VII, establishing her as the Queen who founded the Tudor dynasty.

However, the story is not told through the eyes of Catherine de Valois, but told by her wet nurse turned Mistress of the Robes, Mette. It shows the life in a royal household in interesting detail. Joanna Hickson does an admirable job of describing the lives of the "real" people of those times too and not just the aristocracy.

Some of the events and tragedies that haunt Catherine are viewed through the maternal eye of Mette, but although I am no expert on the life of Catherine De Valois, some are probably "enlarged" for dramatic and artistic purposes. Mette almost seems to idolise Catherine and places her on a pedestal to a degree. Henry V only appears towards the end of the book, but his influence is felt at other times.

Hickson gives a good representation of Henry V and I cannot help but compare him to Shakespeare's legendary portrayal of Prince Hall and reformed Henry V, but also the real Henry of history. A good book, there is a sequel coming out and I shall most likely look into getting it depending on other's reviews...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A potboiler, 26 April 2013
By 
artemisrhi "artemisrhi" (Forest of Dean) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
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I didn't really get on with this, which was really disappointing as it had such potential. It is set in a fascinating time - the English Court around the time of Agincourt. The story moves (a little too) swiftly to the mains scenes of the historical action and we are always able to see what the main protaganists are up to. Mette a nursery maid is our view on the world and she manages to be everywhere that important action is taking place (rather contrived)! I do not warm to her in anyway and she doesn't offer anything insightful on the action. A bit of a pot boiler I am afraid.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent historical romp with good characterisations., 22 Mar 2013
By 
JK "Julie K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
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Catherine de Valois was the wife of Henry V of England. The Agincourt Bride is a fictional account of her life as seen through the eyes of her nurse, Mette. I didn't take too much of the history to heart. These novels are always a mix of historical fact and fiction and it's usually best to approach them with an open mind and just enjoy the read. Having said that, I thought Joanna Hickson made a good job of bringing the era to life. She sets the scene well and her characters are believable and robust. War is obviously central to the background of the novel, 100 year war/Agincourt, and there are some strong depictions of it's impact on the populations of England and France. Plenty of political intrigue and social unrest to keep you hooked and I particularly enjoyed the changing face of the monarchy. King's and Prince's die one after another which adds a lot of uncertainty and depth to the plot. There's the usual 'unwanted male attentions' and bodice ripping as the fate of both Catherine and Mette lies uncertain.

It's safe to say both women suffer at the hands of unscrupulous men who use them to their own advantage but; why rape? Why so graphic? The novel could so easily have lived without it. Just the mention of the act would have been enough without the detail. Didn't enjoy that element at all as it wasn't necessary. I've downgraded my review to 3* instead of 4*. An author is really struggling to keep a plot tense and exciting when they have to reach out for such a gratuitous act to keep the reader hooked.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A page turner from an underwitten period of history, 18 Dec 2012
By 
S. B. Kelly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
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I do enjoy a historical novel, even when not of the highest literary quality. I'd read a little about the early life of Catherine de Valois -- the poverty-stricken upbringing of a royal princess whose father was mentally ill and whose mother was indifferent, all played out against the background of civil war and English invasion -- and looked forward to learning more.

Hickson uses the device of a narrator who stands slightly apart from the action. Mette, the daughter of a Parisian baker, is delivered of a stillborn child just as France's notorious queen, Isabeau of Bavaria, gives birth to a healthy girl, her ninth child. Barely risen from the delivery, Mette is whisked to the palace to act as wet nurse to the Princess Catherine. Soon she adores the baby and, even when she has a daughter of her own a year later, Catherine still holds first place in her affections.

As the 100-years war rages around them, Mette and her charge are subject to the whims of the royalty and nobility about them. As the Duke of Burgundy takes charge of the royal children, Mette returns home, not to see her beloved Catherine again for more than ten years. As France reels from Agincourt and the death of so many noble families, with Mette's own husband missing in action, the dauphin dies, as does his next brother, leaving the churlish Charles heir to the throne.

One night, as the Burgundians retake the palace, Mette helps Charles to escape but suffers an unpleasantly graphic rape in the process. Catherine herself is subjected to the unwanted sexual attentions of the loathsome Duke of Burgundy. As the months go by, Catherine's fate is undetermined as the prospect of her marrying King Henry of England rears its head, only to die away again. Dear Shakespeare seems to have been misinformed when he shows Henry hastening from Agincourt to claim his bride! It takes five years.

Letters supposedly written by Catherine to her brother, the Dauphin, but never sent, do not add anything to the narrative and I don't know why the author has included them. They would serve a purpose if they gave us a different voice from Mette's, a different view of events, but they do not, although they do provide the excuse for another gratuitous rape scene.

Apart from the rape scenes (yes, civil war is awful for women: I don't want to read the details), this is a thoroughly good read, if a bit of an `hysterical historical.' It ends as Catherine arrives in England, paving the way for a sequel.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm. It's ok, 20 Dec 2012
By 
Perfectbub "Fiona" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
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It has to be admitted that this book is a tad formulaic. Nasty childhood made better by kind servant. Not much is truly known of Catherine de Valios. She married Henry V after the Frenchies were trounced at Agincourt. This book seeks to redress this.

That is about it. I read it and there were some clever touches. The author uses letters between.the princess and her brother to move the narrative along. There is a clever entwinning of historical fiction and fact.

I don't think I would read it again but it was ok.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An okay book, but nothing special., 11 Sep 2013
By 
xenofan "xenofan" (Kansas, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
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I'm a Tudor history fan so was pleased to pick up this book. On the surface it's a good historical read, its written from the perspective of the `wet-nurse, maid' of princess Catherine. The insight into life for a royal woman is great and there are good links with true historical events in both France and England for that period. It's a quick read and I confess to skipping parts due to boredom. An okay book, but nothing special.
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The Agincourt Bride
The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson (Paperback - 3 Jan 2013)
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