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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 November 2014
This is book four of “The Accursed Kings” series and it picks up the story where book three (“The Poisoned Crown”) left it. It shares the excellent features that are part of the other books in the series.

First, the translation is high quality even if some expressions do not always reflect the original. An example of this is the title of this volume. “The Royal Succession” does not entirely render the French title (“la Loi des Mâles”, or something like the “Law of Male Inheritance”). This, however, is quibbling on my part.

Second, this volume is as close to the historical record as possible, to the extent that it is often difficult to disentangle the fiction from the real events and characters. For instance, and contrary to what another reviewer has stated, a Siennese did claim to be John the Posthumous, the son of Louis X a few decades later. It is on this fact that Maurice Druon builds his intrigue and has the real heir to the throne saved and surviving in obscurity with almost everyone believing that he died when five days old. In addition, the Cressay family really existed, as the author’s historical notes show.

The main subject of this book is the ruthless struggle between Philip, Count of Poitiers, and his rivals (his uncle, Charles Count of Valois, but also the Duke of Burgundy and his clan) to become Regent and then King as Philip V the Long (because he was very tall and slim). To impose himself, Philip had to resort to some rather ruthless measures, including those used to get his candidate elected as pope, all of which are historically correct. Also historical is the alliance struck between Philip and the intriguing cardinal Duèze who was elected as John XXII because none of the other cardinals expected him to survive more than a few weeks. He was pope for eighteen years. The other ruthless measure is, of course, the invention of the so-called “Salic Law” in order to brush aside the claim to the throne of Louis X’s daughter, who may or may not have been his. It is the sale “Salic Law” (or “Law of the Males”) according to which females could not inherit the throne or pass their claim to their children, which would be used to debar Edward III from his own claim through his mother Isabella “the she-wold of France” and the daughter of Philip IV the Fair.

Another set of excellent features that are displayed again in this volume is the characterisation. One of the best is that of Philip V. He was as intelligent and ambitious as his father, but perhaps not as ruthless and not as tough. He is afflicted by what seems like a bad conscience, especially since he has to condone and support his mother-in-law and her murders, of which he is initially unaware. The author’s portrait leads to comparisons with Philip IV the Fair and although Philip V is the one who has his intelligence, he is still somewhat found wanting for he has neither his physical presence nor his strength. Other characters, such as pompous and arrogant Valois and Mahaut and her nephew Robert III of Artois, locked in their unending feud, are as good as in previous volumes. Perhaps the only sympathetic character is Queen Clemence, the widow of Louis X to whom she was married for just ten months, and the mother of John the Posthumous. This is largely because she is shown as utterly hopeless and entirely out of her depth.

What the author has done again in this volume (as in others) is to interpret the feelings and actions of the various characters. He has also chosen to present as true a number of rumours that circulated at the time, one of these being the poisoning of Louis X.
Mahaut d’Artois is a character that the author has particularly blackened, making her into a rather awful murderess. Another interpretation is her alleged role in the demise of the supposed John I the Posthumous, King for five days. The “official version” is that the baby died of natural causes, which is of course much less dramatic but quite plausible given the very high infant mortality rates at the time. Whether Mahaut really did play a role in their demise will of course never be known. However, as the book clearly shows, she did have an interest in their demise. She could have done it and she was probably unscrupulous enough to do so because making her son in law become King was in her view the surest way to ensure that the County of Artois would remain hers, whatever mischief her nephew might be able to stir up.

Five stars.
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on 26 April 2017
Easy read. Knew nothing of the Capetians and am enjoying the series.
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on 2 October 2017
If you like Game of Thrones you will love these !
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VINE VOICEon 5 January 2014
This is another fine addition to The Accursed Kings series, picking up immediately where The Poisoned Crown (The Accursed Kings, Book 3) left off. The pace is a little slower than previous books focusing entirely on the political machinations surrounding the empty throne of France. Competing alliances are formed, murders are committed, plot threads that have been winding through the series so far take ingenious twists or are suddenly and surprisingly cut short. Truly (a translation of!) masterful writing.

Throughout, as in the previous novels, Druon excels at tragic interjections, a knowing narrator of a history long gone whose tale travels further into hell. Seemingly-minor characters are weaved into history until you're not sure who was real and who was not. Utterly gripping stuff.

Of course, if you've read the previous three, you don't need me to tell you this. You know this isn't standard pot-boiler fare. You've probably already read it, in which case I congratulate you on your excellent choice in reading material. If, by some bizarre circumstance, you haven't read the previous three novels, go read The Iron King (The Accursed Kings, Book 1).

Be aware of course that there are still three unpublished novels in this re-release of the series. The publisher's schedule is as follows:

She-Wolf - 10/04/14
The Lily & the Lion - 25/09/14
King Without a Kingdom - 8/01/15
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on 12 September 2013
Book #4 in "The Accursed Kings" Series.

Louis X is dead, poisoned by Mahaut d'Artois. Her plan is to clear the path to the French throne for his brother Philippe, her own son-in-law. But their uncle Charles Valois has the same plans for himself - if Queen Clementia gives birth to a boy, he'll be regent. If a girl, who knows...
Philippe is away at Lyon, trying to make the conclave to elect a new Pope ASAP. But the cardinals are being quite fussy. So he locks them inside of a church for over a month until they elect exactly the man Philippe intended them to elect - cardinal Jacques Duèze, Pope John XXII.
Back in Paris, Philippe's first order of business is to exclude little Jeanne, Louis' daughter with the adulteress Marguerite, from the royal succession (in order to clear the path for himself) by recreating, or rather creating, the ancient Salic Law...

"Then hear me, gracious sovereign, and you peers,
That owe yourselves, your lives and services
To this imperial throne. There is no bar
To make against your highness' claim to France
But this, which they produce from Pharamond,
'In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant:'
'No woman shall succeed in Salique land:'
Which Salique land the French unjustly gloze
To be the realm of France, and Pharamond
The founder of this law and female bar.
Yet their own authors faithfully affirm
That the land Salique is in Germany,
Between the floods of Sala and of Elbe;
Where Charles the Great, having subdued the Saxons,
There left behind and settled certain French;
Who, holding in disdain the German women
For some dishonest manners of their life,
Establish'd then this law; to wit, no female
Should be inheritrix in Salique land:
Which Salique, as I said, 'twixt Elbe and Sala,
Is at this day in Germany call'd Meisen.
Then doth it well appear that Salique law
Was not devised for the realm of France:
Nor did the French possess the Salique land
Until four hundred one and twenty years
After defunction of King Pharamond,
Idly supposed the founder of this law;
Who died within the year of our redemption
Four hundred twenty-six; and Charles the Great
Subdued the Saxons, and did seat the French
Beyond the river Sala, in the year
Eight hundred five. Besides, their writers say,
King Pepin, which deposed Childeric,
Did, as heir general, being descended
Of Blithild, which was daughter to King Clothair,
Make claim and title to the crown of France.
Hugh Capet also, who usurped the crown
Of Charles the duke of Lorraine, sole heir male
Of the true line and stock of Charles the Great,
To find his title with some shows of truth,
'Through, in pure truth, it was corrupt and naught,
Convey'd himself as heir to the Lady Lingare,
Daughter to Charlemain, who was the son
To Lewis the emperor, and Lewis the son
Of Charles the Great. Also King Lewis the Tenth,
Who was sole heir to the usurper Capet,
Could not keep quiet in his conscience,
Wearing the crown of France, till satisfied
That fair Queen Isabel, his grandmother,
Was lineal of the Lady Ermengare,
Daughter to Charles the foresaid duke of Lorraine:
By the which marriage the line of Charles the Great
Was re-united to the crown of France.
So that, as clear as is the summer's sun.
King Pepin's title and Hugh Capet's claim,
King Lewis his satisfaction, all appear
To hold in right and title of the female:
So do the kings of France unto this day;
Howbeit they would hold up this Salique law
To bar your highness claiming from the female,
And rather choose to hide them in a net
Than amply to imbar their crooked titles
Usurp'd from you and your progenitors."

...which would bar women from inheriting. Which is useful for him but also for Robert d'Artois, who misses not a moment in declaring war on his aunt Mahaut and himself as the lawful master of the duchy of Artois.
Queen Clementia gives birth to a son. Marie de Cressay becomes his wet-nurse, while giving birth to a boy herself. One can imagine the rest...

This was my favourite book so far. I love court politics and intrigue and was always in Philippe's corner anyway.
One of my favourite lines was said by Pope John, the cunning Dueze, that one must wield power through one's friends instead of trying to make friends out of one's enemies, something which has been the downfall of two potentially great English kings I've been reading about lately - Stephen of Blois and Richard III.
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on 24 August 2016
The Royal Succession (The Accursed Kings, Book 4) is another brilliant example of superb writing that to this reader is the pinnacle of historical fiction and literary entertainment. This series takes my breath away every time I open the pages on another reign of the House of Capet and needless to say The Royal Succession did not disappoint. The Royal Succession is the fourth installment of The Accursed Kings series and enfolds history and vivid descriptions of French chronicles to create a harrowing saga of intrigue, destiny, murder, revenge and loss of innocence. Each novel continues the saga of the previous installment and I would strongly encourage those interested to please read the previous three novels (The Iron King, The Strangled Queen and The Poisoned Crown) before attempting The Royal Succession; however each novel does contain a review of previous novels and events so the decision is yours to make.

This novel's timeline only spans from June 1316 to January 9 1317 and follows the absence of a sovereign, the anticipated birth of a posthumous heir and detached manoeuvres of church and court. What transpires behind the empty throne is a succession of events that will ultimately throw the country of France and England into a bloody struggle for power. In The Royal Succession more imaginative drama is presented to the reader than the previous novels, history of course is kept in mind and follows events as close as possible but shocking counterplots are sure to keep readers up late trying to guess what will happen next. I highly recommend The Royal Succession and The Accursed Kings series to those who have a passion for history and a desire to discover a refined collection of novels that are sure to amuse and haunt the reader.
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on 26 February 2015
I have a distant memory of watching the French series of The Accursed Kings (with English subtitles) years ago and enjoying the series. I am now having equal pleasure in reading the books. The translations seem fine to me and it is interesting to become more aware of early French history, After all English history and French is very intertwined.
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on 2 April 2014
fabulous - can see why this series of books has inspired GRRM with his 'song of ice & fire' - would recommend anyone that likes medieval intrigue and backstabbing, whether or not it is fact or fictional, to buy this set - book 5 please.
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on 9 June 2016
Probably my favourite Maurice Druon book so far, would definitely recommend these books if you have finished Games of Thrones. No fantasy whatsoever but is a fictional series about the actual events of the French royalty in the 1300s.
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on 22 February 2014
Book 4 in this series of books (The Accursed Kings) just gets better - the greed,ego's, the Catholic Church - the divide between the rich and poor - the lust for power all contrive to make this a brilliant read.
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