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In this, her fifth book in the Plantagenet series, Jean Plaidy, renowned writer of historical fiction also known to her devoted fans as Victoria Holt, tackles the two most powerful women of the early thirteenth century, Isabella of Angouleme, the Dowager Queen of England, and Blanche, the Dowager Queen of France.
The heartbreakingly beautiful and sensual Isabella, a woman with little motherly instincts, had been married to King John of England, the most depraved, dissolute, and evil tyrant ever to rule over England, when she was just a child of twelve. John had been the youngest son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II of England. Unfortunately, he did not follow in the footsteps of his father in terms of his ability to govern his widespread kingdom. When John died a mysterious death, both Isabella and England were freed from his tyranny, and his and Isabella's eldest son, though a mere boy of nine at the time, became King Henry III of England. Isabella was now the Dowager Queen of England.
Meanwhile, across the English Channel in France, Blanche, the granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II of England, had married Louis VIII of France. Her grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had handpicked her for that explicit purpose, as Eleanor had sensed in Blanche one such as she, a person with the wit and drive to be a strong queen. The marriage of Blanche and Louis had been a happy one, until an untimely death took Louis, who had been a well-meaning, though weak, king. Their handsome son, Louis, would become King Louis IX of France at the age of twelve. The beautiful Blanche, a virtuous and regal woman, was now the Dowager Queen of France.
When Isabella and Blanche would meet, it was clear that neither woman had much love for the other. When King John of England died, Isabella remarried Count Hugh of Lusignan, the man to whom she had originally been betrothed a lifetime ago, before King John had abducted her and made her his child bride. The fact that Joanna, her daughter with John, was now betrothed to Hugh did not deter Isabella from her determination to marry her first love. So, in addition to being the Dowager Queen of England, Isabella became a Countess through her marriage to Hugh, who was a vassal of France.
This was an untenable situation for Isabella, who despised Blanche and refused to give her and her son the homage that they were due. Isabella ruled her husband Hugh through her ability to provide many amorous and sensuous delights, causing him to commit many grave errors in judgment that were to cause much disharmony in his life. Isabella was single-minded in her determination to cause Blanche as much trouble as possible. She plotted and intrigued against the French crown and no perfidy was too great, encouraging her son, Henry, to try to regain the lands that his father, King John, had recklessly lost to the French. Blanche, however, was not oblivious to Isabella's hatred of her and, being a clever woman, made the necessary moves to keep her in check. One day, however, Isabella went too far and attempted the ultimate act of treason. It was an act that was to cause the tempestuous Isabella of Angouleme to come to an ignominious end.
This is a well-written and interesting work of historical fiction, revolving around two women who wielded a great deal of influence in early thirteenth century England and France. Replete with historical detail, the author paints a living picture of the political intrigues of the day. Historical figures are made three dimensional, adding a vibrancy to this enjoyable book, which those who love historical fiction of this period should enjoy.
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on 19 April 2013
The Battle of The Queens focuses on two women of similar age and background - Isabella, Queen of England and now Queen Mother and Blanche of Castile, Queen of France. In the normal way of the thirteenth century, neither of these women would have had much say in anything except for child bearing and probably dying young but instead they managed to marry Kings, give birth to Kings and shape the fate of each other's lives - despite the similarities ending when they married.

In reality the title is a little misleading as it doesn't really focus too much on their lives but also on the lives of the newly crowned Henry III, abandoned by his mother and left to the designs of powerful men - and also of his sisters - the perpetually cold Joan (is Scotland really that cold?? And boy, were we reminded on almost every page where Joan was mentioned, that she was cold. And no, I didn`t really believe she still loved Hugh her first intended husband, thoughtfully stolen from her by her mother. She was a child then and it seems unlikely?) - and younger sisters, Isabella and Eleanor. It also brings back Eleanor of Aquitaine as it retells how she brought the young Blanche from Castile to France having substituted one sister for another - cruel but how it was in medieval times - one sister was as good as another! (even if one girl did have an unfortunate name that wouldn't translate into French!)

It is fascinating to see the formation of the great `English' (although at that time Norman ...) families - the Second Earl of Pembroke, the First Earl of Leicester ... These are the families that the nobility trace their trees back to and they dominate history from now on. It makes great reading.

We don't really get to know why the Queens hated each other quite so much so we have to take Jean Plaidy's word for it. Isabella ought to have been happy with her new very devoted husband (her old love and her daughter's former intended) and fully occupied with her many pregnancies but instead she had time to plot trouble for the French throne and it wasn't clear to me why although I enjoyed the story enormously.

I am very drawn to the whole Plantagenet story and am so glad that there is yet another in the series so I haven't finished it - I have the Queen from Provence to look forward to. I am just hoping that there will be 'flashbacks' to some of the earlier characters we have already come to know and sort of love.
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on 20 August 2016
Jean Plaidy is good as always, plenty of historical background. Quite a bit of telling not showing but maybe that was the style at the times she wrote it. I thought considering it was called the Battle of the Queens half of it really only referred to the 'battle' between them, they mostly carried on with their own lives, and the rest was mostly about Isabella and her life in France. Great book nonetheless. I am slowly going through the Plantagenent series.
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In this, her fifth book in the Plantagenet series, Jean Plaidy, renowned writer of historical fiction also known to her devoted fans as Victoria Holt, tackles the two most powerful women of the early thirteenth century, Isabella of Angouleme, the Dowager Queen of England, and Blanche, the Dowager Queen of France.

The heartbreakingly beautiful and sensual Isabella, a woman with little motherly instincts, had been married to King John of England, the most depraved, dissolute, and evil tyrant ever to rule over England, when she was just a child of twelve. John had been the youngest son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II of England. Unfortunately, he did not follow in the footsteps of his father in terms of his ability to govern his widespread kingdom. When John died a mysterious death, both Isabella and England were freed from his tyranny, and his and Isabella's eldest son, though a mere boy of nine at the time, became King Henry III of England. Isabella was now the Dowager Queen of England.

Meanwhile, across the English Channel in France, Blanche, the granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II of England, had married Louis VIII of France. Her grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had handpicked her for that explicit purpose, as Eleanor had sensed in Blanche one such as she, a person with the wit and drive to be a strong queen. The marriage of Blanche and Louis had been a happy one, until an untimely death took Louis, who had been a well-meaning, though weak, king. Their handsome son, Louis, would become King Louis IX of France at the age of twelve. The beautiful Blanche, a virtuous and regal woman, was now the Dowager Queen of France.

When Isabella and Blanche would meet, it was clear that neither woman had much love for the other. When King John of England died, Isabella remarried Count Hugh of Lusignan, the man to whom she had originally been betrothed a lifetime ago, before King John had abducted her and made her his child bride. The fact that Joanna, her daughter with John, was now betrothed to Hugh did not deter Isabella from her determination to marry her first love. So, in addition to being the Dowager Queen of England, Isabella became a Countess through her marriage to Hugh, who was a vassal of France.

This was an untenable situation for Isabella, who despised Blanche and refused to give her and her son the homage that they were due. Isabella ruled her husband Hugh through her ability to provide many amorous and sensuous delights, causing him to commit many grave errors in judgment that were to cause much disharmony in his life. Isabella was single-minded in her determination to cause Blanche as much trouble as possible. She plotted and intrigued against the French crown and no perfidy was too great, encouraging her son, Henry, to try to regain the lands that his father, King John, had recklessly lost to the French. Blanche, however, was not oblivious to Isabella's hatred of her and, being a clever woman, made the necessary moves to keep her in check. One day, however, Isabella went too far and attempted the ultimate act of treason. It was an act that was to cause the tempestuous Isabella of Angouleme to come to an ignominious end.

This is a well-written and interesting work of historical fiction, revolving around two women who wielded a great deal of influence in early thirteenth century England and France. Replete with historical detail, the author paints a living picture of the political intrigues of the day. Historical figures are made three dimensional, adding a vibrancy to this enjoyable book, which those who love historical fiction of this period should enjoy.
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on 6 August 2014
Not read yet,but Jean Plaidy is unsurpassable for her factual detailing of history, and her ability to make the story come alive with her creative dialogue between the characters and her attention to retelling details to save the poor reader from having to remember too much.
the book arrived promptly and in good condition. thanks!
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on 3 March 2010
As per all Jean Plaidy books i have not been able to put this down and have just ordered the rest of this trilogy
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on 23 September 2014
I would really recommend this book! I got into Jean Plaidy recently and this book is definitely a page turner! I found it hard to put down.
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on 12 February 2013
Purchased as present, understand the recipient enjoys the series a lot, but not my 'cup of tea' so further purchase will not be for me
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on 23 January 2013
I love all Jean Plaidy books - first read them when I was a teenager in the early 60s and now enjoying them a second time.
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on 17 January 2014
Very good price and delivery was excellent will recommend this to any one, they have plenty of choice very good
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