This was a surprisingly good book. Detailing the events that came to pass of the Anarchy. Of the civil war between Stephen and Maude.
It was indeed done brilliantly. Both Stephen and Maude are sympathetic characters, neither one is perfect. And the whole reason this existed is that both did not agree.
The same reason why the story would not exist if Maude was a weak woman. She would have simply accepted her fate and let herself be passed over. And perhaps her son would never have sat on the throne.
Stephen chooses this for the right reasons, but he certainly isn’t a great king. He didn’t know how to handle Maude, or even how to placate her. He basically stole her throne, and anyone in that period regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman would have started a civil war. But he isn’t evil either, simply doing what’s right.
Except that he is basically watching everything fall apart later on, despite starting out rather strong. His own failures came later, where he was taken hostage and eventually release to England simply because his wife had caught her and Maude had made her own mistakes.
Both he and Maude’s life is a tragedy. Maude never gains back the throne, something that she bitterly fought for. And when she was no longer viable, simply changed it to her son.
She has faults, and her merits. And even why many refused her initially were because of her own unpopular marriage, something that she heavily disliked and also at the same time forced into. Her life is also a tragedy in its own way. As in better footing, she may have succeeded in claiming the throne.
Neither of these people are villains, and they both had their issues. And the story managed to give them the justice they truly deserved.
And then, shifting to the Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It is certainly fascinating to see this. This is a very famous couple in history. And Henry II had been a great king of England.
But this features their meeting and marriage. Little else in reality. It’s handled in an incredibly thoughtful way. Showing that there is something between the two of them.
And Eleanor, lamenting the life of a woman. It’s clear that she experienced quite a lot of it, since her own daughters were taken away from her and her own marriage was annulled. With her rather interesting reputation. It fits, along with her own understanding and need to remarry.
It fits as most of them would have thrown themselves at her. And it feels oddly refreshing, and gives the piece quite a bit of thought. Although there is another about Maude, and it also works to and extent.
The story tells a tragedy, in every sense. But in that tragedy, emerges some hope. Begins with the death of a king, and ends with one too.
Rating: 5 out of 5