Uneven, often tedious – this is not one of the best novels I’ve read about this fascinating woman. Awarded two stars on Goodreads.Although the story of Matilda, only heir to King Henry I and rightful queen of England, is interesting – her ten year struggle to claim the throne does get tedious.
Her rival is her cousin King Stephen, who usurps the throne because Matilda is living outside England at the time of her father’s death. And many feel a king in the flesh beats a queen in absentia. There’s also that other issue — a bunch of men not wanting to take orders from a woman.
It’s the beginning of civil war. There are endless battles. Lots of powerful nobles (difficult for me to keep all their names straight) changing sides – now loyal to Stephen, now loyal to Matilda, back and forth and back again. I admit I started skimming descriptions of death and destruction.
What I liked best about the book were the personal parts about Matilda herself – shipped off at 8 to marry a much older king, married at 12, soon the Empress of Germany, widowed 10+ years later, and forced into another political marriage to Geoffrey of Anjou, 9 years her junior.
History reports that even those who supported Matilda’s claim to the English throne found her arrogant and haughty. That comes across in this book. But you’ll have to decide for yourself whether the read problem was that, as a woman, Matilda refused to demure to the men around her.
Matilda fights doggedly for her throne throughout the novel. Then, abruptly just before the last chapter, she gives up the fight, and suddenly, it’s some years later and she is witnessing the coronation of her famous son, King Henry II. It was SO abrupt that it almost felt like some chapters were missing or the author got tired of writing and decided to skip to the end of Matilda’s story. Needless to say, this one is NOT my favorite account of Matilda’s story.
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