Devil’s Consort by Anne O’Brien
From the author of the inept ‘The King’s Concubine’ comes this tale of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s first marriage to the weedy paranoid shut-in French king and how she seized the impactful opportunity to abandon that marriage and wed Henry Plantagenet the would be King of England.
Eleanor doesn’t always make good choices and is subject to scathing opinions and people are ever grudging in their praise. She has no dependability, moral stability or moral clarity and each act is a portent of trouble ahead. Her marriage to Louis leaves her in perpetual sorrow. Louis is fond of morale boosting speeches but is not manful or energetic. O’Brien seems to copy all of Alison Weir’s historical conclusions about Eleanor, Louis’ boring moroseness, people constantly dropping dead of pre-antibiotic bugs, her ‘wooing’ by Henry and his very very un-controlled rage.
Henry has bloated self-benevolence and carries out hostile acts. Eleanor feels a profound sense of injustice at ‘lies’ circulated about her but does not help herself by keeping company with age-inappropriate men and her own uncle. No wonder she had a less than desirable reputation. While this was a readable potboiler, Eleanor is irritable and petty, Henry is offensive and Louis has a continual dereliction of his duties. This was okay but there are anachronisms, errors, declaratory dialogue and Eleanor is a monument to her own self-regard.
“I trembled for him.”
“My brother, God rot him.”
“What a backwater of civilisation, this is.”
“There is no apology. There never will be.”