A historical novel follows Isabelle, the queen of France, who wielded astronomical power and then suffered a staggering fall from grace during the late 14th and early 15th century.
Rogers (Four Princesses From Provence, 2015) opens her tale as Elizabeth, a young royal of Bavaria, prepares, along with her best friend, Catherine of Fastaverin, for a night of merrymaking at her home. She lives a life of privilege and enjoys all the amenities one would expect for the beautiful daughter of the duke of Bavaria. As the story unfolds, the handsome, young king of France expresses interest in becoming acquainted with Elizabeth. Their first meeting is a stunning success, and Charles VI insists he will marry Elizabeth of Bavaria and no other. He is so smitten that he even refuses a dowry. The people of France are at first captivated by the monarch’s teenage bride, whom they call Isabelle. She easily embraces her new life and enjoys the unbridled affection of her husband. Unfortunately, the doting Charles gradually loses his mental faculties. As he creeps toward insanity, he leaves his wife lonely and bereft. Worse yet, without the king by her side, the people of France lose patience with the opulence enjoyed by Isabelle and her courtiers while they suffer burdensome taxation. As Charles retreats further into the throes of mental illness, Isabelle finds others to rely on and new ways to satisfy her romantic and sexual urges. But she gradually manages to alienate many of the people to whom she was closest throughout her earlier life. As Isabelle’s situation turns increasingly dire, Rogers skillfully showcases many of the issues that caused political strife in France during the 15th century. The author also traces the volatile sentiments of the French people regarding Isabelle (“They reproached her the taxes with which they were burdened and that went to pay for her luxury and the presents she showered on her German family”). The illuminating novel examines the French relationship with the English and the role that Isabelle played in uniting the two countries. Although a lack of setting details throughout the narrative can at times make the story difficult to follow, the tale deftly explores the isolation and loneliness that can often accompany a meteoric rise to power. The engrossing book should particularly appeal to fans of French Renaissance history.
A thought-provoking tale of royal influence, treachery, and betrayal.