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Bobbing in the Plantagenet doldrums of the 13th century, Plaidy now leafs through the forgettable reign of Henry III (son of bad King John), reducing his post-Magna Carta woes to dismal simplicities while focusing on his Queen, Eleanor of Provence. Plaidy has rich royal material, however, in the impressive marriages of Eleanor's three sisters: Marguerite becomes the queen of Louis IX of France; Sanchia is the second wife of Richard, Earl of Leicester (brother of Henry III); Beatrice marries a mere Duke of Brittany. So, along with other nuptials--Simon de Montfort weds Henry's sister, Henry's daughter Margaret weds young King Alexander of Scotland--there's a plethora of the scenes which Plaidy's audience expects: the bridal procession (while groundlings cheer), the Meeting, the feast, end sad partings from parents (who remind the bride that this is a Queen's Lot). And as for Queen Eleanor, a feisty sort who sets her wimple for Henry while he's negotiating for another, she is little practical help to her adoring spouse: she urges him to keep right on spending, taxing, and passing out posts to her FrenCh relatives--all of which incenses the burghers of London and rallies the already strong barons behind de Montfort, here portrayed as a sensible, reluctant rebel who establishes the Parliament of 1265 with borough and city representation. (""I never heard the like of this,"" says Henry.) True, there are dutiful references to the Gascony expeditions, the contention concerning Henry's promise to Pope Innocent to secure Sicily, and an aborted French campaign. But Plaidy concentrates mainly on tapestry-side Queen talk, gatherings of a loving royal family, and finally the defeat of de Montfort and the ascent of ""Longshanks,"" Henry's son Edward. After the feuding of Queens Blanche and Isabella in The Battle of the Queens (p. 455), this is tame and repetitive; but it's a useful bridge from Bad John to the noisy Edwards I and II.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1981
Publisher: Putnam