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Now that Plaidy has decided to fill in the gaps in her continuing saga of English sovereigns, it's ho! for the Plantagenets--who predictably come in like lions with Henry II and his fiery consort, Eleonore [sic] of Aquitaine. Again, Plaidystyle, the principals emerge in primary colors and slide into place with the ease of old slippers. Eleonore is cultured, lusty, and born to rule; Henry is crude, lusty, and born to rule. Passion roils. . . once Eleonore has divested herself of husband #1, Louis VII of France, a mild and pious type wretched with the direful military deeds Eleonore urges on him; after dalliances with her uncle, Raymond of Antioch, and the Turk Saladin, Eleonore demands a divorce. Her reasons for marrying Henry Plantagenet are made perfectly clear and simple--so simple that they could be true: ""She wanted Henry. . . Henry was going to be king. She wanted to marry him."" The marriage will not turn sour until Eleonore, losing her figure with all that childbearing, is aware of Henry's mistresses and byblows, one of whom Henry has reared in the royal nursery. And Henry, racing about keeping enemies and kin in line in England and France, is burdened with the noble commitment of Thomas Becket, his former friend; and it is to this famous duel of wills that Plaidy devotes the rest of the book, which ends with Thomas' murder. (A sequel will deal with Henry's squabbling children and Eleonore's power politics.) Again Plaidy clarifies complex and foggy royal beings to a plate-glass transparency--but this is livelier stuff than her recent Norman doings and a far more bustling picture of Henry and Eleonore than you'll find in Linda Hutchins' Mortal Love (p. 154).

Pub Date: March 17th, 1980
Publisher: Putnam