The Winter Crown

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“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” – Sir John Dalberg-Acton

Repeatedly marginalised and humiliated by a husband who excessively hoards power, Eleanor’s patience is wearing thin.

Not a woman to be easily crossed, she has grown used to biding her time.

But Henry’s actions will have their consequences and he will yet need his wife in ways even he cannot imagine.

The Winter Crown is the second novel in Elizabeth Chadwick’s Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy. 

As an author of historical fiction, Chadwick has published over 20 novels and specialises particularly in the Medieval period.

Her first novel, The Wild Hunt, was published in 1989 and her stories have since been translated into 18 languages worldwide.

Chadwick has also been shortlisted four times for the  Romantic Novelists Association Parker Pen Award and her story, The Scarlet Lion, was nominated in 2010 by Historical Novel Society founder Richard Lee as one of the ten landmark historical novels of the decade.

The first in the Eleanor trilogy, The Summer Queen was published in 2013 and begins in 1137 with 13-year-old Eleanor’s father leaving on a doomed pilgrimage never to return.

This first book explores her ill-fated marriage to King Louis VII of France and her eventual divorce and introduction to the future King Henry II.

The Winter Crown then follows Eleanor’s journey from her second coronation (this time as Queen of England) in 1154 to her imprisonment at Old Sarum, Whiltshire in 1174.

The Autumn Throne, published in September last year, completes this series – bringing Eleanor’s vast and legendary story to a close.

The novels are written in third person narrative and mainly follow Eleanor’s perspective, interspersed with that of other key character’s also.

Throughout the body of the novels Eleanor is referred to as ‘Alienor’, in keeping with the traditional French recording of her name.

Whilst The Winter Crown is a sequel – it also works as a stand alone novel. Chadwick does well to fill in all the necessary gaps and the reader is not left wanting for any key information.

The detail and historical theme setting is done remarkably well throughout – providing vivid snapshots into day to day Medieval court life.

A particularly successful part of this book is the way it presents relationships – Henry and Eleanor’s marital discourse and transition is especially well done (as is Henry’s notoriously volatile relationship with Thomas Becket).

The famously explosive and bitter marriage is a key focus of the plot line and Chadwick is to be commended on her portrayal of its decline.

While Henry II could have been completely vilified in this novel, I don’t believe he has been and Chadwick has given reason and depth to his character.

Her depiction of Eleanor is strong and likeable but also humanly imperfect and a lot of time and care has been put into the writing of each of her children’s individual personalities too .

There are a couple of times when it does feel a little repetitive and cliche, but on the whole the story is engaging and enjoyable.

Overall, it is a very interesting depiction of Medieval domestic court life, in a time of history which was fraught with uncertainty and turbulent events.

First published by Sphere in 2014, The Winter Crown retails for £16.99 in hardback or £8.99 in paperback. It also retails in Canada for $28.99 for the hardback copy.

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