The best books about Eleanor of Aquitaine

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Eleanor of Aquitaine and why they recommend each book.

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The Queen's Man

By Sharon Kay Penman,

Book cover of The Queen's Man: A Medieval Mystery (Medieval Mysteries)

Bastard-born Justin de Quincy becomes ‘the Queen’s Man’ after carrying an important letter from a dying man to Eleanor of Aquitaine. He is charged by Eleanor to keep her son John out of mischief and thwart his efforts to become king while she sets about raising the ransom money to bail Richard the Lionheart out of his prison in Austria. As a roving trouble-shooter, Justin is supported by the under-sheriff of Hampshire and a sergeant, Jonas, but things become complicated after he falls for the Lady Claudine, who is close to John, while the Queen’s double agent, Durant, also poses a threat. I enjoyed reading about all the intrigues of the court as Justin solves crimes and murders. 


Who am I?

After enjoying Josephine Tey’s wonderful Daughter of Time, in which she exonerates Richard III from the crime of murdering the princes in the tower, followed by the Brother Cadfael mysteries, I became hooked on historical crimes and decided to try writing them myself! It was quite a challenge researching both the history and the settings from Australia, but the novels became a wonderful excuse for lengthy visits to travel around Great Britain and France. As well as writing the Janna Chronicles, my passion for history has also prompted several other published novels and series, including the Shalott trilogy.


I wrote...

Blood Oath: The Janna Chronicles 1

By Felicity Pulman,

Book cover of Blood Oath: The Janna Chronicles 1

What is my book about?

A young woman, alone and on the run in a medieval kingdom at war, goes in search of her unknown father, hoping to avenge her mother’s murder with his help. In this six-book series, Janna follows the clues as she flees from forest to farm, to abbey, Stonehenge, and, finally, to the royal court at Winchester.  Along her journey she solves many crimes and mysteries, including the secrets of her birth, and of her heart. Torn between love and duty, Janna is forced to take sides in the bitter fight for the crown between King Stephen and Empress Matilda: a decision that could keep her safe – but break her heart. 

Heroines of the Medieval World

By Sharon Bennett Connolly,

Book cover of Heroines of the Medieval World

There is a wealth of information contained within the pages of this book. As the author points out, the lives of medieval women were constrained, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have influence. There are remarkable women profiled inside its pages, such as Nicholaa de la Haye, castellan (governor) of Lincoln’s castle, whose courage was equal to any man’s. The heroines are mostly noblewomen, or royalty, as the scant records of the period relating to women largely ignore those classed as peasants. This book brings together their stories and sets them at the heart of their era’s history.


Who am I?

I often feel as if I live with one foot in the present, and one in the past. It’s always been the little-known stories that fascinate me the most, especially women’s history. Their lives can be harder to research, but more rewarding for that. As a writer and historian, it has been wonderful to discover the histories of intriguing but ‘overlooked’ women, and to share their tales. I hope you enjoy reading the books I have selected as much as I did!


I wrote...

A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History

By Joanne Major, Sarah Murden,

Book cover of A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History

What is my book about?

Have you ever heard the story of Sinnetta Lambourne, the Romany girl who was the wife of Queen Elizabeth II’s great-grandfather? Her husband, the Reverend Charles (Charley) Cavendish-Bentinck was a man ahead of his times in his outlook. He followed his heart, against the wishes of his family and titled relatives. A generation earlier, Charley’s parents had been at the centre of a Regency-era scandal. His mother, married to the ‘richest commoner’ in the country, was the Duke of Wellington’s niece. Just weeks after the Battle of Waterloo, she eloped with her lover…

Discover the untold story of the British royal family’s recent history.

Matrix

By Lauren Groff,

Book cover of Matrix

Matrix pulled me in immediately. I loved the realness of the setting: the mud and the cold and the food and the smells. Life in the middle ages wasn’t easy, and Groff’s novel doesn’t try to romanticize that. I also loved the protagonist, a woman who gradually builds a position of power for herself. Groff explores sexuality and desire, community and meaning, religion and power on a scale that is both personal and profound.


Who am I?

I’ve been reading fiction set in the middle ages since…well, since I could read! Tales of Arthur and his knights featured largely on my childhood bookshelves. In graduate school, I got the chance to study both the literature and the religion of the middle ages and read up on the source texts. Reading literature from the period itself – whether saints’ lives or poems or travel tales – made me realize how rich the age was, and how few stories we tend to retell. I became passionate about writing more about the experiences of those who didn’t fit the mainstream expectations of gender and sexuality. There are a wealth of tales that need to be retold.


I wrote...

The Story of Silence

By Alex Myers,

Book cover of The Story of Silence

What is my book about?

There was once, long ago, a foolish king who decreed that women should not, and would not, inherit. Thus when a girl-child was born to Lord Cador – Merlin-enchanted fighter of dragons and Earl of Cornwall – he secreted her away: to be raised a boy so that the family land and honour would remain intact. That child’s name was Silence.

Silence must find their own place in a medieval world that is determined to place the many restrictions of gender and class upon them. With dreams of knighthood and a lonely heart to answer, Silence sets out to define themselves. Soon their silence will be ended.

Eleanor of Aquitaine

By Marion Meade,

Book cover of Eleanor of Aquitaine

This may not be the most scholarly book on this extraordinary woman; but it is by far the most readable on the only woman who married both a King of France and King of England, went on Crusade to Jerusalem, and civilized feudalism by sponsoring poets and minstrels and creating the idea of romantic love.

Who am I?

Martin Walker studied history at Oxford, international relations and economics at Harvard, and spent 28 years as journalist and foreign correspondent for Britain's The Guardian newspaper. He divides his time between the USA, Britain and the Perigord region of France, where he produces his own Bergerac red wine, 'Cuvee Bruno'. Martin writes a monthly wine column and is a Grand Consul de la Vinee de Bergerac, a body founded in the year 1254 AD and dedicated to the support of the region’s wines. 


I wrote...

Bruno, Chief of Police: A Mystery of the French Countryside

By Martin Walker,

Book cover of Bruno, Chief of Police: A Mystery of the French Countryside

What is my book about?

The first installment in the delightful, internationally acclaimed series featuring Chief of Police Bruno. Meet Benoît Courrèges, aka Bruno, a policeman in a small village in the South of France.  He’s a former soldier who has embraced the pleasures and slow rhythms of country life. He has a gun but never wears it; he has the power to arrest but never uses it. But then the murder of an elderly North African who fought in the French army changes all that.  Now Bruno must balance his beloved routines—living in his restored shepherd’s cottage, shopping at the local market, drinking wine, strolling the countryside—with a politically delicate investigation.  He’s paired with a young policewoman from Paris and the two suspect anti-immigrant militants.  As they learn more about the dead man’s past, Bruno’s suspicions turn toward a more complex motive.

Here Be Dragons

By Sharon Kay Penman,

Book cover of Here Be Dragons

I seriously enjoy a good “between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place” romance, especially when the female heroine is able to navigate it while staying true to herself. In this one, King John weds his illegitimate but beloved daughter Joanna to his bitter enemy, Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, in an effort to take Wales under his control. But Joanna loves both of them—father and husband—and is forced time and again to prove her loyalty to one side or the other, until neither faction supports her in return. While this definitely portrays the helplessness that many medieval women faced, often experiencing a forced marriage for some political purpose or other, Joanna’s courage, bravery, and sense of self in the face of so much conflict were inspiring and so addicting to read about.


Who am I?

I am a strong, independent woman (*snaps fingers through the air*), yet I adore a soul-sucking romance. Many might think this is a contradiction, but it’s not! A woman can be both loving and stubborn…both enamored by her partner yet still strong enough to speak up for herself. Sadly, I think historical fiction often defaults to portraying dependent and subjugated women, and this isn’t necessarily wrong—in fact, it’s probably more accurate. However, when I’m getting lost in the magic of a novel, I want to experience the all-consuming love without sacrificing the resiliency and independence of the women involved, and these books spin stories where both outcomes are possible!


I wrote...

All the Gold in Abbotsford

By E.L. Daniel,

Book cover of All the Gold in Abbotsford

What is my book about?

Elena Redewolde has lost everything—her family, castle, title, and dignity—and King Edward II’s corrupt court is to blame. All that remains is her freedom, but even that’s taken away when she’s forced to wed the local mercenary captain, Stephen Warde. Though Stephen promises to restore her lands and salvage her family’s reputation, he refuses to tell her how. The months pass by while her circumstances remain the same, but then strange events start unfolding around their town, and she begins to wonder whether she might twist the situation to her advantage. Tax raises, falsely forged gold, whispers of a foreign invasion? If Elena can uncover this fraud and corruption surrounding her, maybe it’ll help her reclaim her destiny and win back her home…

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