Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Summer Queen follows the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine from age thirteen to her late twenties.  Eleanor was the wife of two kings, the mother to three kings, and the ruler herself of the powerful Duchy of Aquitaine.  She often also appears in Robin Hood movies, shows, and novels as she is the mother of King Richard the Lionheart.  Eleanor is called Alienor in the novel, which Chadwick explains is the spelling of her name as it would have been in her lifetime (appeared in documents and such).

Alienor’s beloved father has died leaving her the heir of Aquitaine; as the eldest daughter with no brothers.  To protect Alienor and her inheritance, her father had made a pact with the King of France making him Alienor’s guardian.  The King sees his chance and immediately weds the thirteen year old Alienor to his son Louis.  The King of France dies shortly thereafter making the young couple the new King and Queen of France.

Alienor has trouble adapting, especially to the idea of not having her opinions accounted for by her spouse.  She is a highly educated woman for her time and was trained to rule her land.  As a married of woman of the time, she is not allowed to rule.  I found this intriguing and also intriguing that she was even able to inherit the Duchy, while most lands still had it so that you could only inherit through male lines.

Louis and Alienor are unequally matched.  They start their marriage happy, but Louis was trained to be a monk before his older brother’s death.  He listens to his church advisors more than his wife and seems to think intimacy is evil.  But he also wants heirs and blames Alienor for the lack although they don’t have any marital relations to create heirs.  This is highly frustrating to the sensual Alienor.

Their marriage disintegrates and the book ends at the beginning of Alienor’s second marriage to the young lion, Henry II of England.  Their marriage is fruitful and the book ends with the start of their reign of England.  I can’t wait to read Book II – The Winter Crown.

I found the treatment and understanding of mental illness in the middles ages to be intriguing.  Alienor’s younger sister Petronella is manic/ depressive and no one knows what to do with her or what is wrong.  This leads to a lot of pain for many people, including poor Petronella.  I also loved the description of the ill-fated crusade that Alienor and Louis take part in.

Overall, I love Elizabeth Chadwick’s novels and was glad to see her take on one of my favorite women in history, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Chadwick writes history so that it feels alive.    The drama of Alienor’s life and loves was riveting and I can’t wait to read the rest of this trilogy.

Book Source – Christmas Present from my Best Friend Jenn.  Thanks!

Book Source – Christmas Present from my Best Friend Jenn.  Thanks!


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this book, Laura, and think you'll enjoy the rest of this trilogy. Elizabeth Chadwick sounds like a talented novelist and historian.

  2. Elizabeth Chadwick is a very talented novelist and historian. I can't wait to read more of her novels! Thank-you for the comment.

  3. I will have to check this out--I recently read a Sharon Kay Penman novel that included Eleanor (actually covering much of the same ground that this one covers) and it made me remember how intriguing a historical figure she is.

    Enjoyable review that made me want to get this book, and soon!