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To be Queen by Christy English

Posted By Claire on June 13, 2011

Christy English’s “To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor Aquitaine” was the second Eleanor of Aquitaine novel I have read recently – see Devil’s Consort by Anne O’Brien – and, coincidentally, was also about Eleanor’s early life. Christy’s debut novel, The Queen’s Pawn, also focused on this famous Medieval Queen, but was about Eleanor’s later life, her life in England with her second husband, Henry II, and her relationship with her ex-husband Louis VII’s daughter, Alais.

As you will know from my review of The Queen’s Pawn, I loved Christy’s writing and the way that she put her heart and soul into it, it was clear that she loved Eleanor and that made it a vivid portrayal of Eleanor’s life.

Could Christy really do that again? Could she repeat that quality of style and writing, could she be just as passionate in her second novel? A resounding yes!

I loved this book and actually read it in one afternoon. It grabbed me from the very first page and I was swept away from my sofa in 21st century rural Spain to 12th century Aquitaine. The descriptions were so vivid, the characters so beautifully depicted that I felt I was there with Eleanor and feeling everything that she felt. I could have quite literally shaken Louis VII at times and cried with Eleanor as she faced up to the fact that she was married to a man with real ‘baggage’ and a man who just could not give her what she wanted or needed.

“To be Queen” begins in 1132 in Poitou. Eleanor is ten years old and is the heir to Aquitaine. In this very first chapter, Eleanor is depicted as strong and ambitious, and we see how much her father trusts her and their close relationship. At just 10, she is a formidable young woman. We are then taken through Eleanor’s early life, from childhood to 1152 when her first marriage is finally annulled and she can be with a man who suits her in ambition and strength of character: Henry of Normandy. Christy covers Eleanor’s betrothal to Louis,the King of France’s son and heir, her grief at the death of her father, her loveless marriage to the pious Louis, her new life in Paris, her struggles with her husband’s religious advisors, the births of her daughters, her struggle to be free of Louis and to return to her homeland, the crusade to Jerusalem and Eleanor’s time in Antioch with her uncle and the love and passion she finds there, her meeting with Geoffrey of Anjou and his son Henry, and her final victory as she is able to leave her husband for a new life. At the end we sense Eleanor’s relief and her feeling of victory, which is tinged with sadness for the people she is forced to leave behind. I felt that Eleanor had was finally living the life she was destined to live and had finally found a man who saw her strength and could treat her as a partner, rather than trying to squash her and make her into something she wasn’t. Yay!

So, would I recommend this book? Yes! It is everything that a good novel should be and mixes historical fact with romance, intrigue, betrayal, loss, passion, love, danger and more. It is a beautiful story of an amazing woman and Christy’s love for her subject shines through on every page.

The book ends with an Afterword which explains what happened to Eleanor, her children and Henry II after the book ends in 1152, and then there is a Readers Guide with questions for discussion.


Paperback: 4oo pages (US)
Publisher: NAL Trade (5 April 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451232305
ISBN-13: 978-0451232304

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One Response to “To be Queen by Christy English”

  1. Rebecca Smisson says:

    I have just finished Anne O Briens Devils Consort and have become totally hooked on reading more about Eleanor. I’ve Bought The Queens Pawn but not started it yet and thanks to this review I will definitely be getting To Be Queen too.
    I am currently reading The Captive Queen by Alison Weir about Eleanors life with Henry II and although only a third of the way through it I am loving it

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