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The Strangled Queen - Maurice Druon

”When one has governed men for a long time, when one has thought that one has acted for the best, when one knows the pains the task has entailed, and then suddenly sees that one has never been either loved or understood, but merely submitted to, then one is overwhelmed with bitterness, and wonders whether one could not have found some better way of spending one’s life.”

Philip IV, or as he is also known Philip the Fair, is dead. The curse that was cast upon him by the Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, while on his way to being burned at the stake, was fulfilled. Philip may have been known as The Fair, but in the case of the Templars it would be more accurate to call him Philip the Welcher. His father left the kingdom destitute. Philip borrowed a lot of money from the Templars but needed much more. He also didn’t like the idea of the Templars attempting to form their own country on the Island of Cyprus with uncertain loyalty to the French crown.

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Louis X

Even with the confiscation of Templar money and assets, the son of Philip and the heir apparent, Louis X, found the treasury empty. Dire circumstances for a new king who also is still stinging from the recent adulterous scandal involving his wife Marguerite, his sister-in-law Blanche, and two handsome brothers. The brothers were broken on the rack and disposed of, but the issue of his wife and his sister-in-law remained a nagging problem. For now they are locked up in a drafty castle with the hope that with a poor diet and poor conditions they will succumb to disease.

”He was a king and knew not how to reign; he was a man and knew not how to live; he was married and had no wife.”

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Don’t be fooled by the pius appearance of Marguerite here. Her lustful dalliance not only cost her the chance to be Queen of France, but also cost her her life.

Meanwhile, he has people trying to settle the question of the next Pope. Louis wants an annulment from Marguerite so he can marry Princess Clemence of Hungary, but the cardinals are being difficult, and no one seems to be able to come up with enough bribes to determine who will be the next Pope.

No Pope, no annulment, no princess.

His uncle, the Count of Valois, sees an opportunity to break his arch rival Enguerrand Marigny who was left in charge of the treasury. He also sees an opportunity to undo many of the laws that Philip had put in place to keep the country peaceful and give some rights to peasants. The nobles were finding these laws most constrictive. Louis is much more worried about finding a new bed warmer than he is about the laws his father passed. He signs a new charter allowing the kingdom to slid back into a feudal state.

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Things do not work out well for Enguerrand Marigny.

The country is suffering from a drought; food is scarce, and the population is becoming restless. When the stew pots aren’t brewing, the conspiracy cauldrons become warm.

The once proud, reckless, and disobedient Marguerite has reached the end of her rope. The title alone of this book betrays her fate. The intrigues of others insure that any options she has will not reach the ears of those who care.

The insecurities and ineptitudes of Louis X could prove fatal for himself, but also for his kingdom.

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Maurice Druon looking more regal than the subjects of his novels.

George R. R. Martin has endorsed this series. He found the plots, betrayals, and intrigues of the Maurice Druon’s writing fertile ground to expand his own imagination. The influence of Druon’s historical fiction series on Martin is easy to see for those that have watched Game of Thrones. Druon does a great job of staying within the confines of actual history although a few liberties here and there do help move the plot along. I’m looking forward to book three, although I’m a little worried about poor Louis. The title is The Poisoned Crown. With two brothers and an ambitious uncle, I would suggest that Louis sleep with one eye open and pay his cook very well. A delightful and entertaining series!

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