Of the Ring of Earls (Book 1) Henry of the High Rock (Book 2) The Lion’s Legacy (Book 3) by Juliet Dymoke
Three books set from William the Conqueror to Henry II. I love to read about a period of history that is not very well documented. Plus, it does not follow the typical “main character” but focuses instead on the underdog of the time! From an earl to the youngest brother to a woman!
The Ring of Earls follows an English Earl called Waltheof of Huntington when William of Normandy (William the Conqueror) has successfully taken the throne of England in 1066. This is based on a true story of this Earl’s life as he… SPOILER ALERT… becomes the only member of the English nobility to be executed during the reign of William.
As many English nobles had conflicted loyalties once William was crowned, with many seeing the king as a “foreigner”, Waltheof is found in the center of a treasonous plot on the King’s life and must face the consequences.
Interestingly, the same man is covered in a book called The Winter Mantle by Elizabeth Chadwick which takes a more romantic view of the love Waltheof had for his wife, Judith de Lens and subsequently his eldest daughter’s marriage.
Both books were unfortunately, my least favourite, even though it had such promise! I wish we had seen a bit more into Judith’s deception and Waltheof is certainly a charismatic character, but some parts were slightly dry and I was left a little disappointed.
Henry of the High Rock is the second in the Conqueror Trilogy. This book is centered around William’s youngest son, Henry. Henry was the youngest of three sons with his two eldest brothers Henry’s elder brothers called Robert Curthose and William Rufus. After their father’s death, Henry’s brothers became kings of Normandy and England and he is left with nothing. As both brothers are not favorable kings, Henry needs to bide his time and be patient for his opportunity! Maybe he can rule it all!
I loved this second book in the trilogy and there were some moments of page-turning pace! I really engaged with Henry’s strife with his useless brothers!!
Lastly, The Lion’s Legacy is set after Henry I’s reign, when he dies with no heir or sons, and fleaves everything to his fierce daughter, Matilda (known as Empress Maude). However, without his authority, a second heir emerges, her cousin Stephen Count of Blois and Mortain. A war rages over England with both Stephen and Matilda desperate to secure the throne for themselves. This is also tangled with her forbidden love for an English Earl, Brien. Although married to Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, Maude is a force to be reckoned with on her own and her courage and personal life is played out among the civil unrest.
What I though was sad about this tale is Matilda was never officially crowned Queen of England. Plus, although the love affair with Brien could be fictional (who knows!) it does seem she had an unhappy marriage with Geoffrey. However, her legacy lived on with her son Henry II and his wife Eleanor (probably my favourite Queen ever!!) and I enjoyed seeing a powerful medieval woman portrayed in the way Juliet described. You would need some serious balls to do what she did!
If you like Medieval history maybe try The Swan-Daughter which I reviewed here.