GROUP READ: Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman
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As I have read through these books I keep seeing the same thing.
After reading the first two books in this series I wonder how people watching "The Lion in Winter" understood what was going on. Of course, I also wonder that about the majority of people who watch the movie "Lawrence of Arabia" or "Gone With the Wind." How can you watch these movies and get anything out of them if you don't know the basic history? Or am I being an intellectual snob?
I read somewhere that the term "she-wolf" was first used to describe Matilda/Maud and thereafter was often used to describe ambitious females who aspired to, and sometimes ascended to the throne. Did the documentary say if this was true?
I have been reading the Philippa Gregory series The Cousin's War and Marguerite of Anjou was so hated that she was called the "She-Wolf" of France. In reading this series I thought that she was doing what was required to hold the throne for her husband and son and I saw no reason for vitriol spewed at and about her. I think that this is a function of living when and where I do.
Harry could not understand why his sons would be so ungrateful as to rebel against his authority. He did not feel that they were mature enough to handle the reins of power, however, when they cited his experiences at the same age, he could not justify his delays to them. Henry's issues appeared to be with trust throughout his life - his father trusted him at an early age, but he could not trust his sons which only brought about the rebellions that repeatedly threatened his kingdom and eventually his life.
Wow! I never thought of that - trust. That would explain it. In the previous books I thought that the figure of Geoffrey Plantagenet - Henry's father - was a fascinating one, and I would like to read more about him. He seemed to not worry that his son would fail, and you are right, gave him plenty of opportunities to do so. I recall Henry's "invasion" of England when he was 16, and then what he learned from that experience. From the last book, and this one it is clear that Henry did not want to let his sons experiment in the same way. My guess is that Henry did not want his realm torn apart by mini-civil wars, and thought that was what would happen if he let his sons govern on their own. It was safer to let them play. Hence, Hal's living for sports. It was the one area in which he could excel and in which his father would let him.
What about Eleanor and her deviousness?
It seems to me that she, maybe more so than he, used all of her children to further her and Henry's ambitions of making England a major power in the medieval world.
I don't see Eleanor as particularly "devious" either. Yes, she was clearly manipulative and looking out for her own self-interest, but so was everybody else! And she seemed a lot more clear-sighted than Henry about what her sons were truly thinking and feeling. Like Henry, she wanted to preserve peace in the family and in the empire, but she realized that Henry's dictatorial methods were never going to work. So I find her part in the rebellion understandable.
I'm curious about what everyone thinks of Henry and Eleanor's sons. Which of them (if any) did you find most sympathetic? Personally, I had no use for Hal whatsoever; he basically instigated a war just because he wanted a bigger allowance from Daddy. I was a fan of Richard's more often than not, based on his courage and honesty, but he certainly had some major flaws as well! I actually liked Geoffrey the most. He was definitely self-interested, but again, so were they all. I think he would have made the best king, because he seemed to have the best ability to make strategic long-term plans.
>18 cyderry: & 19 I read The Greatest Knight a month or 2 ago, and of all the 12th Century books I've read this year, it was my favorite. It's primarily based on a near-contempory chronicle of William Marshal, so a great deal is known about William, who has fascinated me since I first ran into him some years ago. I was disappointed that there wasn't more about him in Devil's Brood. Elizabeth Chadwick isn't as thorough on the historical events and the political situation as Sharon Penman, so I've found that reading both is complimentary.
My biggest problem with both Time and Chance and Devil's Brood is that Henry and Eleanor are almost too human. They of course had their flaws, and both made grievous mistakes, but they were also exceedingly great figures. Henry is usually considered one of Britain's greatest kings and he made numerous changes and innovations; he didn't just fight with his sons. Eleanor was a power in her own right, and brought sophistication and culture to the English courts. It seemed as though SKP was focusing on the flaws at the expense of their attributes.
Personally, I don't think either Henry or Eleanor spent so much time agonizing over their children. They had better things to do -- like maintaining control of their vast kingdom. And anyway, I think Henry was a control freak -- he just couldn't let go of what he had gained and wanted to direct everyone else. I don't think the trust issue was all that big with him, except that he felt fully justified in punishing anyone who defied him. Not that he didn't love his children, in his own way, but people like that only see others, including their children, as they relate to themselves.
As for Eleanor, I think it's pretty much accepted that Richard was her favorite, and she seems to have maintained a decent relationship with her children by Henry. But I do think she used them to get back at Henry, and I think Rosamund Clifford played a more important role than SKP credits. My view is that Eleanor really loved Henry, and saw them as partners in the kingdom; when he took up with Rosamund -- and flaunted his relationship -- she was devastated and wanted to destroy him, too.
Ms Penman's history is excellent, with details of events that really filled in some of the blanks in my knowledge. For example, though I knew that Geoffrey died in a tournament, I hadn't ever read any description of it; and although I think some of it was fictional, it really brought it to life for me. And even though I don't see many of these people quite the same as she does, I enjoyed her view of them.
>26 christina_reads: Richard, Richard, Richard! But I agree that her picture of Geoffrey certainly made him more sympathetic and interesting. I found her characterization of John interesting, particularly since in her Here Be Dragons, which I read a year or so ago, she made him kinder and more sympathetic than anything else I've read about him.
>20 christina_reads: I don't specifically recall "communication breakdown" but I did notice several 21st century catch phrases, most notably "reach out" more than once. I do wish they'd been edited out...
But I like the stories and over all I like the way she tells them.
But I like the stories and over all I like the way she tells them.
So do I, and even though I don't totally agree with some of her characterizations, I find them interesting. I'm looking forward to Lionheart.
>29 christina_reads: I liked her characterization of John in Here Be Dragons, too. I haven't read the mysteries yet, but have them on my list. I found something that said they're set in 1193, so I thought I'd read them after Lionheart which I assume will cover Richard's reign 1189-1199. Glad to know you liked them!
I agree with Christina that Geoffrey seemed to be the one son with the best "governing" ability. IMO Hal was too childish trying always to make everyone love him and doing so by lavishing money on them, Richard was too self-centered and combative - war was his favorite activity whether in battle or personal confrontations, and John seemed too insecure and manipulative.
As for Eleanor, I believe that she felt a betrayal of her partnership with Henry when she came across Rosamund in her position and because of her power/position as the Duchess of Aquitaine she wanted as a woman to show to Henry that he had made a serious mistake. Neither Henry or Eleanor were very forgiving of each other.
Certes also drove me a bit crazy too.