Monday, March 30, 2009

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg

Eleanor of Aquitaine died on April 1, 1204 - which is 705 years ago, almost to the day. She was born in 1124 and was a very wealthy and powerful woman. Shortly after her father died, at the age of 15, she married the son and heir of King Louis VI. Louis VI died within two weeks of the marriage, and so Eleanor became Queen of France when her husband was declared King Louis VII. 15 years later, their marriage was annulled and Eleanor married Henry, the Duke of Normandy. Two years later, Henry's father died and Eleanor became Queen of England when her husband was declared King Henry the second. He later imprisoned Eleanor for more than 15 years because she supported their sons' revolt against their father. Quite an interesting life!

This book was published in 1973 and I picked it up because I was looking for a quick history of the area where I'll be travelling next month; the Dordogne was once a part of Aquitaine. It suited that purpose just fine. The main readers for this book, however, are in Grades 6 to 8. Crusades and knights and jealous princes and boys who go to war against their father should provide plenty of draw for boys, while girls will also enjoy reading the exploits of feisty Eleanor.

The conceit of the novel is that Eleanor and some other people from her lifetime are sitting around heaven in the late twentieth century, waiting to hear if her second husband Henry will finally be admitted to join them in heaven or not. That was a bit cheesy, but it did allow for a humorous fantasy element to intermittently lighten the historical account.

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