jean plaidy’s the norman trilogy: the bastard king, the lion of justice, and the passionate enemies

jean plaidy norman trilogy

just finished reading ‘the passionate enemies’, the 3rd book in the jean plaidy normal trilogy.

The Bastard King

William I (The Conqueror/The Bastard) and Matilda (formerly of Flanders), reign: 1066-1087

i enjoyed them all but the the first, The Bastard King, was my favorite of the 3.

so, plaidy’s story goes that william’s father, the duke of normandy, fell in love with a washing woman who became his mistress and love of his life and gave birth to william. william grew up, and married matilda of flanders, a most awesome woman. they were in love unlike many royal marriages and had many children (more on that in a minute). he considered william’s mother his main gal even though he was married to another woman who lived under a separate roof. thus, william was illegit. but his dad loved him so much that he wanted him to be his heir.

statue of matilda of flanders

statue of matilda of flanders in Luxembourg

like most plaidy books, the story starts before the protagonist, william, is born to give the reader a sense of context of the world and social situation into which he is born. we see william grow up as a boy, follow him through his life, and get to know his children and the conflicts they had amongst each other.

i love the way she writes – it’s soap-opera-y/gossipy, a page-turner. like war and peace you sense that the author isn’t making it up. even though she was as this is mostly fiction. no one now can know details of daily life in 1100 or conversations that occurred back then or the character’s thoughts and personalities. but, she makes these things seem real and tangible.

many of plaidy’s books contain non-fiction bibliographies, so we know she researched the characters as much as she could. the rest is filling in blanks with her imagination.

as i read her books i often google things she talks about and incidentally learn about history. i wish i could write like she does. or patricia highsmith. or tolstoy. but i digress, sorry.

william’s oldest son, robert, was a dick and had an arrogance attitude problem. he had oddly short legs.

william, not a modern day sensitive meterosexual, was gruff with his kids and called him ‘robert curthose’ which meant robert short legs. so, robert and william were constantly fighting. robert sounded kind of manic – he once tried to invade england (he was in normandy) and usurp his own father. wtf.

william’s 2nd son, richard, was william’s favorite and groomed to be king but died before he could. bummer. william’s 3rd son william (aka rufus) was obnoxious and we know later became king. the daughters aren’t talked about as much as the sons: AdelizaAgatha, Constance, and Adela.

of note, adela has a son, stephen, who will later usurp the throne from henry I. lastly, the youngest son, henry, we know goes on to become henry I after rufus dies, taking his favorite sister adela’s son stephen into his court to raise. (more on henry I later too.)

the book ends when the william dies.

Domesday Survey

Domesday Survey, 1088 - cool!

this is a far more interesting way to learn about history than how i was taught history in high school by rote memorization. so, of course i was averse to history in college and avoided it at all costs. i knew that i was missing out and made a mental note back then to learn myself at some point in the future. and, well, now is that time.

anyhoo, william was a solid, smart ruler. he is credited with an important, amazingly fascinating 1088 historical document called the Domesday Survey. it’s  an accounting of everything in his kingdom that he could tax. how freakin’ interesting is that?

Thanks to this, historians have relatively reliable documentation of that time. Hooray for documentation! (for work i do documentation. for web and software. not anything as interesting as the Domesday Survey. but still, here is an example of why documenting things is good.)

★ Read the Domesday Survey on this UK national archive website.

ok, so, i am not a good writer of book reviews or fiction. i know my limits. i am good at technical writing but phft who wants to read that? i love reading fiction, esp these plaidy books. i can’t do them the justice they deserve in my posts. i feel like i’m selling them short. My point in this paragraph: the limits of my writing ability keep me from expressing how awesome this book is!!! you, gentle reader, *must* read it. you can thank me later. ok? u can get these books used for pennies on amazon.

The Lion of Justice

William II (Rufus), no queen, reign 1087-1100
Henry I (aka Henry Beauclerc and The Lion of Justice)
and Queen Matilda (of Scotland), reign: 1100-1135

William II (Rufus)

William II (Rufus) - did he have gayface?

William II (Rufus) was a dick and he was creul.

but also, and more interestingly, according to plaidy, also he hung out in the latest fashions with other men – men only. it’s thought that he was gay. I think that’s awesome. It’s so ripe for a movie. I wish someone would make that movie. (i recommend the guy who made 6 feet under and true blood to do it.)

william II was not well-liked by the ppl because of his brutality. Maybe he was redirecting his anger at a society that would not allow him to be out?

he spent a lot of time on crusade and in battle. he preferred being out in the field with men than at home where he was under pressure to marry and beget a son and all that. he has one guy who was with him all the time. that’s nice. it’s a bummer people couldn’t be out back then.

i’d love to have been a fly on the wall in his court. some of the depictions are really amusing.

ok so rufus dies. everyone’s like thank god he was such a dick. and his brother henry I takes over and is awesome and smart and kicks ass and everyone loves him. i think he had to imprison his crazy brother robert curthose for life because he caused so much trouble.

because henry was well-educated he kept good accounting of everything so he was called beauclerc which means something en francais, literally “beautiful clerk” per google translate. and, he was called the lion of justice because he enforced law and order, altho it was somewhat brutal. but, the ppl were glad of it because they could go about their business and not worry about people cheating and stealing and assaulting them willy nilly.

henry I, a good guy

henry I, a good guy

But, wait! There’s more!

OMG! Scroll down!

The Passionate Enemies

Stephen of Blois and Matilda of Boulogne (there are like 4 Matildas in this book), reign: 1135-1141
Empress Matilda (daughter of Henry I), reign: 1114-1125, 1141-1141?
(Their reigns overlap because they were fighting for control with armies thus throwing the country into a most annoying and destructive civil war. so unnecessary really.)

empress matilda

empress matilda

so, stephen was henry I’s nephew. in this book henry laments that his only legit son died in a shipwreck. henry I’s one legit child is his daughter, Matilda, who became an Empress by marriage. she’s depicted as a manic, rude lunatic who alienates people left and right. but as his only legit offspring henry makes the nobles swear an oath of fealty to her so that there wouldn’t be probs after his death. he knew the english would have probs w/ a chick monarch.

so, henry I goes to france to dote on matilda’s sons, namely henry, who he says should be king next. there he dies allegedly of a “surfeit of lampreys” (love that term). which is a fascinating.

read a history of lamprey pie

so stephen runs to the archbishop of canterbury and with some guys saying (probably lying) that they had seen the king recently in france and that he had changed his mind on his deathbed and wanted stephen to be king next. so stephen and the church are in cahoots and they crown stephen king. (yeah i know, stephen king yeah yeah.)

"surfeir of lampreys" inspired this book

"surfeir of lampreys" inspired this book

matilda, who demands to be called empress matilda, is like WTF it’s *my* throne and takes on stephen causing many years civil war. oh and all this time stephen is depicted as an easy-going, conflict-avoiding nice guy loved by the people.

the alleged romance between matilda and stephen seems contrived. i don’t know if that’s imagined by plaidy or based on documentation.

most interesting in this story is at one point during the stephen-matilda war, stephen is caught and imprisoned by matilda. so, stephen’s mousey wife, another Matilda (of Boulogne), raises and leads an army to fight the empress matilda’s army. i’d never seen depicted a war between 2 armies headed by 2 warring women. i was like wow that’s kind of cool. not that i’d want to do that. it’s just something you don’t see much of.

so, eventually, matilda burns all her bridges and makes a deal saying she’ll give up if stephen swore to make empress matilda’s son, henry, heir to the throne.

which leads me into the next book which i’ve started the plantagenet prelude. 🙂

Get these books by Jean Plaidy (aka Milday Pilady)(my name for her)

Norman Series→
The Bastard King Vol. 1get a copy
The Lion of Justice Vol. 2get a copy
The Passionate Enemies Vol. 3 get a copy


About bettyx1138

One Response to jean plaidy’s the norman trilogy: the bastard king, the lion of justice, and the passionate enemies

  1. Roy Zornow says:

    You have discovered a new way to teach history. U should write a book with plenty of OMGs and WTF’s, the kids today will love it.

Cha cha cha

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