Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
Lords and Ladies are encouraged to participate in a medieval reading quest this summer. The quest is open to everyone 18 years of age or older. Below are a few popular medieval historical fiction books and films from our collection to help transport you back in time:
- Agincourt: a novel by Bernard Cornwell. This is a tale about the battle of Agincourt. The story is vividly told through the eyes of an archer, Nicholas Hooks. Nicholas, a brilliant archer becomes a fugitive after striking a priest. Fleeing England, he soon finds himself in France, where he becomes a mercenary, witnessing some horrendous betrayal and violence. Forced to return home, he battles under the King’s sovereign as a member of the archer’s core to regain the throne of France. Amidst the atrocity of war, he saves a cloistered, young woman who he eventually takes as his wife. The best parts of the book are the vivid and compelling battles!
- Pope Joan [electronic resource (eBook)]: a novel by Donna Woolfolk Cross. It is blasphemous to even consider that there might once have been a female Pope. The very idea of a woman disguised as a man, seated on the papal throne in the 9th century, is an interesting legend or is it? Pope Joan, is inspiration to women everywhere. Despite the oppressive time period in which she lived, she stood up for herself, pursuing her own dreams and desires. Joan had a passion for knowledge but as the daughter of a canon who did not value women, she struggled to pursue an education. However, it was education opened up her world and she became a dedicated scholar and a celebrated healer. Defying the seemly insurmountable obstacles throughout her life was of course, all part of God’s plan. Perhaps the underlying story suggests that this tale might be the beginning of feminism. Whether fact or fiction, this is a great “I am woman hear me roar” story!
- The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory. This is a gripping tale about Anne and Isabel, the daughters of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, told from Anne’s perspective. Without a male heir, their father, the Kingmaker uses his daughters as pawns in his political games as he makes war on his former friends. From early in their lives, these sisters have learned the true meaning of sibling rivalry, politics, conspiracy, revenge and most importantly, when to use it to their advantage. It is clear throughout the story that the two sisters take very different paths based on the harsh reality of power and its effect on their lives. Anne marries at age fourteen, to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who later becomes King Richard III, for both love and political advantage. Isabel marries the enemy. And the rest as they say, “is history.”
- The Confessions of Catherine de Medici: a novel by C.W. Gortner. Catherine was just one of the many royalties with a bad reputation. The book portrays Catherine as a woman, mother, queen, lover, friend, ruler, patriot, and the ultimate monarch. Written in the first person, the emotions evoked by each of these roles exquisitely reveal the character of the woman. The details of Catherine’s multifaceted life are flawlessly woven together to create a story that provides a whole new dimension to France’s ruling family during the 16th century. And, despite the fact she has been portrayed throughout history as a villainous, cold hearted woman, this novel challenges you to think otherwise about Catherine. Is it possible to love Catherine when history has done? You be the judge.
- Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman. Treachery, treason, and trysts what more could one ask for on a medieval quest? The quest begins as the reader becomes acquainted with the four surviving sons of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine who were referred to as “The Devil’s Brood.” Richard I, the third son, known as the Lionheart, was a legend in his own time. After the death of his older sibling, Richard took the throne and, almost immediately, set off for the Holy Land. This 3rd Crusade was characterized by deadly campaigns among the Christians and the Saracens. Despite one bloody, brutal battle after another, Lionheart was admired and respected by his soldiers for his prowess as a battle commander and a warrior. His men loved him because he walked among them, toiled and fought alongside them, and protected them. Meanwhile, back in England, Richard’s youngest brother, John, plots to steal his crown.
- Camelot. The complete first season-(DVD) by Michael Hirst and Chris Chibnall. This is yet another adaptation of the King Arthur and the round table story. The streamlined version of the tale is set in lush Ireland and is supported by delightfully evil cast. Modern viewers will appreciate the feel of this edgy and provocative drama.
- The Tudors. The complete first season-(DVD) by Michael Hirst. This made for TV drama looks at the early life of King Henry VIII, beginning from his assumption of the British throne at the age of 19. As a young man, Henry VIII, is full of both passion and drive. He is compelled by the desire to establish his legacy early in his monarchy by having influence over European affairs. Political affairs were not his solitary focus; affairs of the heart seem at times to play an even larger role in creating his legacy. At times, his desire to make a difference in Europe’s progress is impaired by his need to covet another woman. In fact, his sexual libido and his exercise of power are so overt that some use this flaw for their personal gain. The LBPL owns seasons 1-3 of The Tudors.
- The Borgias. Season one-(DVD) by Neil Jordan. The Borgias is a historical fiction television drama series, set in the 16th century, and follows the rise of the Borgia family, an Italian dynasty of Spanish origin, to the pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church. The series begins with the election of Rodrigo Borgia to the papacy with the help of his son and bribery. The simony used to win the election, enrages the College of Cardinals, and his rival decide to plot against him. Pope Alexander takes on his enemies with the help of his family, while striking alliances with other European powers to strengthen his position. Meanwhile, seeking to unseat him, Cardinal Della Rovere, travels across Italy and France seeking allies. Della Rovere persuades King Charles VIII of France to help him in remove Pope Alexander. Season one culminates with King Charles and his army, accompanied by Della Rovere, marching to Rome and challenging the Borgia family’s grip on power. The LBPL owns seasons 1&2 of The Borgias.
- The other Boleyn girl-(DVD) by Peter Morgan. This is the story of two sisters competing for the same man, a king. The drama loosely uses historical facts to frame this entertaining work of fiction using breathtaking cinematography to set the tone of the dialogue. Anne Boleyn woes King Henry VIII with her wily, womanly ways. The king, however, desires her shy sister, Mary. Angered by the King’s choice, Anne turns on her sister and schemes to become not only the King’s consort, but his new queen. Entranced by Anne, King Henry the VIII declares himself the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and separates from the Catholic Church so he can divorce his wife. Anne weds Henry and becomes Queen of England. The reminder of the story now is focused on Henry’s mission to create a male heir to the throne and the problems this goal creates for all involved. This is a truly a family drama!