Literature - 9.12.19

Our topic was ’Royals and Royalty’ and it was also our ‘Christmas Party’—Drinks thanks to Chris and Jim, nibbles thanks to everyone else. Again our numbers were a bit limited by illness or prior engagements but we do have a good core of people so we are viable.

As Miriam is one of our history experts she started us off with, ’Isabella, the She-Wolf of France and Queen of England' by Alison Weir. Isabella was the daughter of Philip IV of France and born about 1295. She was married to Edward II at the age of 12. (I used to find this practice pretty gross until I realised that, in the days when death was a constant threat, the baby machine needed to get going as soon as possible!) Edward was only 20 at the time, was probably gay or bisexual and gave away all his jewels to his lovers. Miriam thinks the author provides good history but can be a bit tedious at times. However, Miriam doesn’t like historical novels because they take too many liberties with the facts.

Pat gave us Nicholas II, The Last Tsar by Michael Paterson. A product of his time and of the preceding generations of the monarchy, he was revered by the church and the aristocracy. However, he failed to carry through crucial political and economic reforms, alienated his people, and saw the famed Russian navy defeated by the Japanese. Did you know there were two Russian Revolutions? The one in 1905 was brutally defeated. Tsar Nichols II was also a noted Anti-Semite and ordered Jewish pogroms, so the Jews hated him as well. Nicholas II abdicated after the revolution in 1917 and fled. In 1918, he and the members of his family were brutally executed by the Bolsheviks. (Incidentally, ‘The Last Czars’ is now a series on Netflix. Just saying!)

Jim got involved with Margaret Atwood’s sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ —‘The Testaments’ but heard how much Chris was enjoying ’The Kingmaker’s Daughter’ by Philippa Gregory and decided to read for himself—which he did in 4 evenings.

Chris too was much engaged by this fascinating tale of the eponymous Richard Earl of Warwick, the ‘King Maker’ who has deposed the supposedly mad Henry IV and driven the Queen, Margaret of Anjou back to France in exile. (She’s not happy!) He has installed the son of the Duke of York as Edward IV on the throne. The story centres around his daughter Anne, brought up from an early age as if she was to become queen. Chris was both fascinated and appalled by the brutal exercise of power, the switching of sides, the lies and deceit—‘false news’, superstition and bigotry, not to mention the awful treatment of women and the peasants! Needless to say, things get even more messy and complicated. Recommended.

Notes from Previous Meetings Back to Main Literature Page