McAuliffe's well-researched and detailed newest (after Dawn of the Belle Epoque) recounts the familial and political tensions between England and France, which the author traces to Duke William of Normandy's conquering of the former in 1066. He and his descendants remained active in the Norman duchy, leading to conflicted loyalties, and attendant betrayals and battles. This interesting narrative focuses primarily on Richard Lionheart (son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitane, and great-great grandson of William the Conqueror) and his rivalry with King Philip II of France, who resolved to change the notion that his country's kings were "pitifully weak." Their enmity manifested itself in Richard brashly constructing the mighty fortress Château-Gaillard on the border of French and English holdings, and Philip declaring his intentions to seize it, "were its walls of iron." Though William and Eleanor are given relatively short shrift, Richard Lionheart's life is thoroughly told—from his imprisonment by Duke Leopold of Austria (during which Richard continued to strategize), his failed betrothal to Philip II's youngest sister, and to his unexpected death by one of his own armory's arrows, repurposed and let fly by an enemy to whom Richard, on his deathbed, gave 100 shillings. Supplemented with a timeline, a dramatis personae, and extensive notes, fans of medieval European history will delight in McAuliffe's rich tale. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/09/2012 Release date: 03/01/2012 Genre: Nonfiction
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