“1066: Three Queens. One Crown”
Do you enjoy reading about 1066? Then I have a fabulous recommendation for you! The Queens of the Conquest trilogy by Joanna Courtney.
The trilogy is historical fiction and is comprised of The Chosen Queen, The Constant Queen and The Conquerors Queen. They focus on the life of the queens involved in the battle for the English throne in 1066.
The first novel The Chosen Queen is about Edyth of Mercia, wife of Harold Godwinson. Edyth was the last Queen of England before the Norman conquest, but is often forgotten about as she ruled for less than a year. Her reign ended with Harold’s death at the Battle of Hastings. Prior to her marriage to Harold she’d been married to Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, King of Wales. I particularly enjoyed reading the section when Edyth was Queen of Wales, as Welsh history is an area I’ve only started to read about recently. Courtney does a great job of showing the relationship between Edyth and Harold’s first wife Lady Svana (also known as Edyth Swanneck) who was his handfast wife.
The theme of handfast and religious marriage ceremonies crops up again in Courtney’s second novel The Constant Queen. This novel explores the story of the badass Elizaveta of Kiev, wife of Harald Hardrada, King of Norway. This is probably my favourite novel in the trilogy, and introduced me to the Kievan Rus which I knew nothing about prior to reading, and now want to do lots more research on! Elizaveta was Harald’s Queen but he was also married through a handfasting ceremony to Tora. What I love about Courtney’s books is as well as the romantic relationship between the protagonist and her husband(s) she also explores other relationships, like that between Elizaveta and Tora in this novel.
The final novel The Conquerors Queen is about the powerful Matilda of Flanders. Ultimately as we know she would be the one to win the crown, with her husband William Duke of Normandy becoming William the Conqueror. William and Matilda are often described as a love match and the historical evidence definitely suggests this. What I found interesting in this novel is that Courtney writes their love story as a slow burn on Matilda’s side. The other key female figure in this book is Judith of Flanders who was married to Tostig Godwinson. I enjoyed finding out more about this oft forgotten figure, and her character provided a counter-balance to Matilda as they have such different personalities.
Historical fiction can be done either really well or really badly, and Courtney without a shadow of a doubt has written this trilogy incredibly well, blending history with marvellous storytelling. I love historical fiction that centres on women, as they are so often left in the margins of history, and if you do too then you should order these books right now!
Have you read these novels? What did you think?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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