I’m delighted to welcome Carol McGrath to my blog today. Carol is interviewing Ailenor from her historical romance novel, The Silken Rose. Let’s find out a bit about the book first.
They called her the She-Wolf From Provence. She’d shape the destiny of England …
‘Powerful, gripping and beautifully told . . . will resonate with the #MeToo generation’ – Kate Furnivall, author of The Liberation
‘A feast for the senses and highly recommended’ – Deborah Swift, author of Pleasing Mr Pepys
Fans of Alison Weir, Anne O’Brien and Philippa Gregory, will devour this compelling new novel, starring one of English history’s most fierce and courageous forgotten heroines!
Ailenor of Provence, cultured and intelligent, is only thirteen when she meets her new husband, Henry III of England. A foreign and friendless princess in a strange land she is determined to please him. And she knows that when the times comes she must provide an heir, to secure the throne against those who would snatch it away.
Rosalind, a commoner skilled in the arts of needlework and embroidery, catches the young queen’s attention and a friendship blossoms. But she is unprepared for the dangerous ramifications of winning the queen’s favour …
As closeness, and soon love, develops between Ailenor and Henry, so too does her influence on her husband and her power at court. As France and Wales provide constant threat, and England’s barons increasingly resent her influence, Ailenor must learn to be ruthless. Who should she encourage her husband to favour? Who can she trust?
Caught in a web of treachery and deceit, her choices will define the fate of England. To protect her close friends, and her beloved children, Ailenor, the She-Wolf from Provence, would do, and endure, anything …
‘A gripping tale of a much-maligned queen’ – Henrietta Leyser
‘Well-researched … fascinating’ – Joanna Courtney
The Silken Rose https://tinyurl.com/s98nq3t
Now let’s move onto Carol’s interview with Lady Ailenor of Provence
I time-travelled to 1287 to meet the once beautiful, still gracious and clever Ailenor of Provence dowager Queen of England. I conducted an interview with her as Ailenor’s biographical fiction researcher. Our chat took place in the peaceful Abbey of Amesbury to which she has retired from public life. What follows is a brief extract from the interview.
Lady Ailenor, you were married to the third Henry of England in 1236 until his death in 1272. I wonder could you tell me a little about your marriage. Were you in love?
I was only thirteen years old on my wedding day. What did I know about love? The marriage was arranged. I travelled all the way to England leaving my beautiful castle of Les Baux in Provence to come to a strange land to marry a man who was already thirty two years old. The English king’s very handsome, married brother, Richard of Cornwall, had stopped at our castle on his way home from the crusades. I loved to write poetry so I gave him one of my poems. Richard took it to King Henry. Mon Dieux, grand surprise, King Henry sent for me to become his bride. We were not exactly wealthy, so he took me without a dowry. I was thrilled because the King of France had married my older sister, Marguerite, some years before. She was already a queen. I would be one too, you see. Henry and I were married in a beautiful ceremony in Canterbury. I wore a gold pleated gown and Henry too was dressed in cloth of gold. But that January was so cold and miserable I thought winter would never end and summer a distant prayer. I missed the lavender fields and sunshine.
Did you, if I may ask such a personal question, consummate your marriage at once? Thirteen is so young. Henry must have been experienced at thirty-two.
Umm, (she looks wistful) I am not so sure about the experience bit. Henry was more interested in praying than making love. He was keen on jewels, generous and kind, not greatly handsome, and his eyelid drooped making him a little sinister-looking to a young girl. He gave me many rings, bracelets, and gorgeous dresses. He had apartments redecorated in Westminster Palace and The Tower for me. He had great taste (tears in her eyes). We never did the sex until I was fifteen years old. After all, my responsibility was to make heirs. Henry was concerned he might, you know, damage me there. (Smiles and points towards her secret place). So we waited, and in waiting we grew to know and love each other.
And you did provide Henry with heirs. How was that experience?
We had five children two boys and three girls, and we were a close family. I was sixteen years old when my first was born. The midwives shut me up in a stuffy chamber for a whole month before Edward’s birth. They wanted to hang dark cloths over all the windows but I insisted on letting light into the apartment through one opened window. My husband could not see me until after the child was born. No man could. The Virgin’s belt was hung on my bedpost and I was given a precious polished birthing stone to hold. Giving birth to Edward was a torture, but, you know, that is God’s will. It was worth the toil. My queenly status was enhanced. A month later I had a celebration for my churching and entered the world again.
It must have been very special to be Queen of England? Was it?
Oh yes, I enjoyed my queenly role. I lived it fully. I was serious about almsgiving, as was Henry. He was generous to the poor. Occasionally, he invited beggars to dine with us. I was patron of many convents. Amesbury was always my favourite. Look around at my gorgeous apartment. I had a household of my own and I always enjoyed a large allowance, I spent on embroidery, fashion and art. I was no ornament. Mon Dieu, how I played the political game. I gave Henry advice, and he listened, but his half-brothers arrived at court and I had trouble. Henry, sadly, was a weather cock listening to this one and that one. And when those Lusignans thugs came here they took him over. They married English heiresses. The earls were furious. Henry gave those brothers favours for nothing. In truth, all my dear husband wanted was a peaceful life, to build Cathedrals, organise pageants. Some of the Lusignans were exiled in the end. I was regent when Henry was in Gascony. (Preens) It was a relief that when the Barons’ War in the twelve sixties ended and we could build peace again.
Your own uncles were never that popular?
My uncles were hard-working and cultured. They knew a thing or two about administration. They put good order into the treasury. Rumours spread and rumour is a dangerous weapon.
I believe you are a fan of Courtly Love?
We women have our admirers. It’s all part of knightly tradition and chivalric code. I encouraged my ladies but I remained aloof. I was the Queen after all. A handsome young knight would chose a lady but keep his love secret. He would send her tokens such as a trinket or poem. It was a courtly game. To admire but not to touch. I was fortunate to fall in love with dear Henry. Courtly love was a fair compensation for loveless marriages.
And you never had an admirer. You have been a beautiful intelligent woman?
Since the object of courtly love is secret I could never reveal it if ever I had. (she looks away)
Have you ever felt in fear for your life?
Once in Woodstock Palace we were attacked by a madman. His punishment was to be torn limb from limb by horses. Just before the Barons’ War, I was travelling from the Tower. I was pelted with offal from London Bridge and called a she-wolf. I escaped to France and raised mercenaries in our territories of Gascony to fight for the royalist cause.
What is your favourite book?
The Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
‘Thank you Lady Ailenor, Thank you for being so honest about your life.’
‘Queen Ailenor, if you please.’
If you’re intrigued by the blurb and the interview, you can buy The Silken Rose here: https://tinyurl.com/s98nq3t
Following her first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing at The Seamus Heaney Centre, Belfast, followed by an MPhil from University of London. Her fifth historical novel, The Silken Rose, first in The Rose Trilogy, published by the Headline Group, is set during the High Middle Ages. It features Ailenor of Provence and will be published on April 2nd 2020. Carol was the co-ordinator of the Historical Novels’ Society Conference, Oxford in September 2016. Visit her website:
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Thanks so much for dropping by to tell us about your book, Carol.
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