The Silken Rose by Carol McGrath
The first in a brand new trilogy from Carol McGrath, author of The Daughters of Hastings series, The Silken Rose is the gripping tale of one of history’s most fierce heroines.
1236. Beautiful Ailenor of Provence, cultured and intelligent, is only thirteen when she marries Henry III. Aware of the desperate importance of providing heirs to secure the throne from those who would snatch it away, she is ruthless in her dealings with Henry’s barons.
As conflict escalates between them, Ailenor’s shrewd and clever Savoyard uncles come to support her but her growing political power is threatened when Henry’s half-siblings also arrive at court.
Henry and Ailenor become embroiled in an unpopular war to protect Gascony, last English territory on the continent, sparking conflict with warrior knight, Simon de Montfort, the King’s seneschal. Ailenor, desperate to protect Gascony for her son, strives to treat with France and bring peace to Gascony.
Caught in a web of treachery and deceit, ‘she-wolf’ Ailenor’s courage is tested to the limit. Can she find the strength to control her destiny and protect her all that she holds dear?
Following her first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath comp
leted 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 2 nd 2020. Carol was the co-ordinator of the Historical Novels’ Society Conference, Oxford in September 2016.
Visit her website: http://www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk
History, especially before the Renaissance, was written by, for, and about men. If you only read the history books, you can be forgiven for thinking that women were deaf and dumb vessels only meant to carry children. How refreshing it is to read about a woman who made history herself, Ailenor of England, often referred to as she wolf, (which was applied to three of the early English Queens, proof of their strong personalities!) was a noblewoman from France who married King Henry III, grandson of the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Ailenor was married aged twelve or thirteen, but her husband, Henry, wishes to wait until she is Older to consummate their marriage. During this time, Ailenor learns the ways of the court and manages to place her retinue and followers in important positions, a fact that does not endear her to the English. Headstrong, quick of tongue, and sure of herself, she falls in love with her older husband and manages to make him love her too – no small feat, as he is intelligent and experienced. As well as taking an interest in her husband’s affairs, Ailenor was also interested in the art of embroidery, and she befriends a commoner – Rosiland – a woman with great talent – and becomes her patroness. So there are two strong female characters in the story, their lives, one noble-born and destined for history, and the other, a product of the brand new middle class of artisan workers who will eventually make Europe into a modern state.
Also important to the story are the characters Simon de Montfort and his wife, Nell, who was Henry’s sister. Nell and Simon fall in love and Ailenor helps them marry, getting papal disposition. However, Simon and Nell fall heavily in debt and Henry ends up footing their bills. Furious, he orders Simon imprisoned, but Ailenor helps them escape England. I loved the way the author ties history and fiction together – I have always been fascinated by this period, and especially by this royal family. Richard of Cornwall, Simon de Montfort – and of course the Crusades are all woven together in this richly embroidered tapestry. Especially prevailent is the embroidery itself – the different fabrics and clothes the people wore, their colors and textures adding richness to an already fascinating tale. Highly reccommended.