Yolande of Aragon (1384-1442) appears to be a little known historical figure - certainly one I had barely heard of let alone knew anything about – so when I ran across this book last fall on Amazon UK I decided to order it. The author of a couple of non-fiction books, HRH Princess Michael of Kent indicates that she stumbled across Yolande while doing research for her intended subject – Agnes Sorrel, mistress to Charles VII of France.
The novel begins with Yolande’s marriage to Louis of Anjou (nephew of Charles VI) bringing her into the political chaos overtaking France. Louis is a staunch supporter of the king and he instills the same loyalty in his family, especially in Yolande. It is a commitment she takes seriously and when she is widowed at a young age, she finds herself in a position to be a political player – albeit one behind the scenes arranging marriages and alliances between the French royal family and its neighbors (including her own children) and doing everything in her power to secure the stability of the country.
As a trusted member of the extended royal family, Yolande is given the care of one of the king’s younger sons – Charles. She raises him as one of her own and tries to give him the sense of normalcy missing from his home life. She also arranges his marriage to one her daughters (Marie). And when fate makes Charles first the Dauphin and later king, Yolande continues to exert a quiet influence on France’s political survival, including financing a young peasant girl with visions of greatness and brining a young Agnes Sorrel to Charles’s attention.
Despite it’s somewhat YA style, I enjoyed reading The Queen of Four Kingdoms since I knew virtually nothing about Yolande and for the different perspective on this period of French history. The political infighting and struggles with the English are presented in a fairly straightforward style without getting overly detailed or complicated. A family tree is included which was invaluable in figuring out who the various people were and how they were related.
This is the first in a planned trilogy and I’ll be interested to see how Yolande’s well-laid plans play out.
Rating: Three stars
In case the FTC asks: Bought it