The Agincourt Bride

Written by Joanna Hickson
Review by Lynn Guest

Catherine de Valois, the youngest daughter of the insane Charles VI, became the bride of Henry V five years after his destruction of the French nobility at Agincourt. Her story from infancy to the wedding is told by Mette, a baker’s daughter who becomes the royal baby’s wet nurse after her own child is stillborn. Closer than a mere servant, Mette is Catherine’s confidant and an intimate witness to the political turmoil as the Dauphin, the ambitious Duke of Burgundy and Henry battle for control of France and Catherine. The actual wedding is almost an anticlimax in this period’s turbulent history.

Most of this long novel concerns those five years after Agincourt, and it is to Hickson’s credit that she makes the various political shenanigans gripping and clear while keeping Mette’s and Catherine’s involvement believable. Both are three-dimensional characters, convincingly set in their time as are many of the secondary figures, particularly Burgundy and Henry. The details of life, both humble and royal, in 15th-century France are well explained, particularly the food, clothes and the Spartan conditions of castle living, as well as the rigid etiquette of royal life. We are constantly aware of the insecurity, chaos and danger of civil war when no one can be trusted.

This novel ends as Catherine and Mette sail for their new life in England. The promised The Tudor Bride will be a welcome sequel.