The Autumn Throne

Written by Elizabeth Chadwick
Review by Charlotte Wightwick

The Autumn Throne is the third and final instalment of Elizabeth Chadwick’s Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy. Eleanor – or Alienor as she would have been known in her lifetime, and as Chadwick calls her – is one of history’s most fascinating and formidable characters, ruler of vast lands in her own right, Queen both of France and of England and the mother and grandmother of kings and queens across Europe. This book covers the last thirty years of Alienor’s life, following her from captivity at the hands of her second husband, Henry II of England, through her role as regent and Queen Dowager for her sons, two of England’s most controversial kings, Richard the Lionheart and John. The story follows Alienor as she crosses the Alps in winter to bring Richard his bride, raises a king’s ransom to free him from his enemies, mediates between her warring sons, is besieged by her own grandson, rekindles emotional ties and mourns children killed in war, in sickness and the childbed.

Chadwick’s writing is, as ever, fluid and entertaining, and this is a novel packed with incident, interest and emotional depth. The medieval world she has created is rounded and convincing, the fruit of years of research. For long-term Chadwick fans there are also welcome glimpses of characters from her other novels – not least William Marshal. The central focus, however, is always on Alienor, who remains a vivid and charismatic, dominant character. Throughout the trilogy, Chadwick’s heroine has battled against divided loyalties and the demands of love and duty. This book weaves those strands together so that when we leave her, we do so with regret but in full appreciation of her achievements. Chadwick has told Alienor’s story in a way which does honour to this remarkable woman. Highly recommended.