The Irish Princess
The author brings medieval Ireland alive with her trademark mix of engaging characters, high politics, and romance. As the daughter of an Irish king, Aoife is brought up in a violent, unstable world where internecine warfare is an ever-present reality. When her family is forced to flee, her father Diarmait MacMurchada seeks help from King Henry II of England. That assistance comes in the form of Richard de Clare, Earl of Striguil. As the son of a traitor, he seeks to secure his position with Henry and carve out more territory for himself. He brings an army to help Diarmait reclaim his lands, and the bargain is sealed by his marriage to Aoife. In Chadwick’s novel, Aoife is a strong, determined and loving woman. Her father receives her first, passionate loyalty, but she comes to love her Norman husband and children with equal intensity. While Richard provides the military power required to hold their lands, she must manage murky political waters, in particular the unpredictable King Henry, her influential uncle Lorcan, Archbishop of Dublin, and her prickly sister-in-law, whose bitterness has the potential to spell disaster for Aoife and her children.
In this novel, Elizabeth Chadwick has given us another fascinating glimpse into the medieval world, from the kingdoms of Ireland to Welsh border fortresses and the royal palaces of England and France. One of her strengths as a novelist is in building characters whose motivations are often entirely different from ours and yet who are entirely sympathetic and believable. Long term fans of Chadwick’s novels will also enjoy the insight into another of her heroines: Isabelle de Clare is Aoife and Richard’s daughter, and William Marshal too makes a brief cameo. This is an extremely enjoyable novel, exploring themes of love, power, ambition and survival. Highly recommended.