The Princeling

Written by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Review by Jane Kessler

This is book 3 of the Morland Dynasty series, in which Cynthia Harrod-Eagles traces 500 years of British history from the point of view of the fictional Morland family. The series starts in 1434 with the War of the Roses and will finish with World War II.

This volume begins in the summer of 1558 as the family gathers to dedicate a new chapel which they only dared rebuild once the Catholic Queen Mary was on the throne. The family has lost several members to the plague in recent years. Queen Mary dies in November, and her half-sister Elizabeth, a Protestant, ascends to the throne. The Morlands are Catholic, but now some in the family find they have Protestant leanings. The matriarch, Nanette, served Queen Elizabeth’s mother and is called back to court to serve again. Strategic marriages are arranged for some of the younger generation, and one son runs away to join a group of traveling players. With very few young people left at home, the older generation worries about who will be heir to Morland Place and safeguard the family’s position.

This series is one of my all-time favorites, and I wish I owned the complete set. It’s well-written and researched, yet highly entertaining. History textbook authors should take a lesson from Harrod-Eagles. This is much more than dry facts and dates. This is, as Harrod-Eagles says, “ how people lived, what they wore and ate, how they gave birth and died, how they built their houses and related to their servants, how they travelled, what they believed in.” Fascinating stuff, all woven into a story populated with well-developed characters. To keep it all straight, a family tree and a map of Morland Place are included. If you’ve never tried this series, get the first book and start reading. You’ll be glad you did.