Thursday, August 26, 2010
Review: The King's Mistress
Alice Perrers scholar Campion debuts with a dynamic fictionalization of the life of Alice Salisbury, who, at 14, leaves family and best friend Geoffrey Chaucer behind to marry Janyn Perrers, a prominent merchant who has the patronage of Isabella, the Queen Mother. Alice accustoms herself to the royal lifestyle, grows close to her husband, and bears a daughter. Her happiness is destroyed when royal fortunes shift, Janyn disappears, and Alice is summoned to court by Queen Philippa. To secure her daughter's safety, Alice complies and is quickly drawn into the machinations and extravagance of Edward III's mid-14th-century court, where she captures the king's interest. Campion stays true to the facts of Alice's life as the mistress of Edward III, the mother of his son John, and a successful businesswoman. This is a detailed rendering of Edward III's court, one that provides an empathetic but realistic portrait of a colorful and, if Campion is to be believed, misunderstood woman.
The King's Mistress tells the story of Alice Perrers, Mistress to King Edward III. I can honestly say that I had never heard of Alice before reading this book, but apprently her love affair with the King was something of a scandal! When the King took a Mistress from a lower merchant class , his fellow nobles felt insulted and betrayed. They felt it was a slight to the Queen for him to do this. Alice in history, has been portrayed as a conniving harlot bent on gaining wealth and fame from her position (ahem) with the King.
Now whether or not she was or wasn't the gold-digging whore that historians believe she was is not the point of Emma Campion's book. She shows Alice as a woman thrown in marriage at a young age and widowed also at a young age. In her time, women couldn't be independent of men. They had to be attached in some way either to their father or a husband. Alice was thrust into court pretty much unprepared for what she was to expect. Her choices were limited and when the King showed interest in her she used this to her advantage. In Campion's book, she is not an evil woman but one trying to protect herself and her future.
This was a great book and a wonderful story. I really felt for Alice and had a lot of sympathy for her situation. Emma Campion has taken a thread of history and woven it into a beautiful story! I'd definitely suggest you pick up this book!