The Poisoned Crown (The Accursed Kings #3)
By: Maurice Druon
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
A crown is a poisonous thing…
After having his first wife murdered and his mistress exiled, the weak and impotent King Louis X of France becomes besotted with the lovely and pious Princess Clemence of Hungary.
Having made her his new queen, and believing the succession assured, Louis foolishly embarks upon an ill-fated war against Flanders.
The kingdom needs an Iron King. But where his father, Philip IV, was strong, Louis is feeble. Surrounded by ruthlessly ambitious nobles, Including Robert of Artois and his monstrous aunt, Mahaut, Louis will find himself a lamb amongst wolves.
And here we are, The Poisoned Crown. This is the last book I have of the series right now on my TBR pile as I haven’t picked up the rest of the series, but it’s good to read this series straight while the characters are still fresh in your mind. Contains some mild spoilers ahead!
The Poisoned Crown continues on the reign of Louis X and his marriage to Clemence of Hungary. Existing players gain more prominence in Louis X’s court, as others such as Mahaut gain more prominence in events (unless I totally overlooked her in previous novels). Louis X, as we’ve seen in previous novels, is plagued with the shadow of his father and tries to set out his own path, but as we see throughout he’s not as strong as his father and he’s surrounded by people who are much more cunning than he is. There’s this great passage that comes up when his new wife confronts him about the fate of his first wife that talks about how people one-up him at every turn: his father as a ruler, his brother as the brilliant one, and now his new wife when it comes to faith in God. Add his sickly complexion and, well, there’s the summary of his persona and his rule, really.
As a result, other characters are moving into place. In some ways this book feels like a bridge of sorts; you can tell Louis X is coming to the end of his reign–it was just a question of how and when (and I noticed these book titles do reflect particular events in the book 😉 )–and the courtiers are just shifting around and preparing to align themselves to whatever comes after. I do fear for Clemence of Hungary (and her unborn child); she’s a good person, and strong in her right, but I don’t think she realises how ruthless and cunning all of these courtiers are.
I don’t know what else to say about The Poisoned Crown except that it was a very interesting read. Large chunks of events are covered in this novel just as the previous two were. There was one side story that I wasn’t quite sure how it factored into the narrative as the character played but a minor role in Court (if at all), but otherwise this was another excellent installment of the series. I look forward to reading the fourth book at some point as I reckon the next book will be a massive shake-up with plenty of happenings.