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  • Devil's Brood
  • Written by Sharon Kay Penman
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Devil's Brood

A Novel

Written by Sharon Kay PenmanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sharon Kay Penman

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

A.D. 1172. Henry II’s three eldest sons conspire against him and align themselves with his greatest enemy, King Louis of France, but it’s Eleanor of Aquitaine’s involvement in the plot to overthrow her husband that proves to be the harshest betrayal. As a royal family collapses and a marriage ends in all but name, the clash between these two strong-willed and passionate souls will have far-reaching and devastating consequences throughout Christendom.

Devil’s Brood, a breathtaking and sweeping epic of a family at its breaking point, shows how two monumental figures once bound by all-consuming love became the bitterest of adversaries.

Excerpt

Prologue 


He would be remembered long after his death, one of those rare men recognized as great even by those who hated him.He was a king at twenty-one, wed to a woman as legendary as Helen of Troy, ruler of an empire that stretched from the Scots border to the Mediterranean Sea, King of England, Lord of Ireland and Wales, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, Touraine, and Maine, liege lord of Brittany. But in God’s Year 1171, Henry Fitz Empress, second of that name to rule England since the Conquest, was more concerned with the judgment of the Church than History’s verdict. 

 When the Archbishop of Canterbury was slain in his own cathedral by men who believed they were acting on the king’s behalf, their bloodied swords might well have dealt Henry a mortal blow, too. All of Christendom was enraged by Thomas Becket’s murder and few were willing to heed Henry’s impassioned denials of blame. His continental lands were laid under Interdict and his multitude of enemies were emboldened, like wolves on the trail of wounded prey. The beleaguered king chose to make a strategic retreat, and in October, he sailed for Ireland. There he soon established his lordship over the feuding Irish kings and secured oaths of fealty from the Irish bishops. The winter was so stormy that Ireland truly seemed to be at the western edge of the world, the turbulent Irish Sea insulating Henry from the continuing outcry over the archbishop’s death. 

 But in the spring, the winds abated and contact was established once more with the outside world. Henry learned that papal legates had arrived in Normandy. And he was warned that his restless eldest son was once more chafing at the bit. In accordance with continental custom, he had been crowned in his father’s lifetime. But the young king was dissatisfied with his lot in life, having the trappings of shared kingship but none of the power, and Henry’s agents were reporting that Hal was brooding about his plight, listening to the wrong men. Henry Fitz Empress decided it was time to go home.  

Chapter One


April 1172  
Dyved, South Wales  

Soon after leaving haverford, they were ambushed by the fog. Ranulf had long ago learned that Welsh weather gave no fair warning, honored no flags of truce, and scorned all rules of warfare. But even he was taken aback by the suddenness of the assault. Rounding a bend in the road, they found themselves riding into oblivion. The sky was blotted out, the earth disappearing under their horses’ hooves, all sound muffled in this opaque, smothering mist, as blinding as wood-smoke and pungent with the raw, salt-tang of the sea. Drawing rein, Ranulf’s brother Rainald hastily called for a halt.“Mother of God, it is the Devil’s doing!” 

Ranulf had a healthy respect for Lucifer’s malevolence, but he was far more familiar than Rainald with the vagaries of the Welsh climate. “It is just an early-morning fog, Rainald,” he said soothingly. 

“I can smell the brimstone on his breath,” Rainald insisted, “can hear his cackling on the wind. Listen and you’ll hear it, too.” 

Ranulf cocked his head, hearing only the slapping of waves against the rocks below them. Rainald was already shifting in the saddle, telling their men that they were turning back. Before Ranulf could protest, he discovered he had an ally in Gerald de Barri, the young clerk and scholar who’d joined their party after a stopover at Llawhaden Castle.Kicking his mule forward, Gerald assured Rainald that such sudden patches of fog were quite common along the coast. They’d soon be out of it, he promised, and offered to lead them, for this was a road he well knew. 

Pressed, too, by Ranulf, Rainald reluctantly agreed and they ventured on, slowly and very warily. “Now I know what it’s like for your wife,” Rainald grumbled, glancing over his shoulder at his brother. “Poor lass, cursed to live all her days bat-blind and helpless as a newborn babe.” 

Ranulf’s wife, Rhiannon, was indeed blind, but far from helpless. Ranulf took no offense, though; Rainald’s tactlessness was legendary in their family. Slowing his mount, he dropped back to ride beside Rainald’s young son. The boy’s dark coloring had earned him his nickname, Rico, for upon viewing him for the first time, Rainald had joked that he was more an Enrico than a Henry, swarthy as a Sicilian. Rico’s olive skin was now a ghostly shade of grey, and Ranulf reached over to pat him reassuringly upon the arm. “Horses do not fancy going over cliffs any more than men do, and Welsh ponies are as sure-footed as mountain goats.” 

Rico did not seem comforted. “Yes, but Whirlwind is Cornish, not Welsh!” 

Ranulf camouflaged a smile, for the placid hackney hardly merited such a spirited name. “They breed sure-footed horses in Cornwall, too, lad.” To take his nephew’s mind off their precarious path, he began to tell Rico of some mischief-making by his youngest son,Morgan, and soon had Rico laughing. 

He missed Morgan, missed his elder son, Bleddyn, and daughter,Mallt, above all missed Rhiannon. But he’d agreed to accompany Rainald to the holy well of St Non, even knowing that he’d be away for weeks, for he knew the real reason for Rainald’s pilgrimage. Rainald had claimed he wanted to pray for his wife’s soul. But Beatrice had been ailing for many years, hers a malady of the mind that only death had healed. Rainald’s true concern was for his other son,Nicholas, who had not been blessed with Rico’s robust good health. Frail and sickly, Nicholas was not likely to live long enough to succeed to his father’s earldom, as evidenced by Rainald’s desperate decision to seek aid from saints, not doctors. 

Rainald’s pain was all the greater because Nicholas was his only male heir. Rico was born out of wedlock, and thus barred by Church law from inheriting any of his father’s estates–even though Rainald himself was bastard-born. The irony of that was lost upon Rainald, who was the least introspective of men. It was not lost upon Ranulf, who shared Rainald’s tainted birth, both of them natural sons of the old King Henry. Neither of them had suffered from the stigma of illegitimacy, though. As a king’s son, Rainald had been judged worthy to wed the heiress of the earldom of Cornwall, and Ranulf had long been the favorite uncle of the current king, Henry Fitz Empress.

 Henry would gladly have bestowed an earldom upon him, too, but Ranulf, who was half-Welsh, had chosen to settle in Wales where he’d wed his Welsh cousin and raised his family–until forced into English exile by a Welsh prince’s enmity. 

His Welsh lands were forfeit and his English manors were meager in comparison to Rainald’s vast holdings in Cornwell, but Ranulf had no regrets about turning down a title. He was at peace with his yesterdays, and he’d lived long enough to understand how few men could say that. For certes, Rainald could not. Nor could the king, his nephew, absent these many months in Ireland, where he’d gone to evade Holy Church’s fury over the slaying of Thomas Becket. 

Gerald de Barri’s voice floated back upon the damp morning air. A natural-born talker, he was not going to let a bit of fog muzzle him, and he continued to engage Rainald in conversation, not at all discouraged by the earl’s taciturn, distracted responses. Ranulf listened, amused, for Gerald was an entertaining traveling companion, if somewhat self-serving. The nephew of the Bishop of St David’s, he was returning to England after years of study in Paris, and he reminded Ranulf of Thomas Becket, another worldly clerk blessed with great talents and even greater ambitions. Becket had been a superb chancellor, wielding enormous influence because of his close friendship with the king. What a pity it was, Ranulf thought, that Harry had taken it into his head to elevate Becket to the archbishopric. But who could ever have expected the man to undergo such a dramatic transformation? He wasn’t even a priest, had hastily to take holy vows just days before his investiture. But once he was Canterbury’s archbishop, he’d devoted himself to God with all of the zeal he’d once shown on behalf of England’s king. Henry hadn’t been the only one discomfited by Becket’s newfound fervor.His fellow bishops had often been exasperated by his provocations, his refusal to compromise, his self-righteous piety. Even His Holiness the Pope had been confounded at times by Becket’s intransigence. 

All that had changed, of course, as he bled to death on the floor of his own cathedral, and when the monks had discovered their slain archbishop’s vermin-infested hair-shirt under his blood-soaked garments, none had doubted they were in the presence of sainthood. Acclaimed as a holy martyr in death, even by those who’d considered him to be a vexation and an enigma in life, Thomas Becket was sure to be anointed as the Church’s next saint. Already people flocked to his tomb at Canterbury, seeking healing cures and buying little vials of his blood as precious relics.More than fifteen months after Becket’s death, Ranulf still marveled at it all. Was Becket truly a saint? 

He smiled wryly, then, remembering his last meeting with his nephew the king, just before Henry’s departure for Ireland. Over a late-night flagon of wine,Henry had challenged him, wanting to know if he believed Becket was a saint.He still recalled his reply. “I cannot answer your question, Harry, doubt that anyone can. I do know, though, that saints are not judged like ordinary men. That is, after all, what makes them saints.” Henry had reflected upon that in silence, then said, sounding both skeptical and regretful, “Saint or not, Thomas got the last word for certes.” 

Menevia was the name given to the small settlement that had sprung up around the cathedral of St David. Its houses were outnumbered by shabby inns, stables, taverns, and a few cook-shops, for the shrine of the Welsh saint was a popular choice for pilgrimages. Because of its remoteness and the difficulty of travel in Wales, the Holy See had decreed that two pilgrimages to St David’s were the equivalent of one to St Peter’s in Rome. The cathedral itself was situated just west of the village in a secluded hollow, out of sight of the sea raiders and Norsemen who had pillaged the coast in bygone times. 

The men expected to be accosted by villagers proclaiming the comforts of their inns, the superiority of their wines and mead, the bargain prices of their pilgrim badges. To their surprise, the streets appeared deserted. Advancing uneasily, they finally encountered an elderly man in a doorway, leaning heavily upon a wooden crutch. 

“Where have all the folk gone?” Rainald called out, and when he got only a blank stare in response, Ranulf repeated the question in Welsh, to better effect. 

“To the harbor,” the ancient replied, hobbling forward a few steps. “Sails were spied and when word spread, people went to see.Most pilgrims come on foot, but we do get some who sail from Normandy and Flanders, even a few Frenchmen who lack the ballocks to brave Welsh roads.” He grinned, showing a surprising mouthful of teeth for one so old, but Ranulf knew the Welsh were particular about tooth care, cleaning them with green hazel shoots and polishing them with woolen cloth. Flipping him a coin for his trouble, Ranulf interpreted for the others, translating the old man’s “Frenchmen” into “English” to avoid confusion. It was not always easy to live in lands with so many spoken tongues. To many of the Welsh, the invaders from England were French, for that was the language they spoke. To the French, those who dwelled on the rain-swept island were English. But those descendants of the men who’d followed William the Bastard to victory in God’s Year 1066 thought of themselves as Norman, and his nephew Henry was Angevin to the core. 

Having no interest in incoming ships, they continued on toward the cathedral, where they received the welcome worthy of an earl, although Gerald de Barri was disappointed to learn that the bishop, his uncle, was away. They were escorted to the guest hall and were washing off the grime of the road when they heard shouting out in the close. Ranulf and Rainald hastened to the window, looking down at a man sprinting toward the bishop’s palace. As several canons hurried to meet him, he sank to his knees, chest heaving. 

“The king . . .”He gasped, struggling for breath. “The king is coming! His ships have dropped anchor in the harbor!” 
Sharon Kay Penman|Author Q&A

About Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman - Devil's Brood
Sharon Kay Penman has lived in England and Wales and currently resides in New Jersey. She is the author of six other novels: Falls the Shadow, Here Be Dragons, The Reckoning, The Sunne in Splendour, When Christ and His Saints Slept, and the first Justin de Quincy adventure: The Queen’s Man.

Author Q&A

Author's note



First of all, I want to address the queries of fans of The Lion in Winter, that classic film about the Devil’s Brood, with Henry and Eleanor memorably portrayed by Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. As I was writing this novel, I could hear their puzzled voices echoing in my ears. Then Henry did not take Alys as his concubine? And Richard was not gay? He did not have an affair with the French king? 

I defer to none in my admiration for James Goldman; The Lion in Winter remains one of my all-time favorite films. But it came out in 1969, and what was accepted as gospel forty years ago is not necessarily true today. I have to confess that I was quite disappointed to conclude that Henry’s purported affair with Alys was a political calumny, for writers are irresistibly drawn to high drama, and what could be more dramatic than a man seducing his son’s betrothed? Oh my, the scenes I could have written…But once I’d researched the accusation, I realized that it would not withstand close scrutiny. 

Sexual slander was as common a weapon in the Middle Ages as it is today. Henry was accused of lechery and adultery, Eleanor of incest and adultery, Richard of rape, and John of virtually every crime known to man.Many of the more unsavory stories involving Henry and Eleanor come from a very untrustworthy source, the man known as Giraldus Cambrensus or Gerald the Welshman, a Norman-Welsh cleric who has made brief appearances in both Time and Chance and Devil’s Brood as Gerald de Barri. Giraldus was a gifted and prolific writer, and his books about Wales are a treasure trove of information about medieval life. But Giraldus had a sharp axe to grind when it came to the Angevins; he bitterly blamed them for thwarting his ambition to become Bishop of St David’s. Most of Giraldus’s scandalous stories about Henry and Eleanor are better read as fiction; his literary career is aptly summed up by the eminent historian Hans Eberhard Mayer, who described Giraldus’s writings as “always delightful to read, but often hard to believe.” 

Rumors of a liaison between Henry and Alys were mentioned by several English chroniclers, but there is no evidence to support them. I am not alone in reaching this conclusion. Dr.W. L.Warren, author of the definitive biography of Henry, did not find the story credible. Most of Henry’s biographers are skeptical of the charge, although Eleanor’s biographers are inclined to accept it. This is interesting but not surprising, for her biographers tend to become her partisans and Henry suffers accordingly. I plan to discuss this in greater detail on my website, but will confine myself here to pointing out the implausibility of these rumors. Henry would have had limited opportunities even to be with Alys, given his peripatetic lifestyle. Alys was at Winchester for a while and then apparently resided at the Tower of London with two other highborn heiresses, Isabella de Clare and Denise de Deols. Not even Giraldus suggests that Alys accompanied Henry on his unending excursions through his domains. But apart from the difficult logistics of it, such an action on Henry’s part would have been sheer insanity. And while Henry did not lack for flaws, he was always a pragmatist and never a fool. 

Richard was able to benefit from these rumors, though. When the French king objected to his plan to wed Berengaria, the daughter of the King of Navarre, he expressed shock that Philippe could expect him to wed his father’s mistress. If Philippe had indeed made use of the gossip to try to worsen Richard’s precarious relationship with Henry, he was hoist with his own petard. All we can say for absolute certainty is that Alys was the true victim in these political machinations, a pawn caught up in a cold-blooded game of kings, treated very shabbily by Henry, Richard, and Philippe. When she was finally returned to France, Philippe married her off to the Count of Ponthieu, and we can only hope that she found some contentment in that union. Now . . . on to Richard. He and Philippe were never lovers. This notion stems from a patent misreading of medieval culture and custom. Richard’s sexuality was first questioned in the second half of the twentieth century, and this speculation can be traced in large measure to a passage in The Annals of Roger de Hoveden, who described Richard’s visit to the French court in 1187 as follows: “After peace was made, Richard, earl of Poitou, remained with the King of France, though much against the will of his father, and the King of France held him in such high esteem that every day they ate at the same table and from the same dish, and at night had not separate chambers. In consequence of this strong attachment which seemed to have arisen between them, the King of England was struck with great astonishment and wondered what it could mean, and taking precautions for the future, frequently sent messengers into France for the purpose of recalling his son Richard.” 

To us, this clearly indicates a sexual relationship. But in the Middle Ages, sharing a bed did not have the same meaning that we would place on it today.Medieval people were accustomed to sharing beds, often with strangers.More to the point, this was an accepted means of bestowing honor and demonstrating royal favor. Throughout the Middle Ages, and beyond, kings used such ostentatious intimacy to flaunt political alliances and mend political fences; for example, Edward IV, surely the greatest womanizer ever to sit on the English throne, with the possible exception of Charles II, shared his chamber with the rebel Earl of Somerset to dramatize their reconciliation. And while our tabloids would go into meltdown mode in comparable circumstances, neither Philippe’s nor Edward’s subjects would have read something sexual in such familiarity. 

So Richard was not the French king’s lover. But was he homosexual? In her insightful book Sexuality in Medieval Europe, Dr. Ruth Mazo Karras explores this challenging subject, setting forth the reasons why sexual mores in the Middle Ages cannot be easily compared to the beliefs of our more secular society. They saw sodomy as an act not an orientation, and they were unaware that sexual identity is biologically determined. We must bear this in mind when trying to answer questions about Richard’s sexuality. 

What little we know of Richard’s sex life is as follows: He had an unhappy marriage, and an illegitimate son, and was accused of lechery in his lifetime; a chronicler writing in the thirteenth century reported that he’d scandalized his doctors on his deathbed by demanding that he be provided with women.We also know that he made a flamboyant and public confession of his sins in Messina, en route to the Holy Land, and that in 1195 he was accosted by a hermit who chastised him for his sinful ways, warning, “Be thou mindful of the destruction of Sodom, and abstain from what is unlawful, for if thou dost not, a vengeance worthy of God shall overtake thee.”According to Roger de Hoveden, Richard remained “intent upon the things of this world and not those which are of God,” not taking the warning seriously until he became gravely ill, after which “he was not ashamed to confess the guiltiness of his life, and after receiving absolution, took back his wife, whom for a long time he had not known, and putting away all illicit intercourse, he remained constant to his wife.” 

This is all we know for certain. Anything else is conjecture.Was the hermit admonishing him for the sin of adultery or the sin of sodomy? John Gillingham, Richard’s preeminent biographer, contends that the Sodom warning does not refer to homosexuality, arguing that in the Middle Ages it referred to the terrible nature of the punishment, not the nature of the offense.Not every historian agrees with his interpretation, and so there is no academic consensus about Richard’s sex life. How could there be? He may have been heterosexual. He may have been bisexual. The only person who could answer the question with certainty has been dead for eight hundred years, and in any event, those were terms that would have been foreign to him. 

Geoffrey has always been the son who interested me most, perhaps because he was the most enigmatic and the one most neglected by historians. Unfortunately for him, there were no Breton chroniclers writing during the years that he governed the duchy, and he was mentioned by English chroniclers only in passing, and always in connection with his rebellions against his father. Modern historians have tended to rely on Roger de Hoveden’s colorful quotation–that Geoffrey was a “son of perdition”– and on Giraldus Cambrensus’s condemnation of him as an eloquent dissembler, making no attempt to delve into the reasons for his rebellions. I have even seen his motives dismissed as mere “mindless malice,” and I always knew there was more to his story than that! He had to wait more than eight hundred years, but in 2000 a historian finally examined Geoffrey’s career in the context of his role as Duke of Brittany, giving us a much more nuanced and logical explanation for his actions. 

The book is Brittany and the Angevins: Province and Empire, 1158—1203, by Judith A. Everard, and I recommend it highly for anyone interested in medieval Brittany. Dr. Everard demonstrates very convincingly that Geoffrey’s goal was to secure the full possession of his wife’s inheritance, the county of Nantes and the Honour of Richmond. Seen in that light, his actions make sense. And it can be argued that his conspiracy with the French king in the last months of his life may not be admirable, but it is understandable under the circumstances, for he saw the possession of Anjou as essential to protect his duchy against his hostile brother Richard. 

Just as controversy swirled around Geoffrey during his lifetime, it followed him faithfully to the grave. Roger de Hoveden reported that he died of injuries received in a French tournament, while Philippe’s French clerk, Rigord, recorded that he died in Paris after enduring “a bed of suffering.” Until recently, it was accepted that Geoffrey died after being unhorsed in a tournament. But Dr. Everard argues that he really died of a fever, as reported by Rigord, and she postulates that the tournament was a “cover story” to explain his presence in Paris and to allay Henry’s suspicions.While I admire Dr. Everard’s work enormously, I did not find this argument persuasive. There was nothing secretive about Geoffrey’s presence in Paris; he issued his last charter there. And immediately after his death, Philippe claimed wardship of his daughters as his liege lord, thus revealing to Henry that his son had done homage to the French king. I could see the French king offering a false account of Geoffrey’s death, however, to avoid any difficulties with the Church over Geoffrey’s state funeral in Notre Dame cathedral, for men who died in tournaments were to be denied Christian burial. (Nor does it seem to me that there is an inherent conflict between Roger de Hoveden’s account and the one offered by Rigord. The English chronicler says Geoffrey was unhorsed and trampled after refusing to yield to his foes, and it is quite possible that he survived for hours or days. Rigord then focused on his actual death, rather than the circumstances of it, to spare his king any awkward conflict with the Bishop of Paris.) Very little is known of the circumstances of Eleanor’s capture, other than the fact that she was disguised as a man. We do not know when it occurred or where. Some historians place her flight in the spring of 1173, but I do not agree. She had too much pride to run, until there was no other choice. I am convinced that she did not leave Poitou until Henry’s army was driving into the heart of her duchy in November. The French historian Alfred Richard was the first to contend that she had been betrayed, having discovered the generous grants that Henry bestowed on four of her Poitevin barons. Since Henry went so far as to name Porteclie de Mauzé as Seneschal of Poitou in 1174, he seemed the most likely suspect to me. I set the ambush at Loches because of its proximity to Chinon, where she was apparently taken after her capture. 

Roland de Dinan’s attack on Geoffrey’s castle at Rennes is often dated to 1182, which makes no sense, for Roland would not have acted on his own and Henry had no reason to launch such an assault at a time when he and Geoffrey were on good terms. But it is quite logical for the attack to have been made during the rebellion of 1183, as a means of drawing Geoffrey back to Brittany. 

Only one significant fictional character has ever infiltrated my books–Ranulf Fitz Roy,Henry’s uncle in the trilogy.Henry I is known to have sired at least twenty illegitimate children, so what is one more? Otherwise, I prefer to use actual historical figures even in minor roles, such as the provost of Loches and the novice monk Jocelin of Brakelond. Often I have only a name to work with and must create a history on my own, as with Amaria. She is briefly mentioned in the Pipe Rolls, as when Henry paid for a gilt saddle with scarlet for Eleanor and a plainer one for Amaria, “her maid.” Obviously I often had to invent attendants, squires, and servants, although I was fortunate enough to find the actual household knights serving Henry, Hal, Richard, and Geoffrey. I arbitrarily picked the name Nicholas de Chauvigny for Eleanor’s loyal household knight, and was later delighted to discover that the de Chauvignys were stalwart supporters of the duchess and her son; I then made my fictional Nicholas kinsman to Richard’s real cousin André de Chauvigny. 

Readers of my previous books know that I try not to tamper with established historical facts. I took a few liberties, but only those that kept my conscience clear: Hal’s presence at Henry’s Christmas Court in 1178; Eleanor’s presence at Woodstock in the summer of 1179. I indulged a whim and placed John of Salisbury on the scene when his friend the Bishop of Poitiers saved Hal’s hapless vice-chancellor,Adam de Churchedune, and since we don’t know who alerted the bishop to Adam’s peril, I gave that honor to Marguerite. I occasionally allowed my characters to receive news faster than their reallife counterparts. And I committed a minor sin of plagiarism, giving to Henry’s cousin Roger a sardonic assessment of the Archbishop of Canterbury when the acerbic judgment really came from the English chronicler William of Newburgh. It was simply too good not to use: “The man is laudably inoffensive, with the virtue of realizing his limitations.” 

There is still so much that I want to share: the obvious cause of death for Hal and likely cause of death for Henry, personal details gleaned from the chronicles, discussion of the ways an individual’s death can alter the course of history, Eleanor’s age and Geoffrey’s actual date of death, my guidelines for creating medieval dialogue and the problems of writing of a bilingual society. But even I think a ten-page Author’s Note would be pushing the limits. So once Devil’s Brood is published, I will post some of these additional musings on my website, www.sharonkaypenman.com. Readers who do not have access to the Internet but who share my curiosity about the Angevins may write to me at PO Box 1134, Mays Landing, New Jersey 08330, and I will send you copies of the website material. 

On the last page of the book, I could not resist having Eleanor comment that she and Henry would be remembered long after their deaths.Henry is judged to be one of England’s greatest kings, and Eleanor continues to bewitch and confound us just as surely as she bewitched and confounded her contemporaries. Even people with no interest in medieval history have heard of Richard Lionheart and Robin Hood’s nemesis, evil King John, for they have long since moved into the land of myth and legend. Even after spending more than a decade immersed in the compelling, improbable lives of this fascinating and dysfunctional family, I am not ready to let them go. So my next book will continue the story of Eleanor, Richard, John, Joanna, Constance,Will Marshal, Philippe Capet, and Saladin. 

SKP 
May 2008 

Praise

Praise

“[Sharon Kay] Penman does a remarkable job of depicting passionate, dramatic characters and the perilous times in which they live. For those who like their historical fiction as complex and tightly woven as a medieval tapestry, this book cannot fail to please.”—Library Journal, starred review

“Teeming with characters and authentic period detail, the novel is part splendid pageant and part history lecture.”—Booklist

“Penman writes about the medieval world and its people with vigor, compassion and clarity.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“A story so immediate and real that you’ll feel like you’ve lived it.”—Historical Novels Review
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Whom do you blame more for the destruction of their family, Henry or Eleanor?

2. Eleanor learned from her mistakes during her long confinement.Why do you think Henry was unable to learn from his? 

3. Henry’s three elder sons all had legitimate grievances against their father. Do you think these grievances justified their rebellion? 

4. John would prove to be the most emotionally damaged of Henry and Eleanor’s children.Why do you think this was so? 

5. Discuss the medieval custom of betrothing or marrying royal daughters at an early age and sending them away to be raised at the courts of their husbands. Do you think this made it easier for the girls to adapt to their new lives in foreign countries? 

6. Had Geoffrey not died, it is likely that he rather than John would have succeeded Richard in 1199.What sort of a king do you think he would have made? 

7. Was Hal’s kingship doomed by his very nature? Was he simply unsuited to rule, or was he molded by his parents’ mistakes? 

8. Richard would prove to be the most ruthless of Henry’s sons.What factors do you think helped shape his character? 

9. What were Henry and Eleanor’s greatest failings as parents? Who do you think was ultimately more successful as a parent? 

10. Though Henry is disappointed by his sons’ betrayal, he is heartbroken by Eleanor’s. How do you think love factored into her decision? What would you have done in her place? 

11. Though Sharon Kay Penman writes about the Middle Ages, many of the themes in Devil’s Brood are still applicable today. How do you think Henry would have fared as a ruler today? Would he have had the same downfall? 


  • Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman
  • July 28, 2009
  • Fiction - Historical
  • Ballantine Books
  • $16.00
  • 9780345396730

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