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  • Time and Chance
  • Written by Sharon Kay Penman
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780345396723
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Time and Chance

A Novel

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis


In When Christ and His Saints Slept, acclaimed historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman portrayed all the deceit, danger, and drama of Henry II’s ascension to the throne. Now, in Time and Chance, she continues the ever-more-captivating tale.

It was medieval England’s immortal marriage—Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, bound by passion and ambition, certain to leave a legacy of greatness. But while lust would divide them, it was friendship—and ultimately faith—that brought bloodshed into their midst. It began with Thomas Becket, Henry’s closest confidant, and his elevation to be Archbishop of Canterbury. It ended with a perceived betrayal that made a royal murder seem inevitable. Along the way were enough scheming, seductions, and scandals to topple any kingdom but their own. . . .

Only Sharon Kay Penman can re-create this truly tumultuous time—and capture the couple who loved power as much as each other . . . and a man who loved God most of all.


Excerpt

July 1156
Chinon Castle
Touraine, France

As the King of England crossed the inner bailey of
Chinon Castle, his brother watched from an upper-story
window and wished fervently that God would smite him dead.
Geoffrey understood perfectly why Cain had slain Abel, the firstborn, the
best-beloved. Harry was the firstborn, too. There were just fifteen months
between them, fifteen miserable months, but because of them, Harry had
gotten it all--England and Anjou and Normandy--and Geoffrey had
naught but regrets and resentments and three wretched castles, castles he
was now about to forfeit.

He'd rebelled again, and again he'd failed. He was here at Chinon to
submit to his brother, but he was not contrite, nor was he cowed. His
heart sore, his spirit still rebellious, he began to stalk the chamber, feeling
more wronged with every stride. Why should Harry have the whole loaf
and he only crumbs? What had Harry ever been denied? Duke of Normandy
at seventeen, Count of Anjou upon their father's sudden death the
following year, King of England at one and twenty, and, as if that were
not more than enough for any mortal man, he was wed to a celebrated
beauty, the Duchess of Aquitaine and former Queen of France.

Had any other woman ever worn the crowns of both England and
France? History had never interested Geoffrey much, but he doubted it.
Eleanor always seemed to be defying the natural boundaries of womanhood,
a royal rebel who was too clever by half and as willful as any man.
But her vast domains and her seductive smile more than made up for any
defects of character, and after her divorce from the French king, Geoffrey
had attempted to claim this glittering prize, laying an ambush for her as
she journeyed back to Aquitaine. It was not uncommon to abduct an
heiress, then force her into marriage, and Geoffrey had been confident of
success, sure, too, that he'd be able to tame her wild nature and make her
into a proper wife, dutiful and submissive.

It was not to be. Eleanor had evaded his ambush, reached safety in her
own lands, and soon thereafter, shocked all of Christendom by marrying
Geoffrey's brother. Geoffrey had been bitterly disappointed by his failure
to capture a queen. But it well nigh drove him crazy to think of her belonging
to his brother, sharing her bed and her wealth with Harry--and
of her own free will. Where was the justice or fairness in that?

Geoffrey was more uneasy about facing his brother than he'd ever admit,
and he spun around at the sound of the opening door. But it was not
Harry. Their younger brother, Will, entered, followed by Thomas Becket,
the king's elegant shadow.

Geoffrey frowned at the sight of them. As far back as he could remember,
Will had been Harry's lapdog, always taking his side. As for
Becket, Geoffrey saw him as an outright enemy, the king's chancellor and
closest confidant. He could expect no support from them, and well he
knew it. "I suppose you're here to gloat, Will, as Harry rubs my nose in it."

"No, I'm here to do you a favor--if you've the wits to heed me." The
most cursory of glances revealed their kinship; all three brothers had the
same high coloring and sturdy, muscular build. Will's hair was redder and
he had far more freckles, but otherwise, he and Geoffrey were mirror images
of each other. Even their scowls were the same. "Harry's nerves are
on the raw these days, and he's in no mood to put up with your blustering.
So for your own sake, Geoff, watch your tongue--"

"Poor Harry, my heart bleeds for his 'raw nerves,' in truth, it does! Do
you never tire of licking his arse, Little Brother? Or have you acquired a
taste for it by now?"

Color seared Will's face. "You're enough to make me believe those
tales of babes switched at birth, for how could we ever have come from
the same womb?"

"Let him be, lad." Thomas Becket was regarding Geoffrey with chill
distaste. "'As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.'"

"You stay out of this, priest! But then," Geoffrey said with a sneer,
"you are not a priest, are you? You hold the chancellorship, yet you balk
at taking your holy vows ...now why is that?"

"I serve both my God and my king," Becket said evenly, "with all my
heart. But you, Geoffrey Fitz Empress, serve only Satan, even if you know
it not."

Geoffrey had no chance to retort, for the door was opening again. A
foreigner unfamiliar with England would not have taken the man in the
doorway for the English king, for he scorned the trappings of kingship,
the rich silks and gemstones and furred mantles that set men of rank apart
from their less fortunate brethren. Henry Fitz Empress preferred comfort
to style: simple, unadorned tunics and high cowhide boots and mantles so
short that he'd earned himself the nickname "Curtmantle." Equally indifferent
to fashion's dictates and the opinions of others, Henry dressed to
please himself, and usually looked more like the king's chief huntsman
than the king.

To Geoffrey, who spent huge sums on his clothes, this peculiarity of
his brother's was just further proof of his unfitness to be king. Henry
looked even more rumpled than usual today, his short, copper-colored
hair tousled and windblown, his eyes slate-dark, hollowed and bloodshot.
Mayhap there was something to Will's blathering about Harry's "raw
nerves" after all, Geoffrey conceded. Not that he cared what was weighing
Harry down. A pity it was not an anchor.

What did trouble Geoffrey, though, was his brother's silence. The
young king was notorious for his scorching temper, but those who knew
Henry best knew, too, that these spectacular fits of royal rage were more
calculated than most people suspected, deliberately daunting. His anger
was far more dangerous when it was iced over, cold and controlled and
unforgiving, and Geoffrey was soon squirming under that unblinking, implacable
gaze. When he could stand the suspense no longer, he snapped,
"What are you waiting for? Let's get it over with, Harry!"

"You have no idea what your rebellion has cost me," Henry said,
much too dispassionately, "or you'd be treading with great care."

"Need I remind you that you won, Harry? It seems odd indeed for
you to bemoan your losses when I'm the one who is yielding up my
castles."

"You think I care about your accursed castles?" Henry moved forward
into the chamber so swiftly that Geoffrey took an instinctive backward
step. "Had I not been forced to lay siege to them, I'd have been back in
England months ago, long ere Eleanor's lying in was nigh."

Geoffrey knew Eleanor was pregnant again, for Henry had announced
it at their Christmas court. Divorced by the French king for her
failure to give him a male heir, Eleanor had then borne Henry two sons
in their first three years of marriage. To Geoffrey, her latest pregnancy had
been another drop of poison in an already noxious drink, and he could
muster up no sympathy now for Henry's complaint.

"What of it? You'd not have been allowed in the birthing chamber,
for men never are."

"No...but I'd have been there to bury my son."

Geoffrey's mouth dropped open. "Your son?"

"He died on Whitsunday," Henry said, softly and precisely, the measured
cadence of his tones utterly at variance with what Geoffrey could
read in his eyes. "Eleanor kept vigil by his bedside as the doctors and
priests tried to save him. She stayed with him until he died, and then she
made the funeral arrangements, accompanied his body to Reading for
burial. He was not yet three, Geoff, for his birthday was not till August,
the seventeenth, it would have been--"

"Harry, I ...I am sorry about your son. But it was not my fault!
Blame God if you must, not me!"

"But I do blame you, Geoff. I blame you for your treachery, your betrayals,
your willingness to ally yourself with my enemies . . . again and
again. I blame you for my wife's ordeal, which she need not have faced
alone. And I blame you for denying me the chance to be at my son's
deathbed."

"What do you want me to say? It was not my fault! You cannot blame
me because the boy was sickly--" Geoffrey's breath caught in his throat as
Henry lunged forward. Twisting his fist in the neck of his brother's tunic,
Henry shoved him roughly against the wall.

"The boy has a name, damn you--William! I suppose you'd forgotten,
for blood-kin means nothing to you, does it? Well, you might remember
his name better once you have time and solitude to think upon it!"
Geoffrey blanched. "You ...you cannot mean to imprison me?"

Henry slowly unclenched his fist, stepped back. "There are men waiting
outside the door to escort you to a chamber in the tower."

"Harry, what are you going to do? Tell me!"

Henry turned aside without answering, moved to the door, and
jerked it open. Geoffrey stiffened, eyes darting in disbelief from the men-at-
arms to this stranger in his brother's skin. Clutching at the shreds of his
pride, he stumbled across the chamber, determined not to plead, but betraying
himself, nonetheless, by a panicked, involuntary glance of entreaty
as the door closed.

Will untangled himself from the settle, ambled over to the door, and
slid the bolt into place. "Harry . . . do you truly mean to imprison him?
God knows, he deserves it . . ." He trailed off uncertainly, for his was an
open, affable nature, uncomfortable with shadings or ambiguities, and it
troubled him that his feelings for his brother could not be clear-cut and
uncomplicated.

Henry crossed to the settle and took the seat Will had vacated. "If I
had my way, I'd cast him into Chinon's deepest dungeon, leave him there
till he rotted."

"But you will not," Becket predicted, smiling faintly as he rose to
pour them all cups of wine.

"No," Henry admitted, accepting his cup with a wry smile of his
own. "There would be two prisoners in that dungeon--Geoff and our
mother. She says he deserves whatever punishment I choose to mete out,
but that is her head talking, not her heart." After two swallows, he set
the cup aside, for he drank as sparingly as he ate; Henry's hungers of the
flesh were not for food or wine. "I'm going to try to scare some sense into
Geoff. But since he has less sense than God gave a sheep, I do not have
high hopes of success."

"Just do not give him his castles back this time," Will chided, in a tact-ess
reminder of Henry's earlier, misplaced leniency. "It would serve him
right if he had to beg his bread by the roadside."

"Sorry, lad, but Scriptures forbid it. Thomas can doubtless cite you
chapter and verse," Henry gibed, "but I am sure it says somewhere that
brothers of kings cannot be beggars."

"I thought it said that brothers of beggars cannot be kings." Becket
tasted the wine, then grimaced. "Are your servants trying to poison you
with this swill, Harry? Someone ought to tell them that hemlock would
be quicker and more merciful."

"This is why men would rather dine with my lord chancellor than
with me," Henry told Will. "He'd drink blood ere he quaffed English
wine. Whereas for me, it is enough if it is wet!" Becket's riposte was cut
off by a sudden knock. Henry, the closest to the door, got to his feet; he
was never one to stand on ceremony. But his amusement faded when a
weary, travel-stained messenger was ushered into the chamber, for the
man's disheveled appearance conveyed a message of its own: that his news
was urgent.

Snatching up the proffered letter, Henry stared at the familiar seal,
then looked over at Will. "It is from our mother," he said, moving toward
the nearest lamp. Will and Becket were both on their feet by now, watching
intently as he read. "I have to go to Rouen," he said, "straightaway."

Will paled. "Not Mama ...?"

"No, lad, no. She is not ailing. She has written to let me know that
Eleanor is in Rouen."
Sharon Kay Penman|Author Q&A

About Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman - Time and Chance
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

Random House Reader’s Circle: The traits that make Henry a great king–arrogance, daring, single-mindedness, a love of conquest and power– do not necessarily make him a great husband, father, or friend. What price does Henry pay for his kingship?

 Sharon Kay Penman: A very high price, indeed. All of the above-named traits are not virtues in a domestic context. Nor did it help that Henry was something of a control freak. At least where his family was concerned, he seems to have found it almost impossible to relinquish any real authority and this reluctance doomed his relationship with his sons. 

RHRC: Would you agree that betrayal–Becket’s betrayal of Henry and Henry’s betrayal of Eleanor–is at the center of this novel? 

SKP: Yes, I would, but we must remember that betrayal is rarely clear-cut or unambiguous. Becket certainly did not believe he’d betrayed Henry. Nor did Henry see his affair with Rosamund Clifford as a betrayal of Eleanor, for it was understood that he’d take other women to his bed when he and Eleanor were apart. Of course Rosamund was not just a convenience. But as his emotional involvement with Rosamund deepened, he at first refused to admit it and then managed to convince himself that Eleanor did not realize Rosamund was not like his other bedmates; she was much more than a casual conquest. 

RHRC: The people Henry trusted most in the world–his mother, his wife, and Becket–all questioned his decision to appoint Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury. Why did he ignore their warnings in this critical instance? 


SKP: One of Henry’s failings was his reluctance to accept advice once he’d made up his mind. His stubbornness did not serve him well in this case. Nor did his utter faith in Becket’s friendship. He was so sure that he knew Becket better than anyone, even Becket himself–with tragic results. 

RHRC: Becket was not of noble blood; he was the son of a merchant. Henry overlooked Becket’s humble origins, but others, most notably his wife and mother, did not. Did his lack of rank shape the course of his life in medieval Europe? Did his ambitions and achievements come under extra scrutiny and criticism because of his extraordinary upward mobility? 

SKP: Most definitely. Many men looked at him askance from the first, resentful that he’d been able to soar so high from such a lowly perch. Any man as close to the king as Becket would have become the target of jealousy and suspicion. But Becket’s shame about his origins gave his enemies a potent weapon to use against him. Our belief in equality never took root in medieval soil. Even Henry, wanting to hurt Becket during their confrontation at Northampton, instinctively lashed out with a taunt about Becket’s modest lineage. 

RHRC: For the most part, your readers are not made privy to Becket’s inner thoughts and motivations. Why did you decide to make him such an unknowable character? 

SKP: Thomas Becket has remained an enigma for more than eight centuries; I wasn’t so egotistical that I thought I could solve the mystery of this man in a mere five hundred pages! I made a deliberate decision to distance myself from Becket and to filter impressions of him through the perspectives of other characters. We see Becket through Henry’s eyes, through the eyes of his devoted clerks, skeptical fellow bishops, the barons who loathed and mistrusted him, and the English people, who readily accepted him as a saint in their midst. 

Was he driven by raw ambition? Did he experience a religious conversion that compelled him to forswear his worldly past? Did he shed his identity as a snake sheds its skin, taking on the coloration of each new role like Hwyel’s chameleon? I thought it only fair to allow my readers to make up their own minds about this most controversial of archbishops. I realize that not everyone will agree with my tactical choice, but I felt most comfortable with this approach, which seemed particularly well suited to Becket’s quicksilver, inscrutable character and contradictory history. 

RHRC: One notable instance in which readers are given some insight into Becket is when Henry tells Becket he wants him to become Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket tells Henry he does not want to jeopardize their friendship and asks: “Are you sure I can serve both you and the Almighty?” Henry sidesteps the question with a joke. What would a truthful response from Henry sound like? 

SKP: I suspect that Henry did not differentiate between his needs and those of the Almighty, truly believing that if Becket served him well, God would be satisfied, too. 

RHRC: How much blame must Henry bear for Becket’s murder? 

SKP: Not as little as Henry thought or as much as his enemies claimed. Henry twice did public penance for Becket’s death, once at Avranches and then again at Becket’s tomb in Canterbury Cathedral. The first mea culpa seems to have been a pragmatic political response, but his second act of atonement appears to have been more heartfelt, less a pro forma gesture than one of genuine emotion. I don’t believe that Henry ever felt much guilt over his complicity in Becket’s death. It is human nature, after all, to rationalize away the unpleasant, and kings are more adept than most at that particular skill. I do believe he sincerely regretted that he should have given his enemies such a sharp sword and that Becket had come out the winner in their war of wills; not even a crown can trump sainthood. And it is likely that there were some private regrets for the man he’d once loved, the man he’d once thought Becket to be. 

RHRC: Becket is not the only character in this novel with divided loyalties. Ranulf is torn between his loyalty to Henry and his loyalty to Wales. Did Henry serve well all those who were loyal to him? 

SKP: When Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey, was charged with treason by King Henry VIII, he had a moment of belated epiphany and said, “Had I but served God as diligently as I have served the king, He would not have given me over in my grey hairs.” 

This would never have been said of Henry II. Whatever his other failings, he did not discard men who were no longer useful, as too many kings were wont to do. Henry rewarded loyalty with loyalty. 

RHRC: The issue of crown versus church jurisdiction in criminal cases involving church officials is an important theme through out this novel. Do you think this historical conflict in any way echoes contemporary debates in the twenty-first-century Uni ted States over sexual abuse in the Catholic Church? 


SKP: When the current scandal spilled over into the public domain, it definitely struck familiar echoes with me. Even after eight centuries, we have not been able to agree where the boundaries should be drawn between church and state. Little wonder that this incendiary issue set Henry and Becket upon a collision course to disaster. 

RHRC: Eleanor was counseled to either learn to love Henry less or to accept him as he was. Has she truly managed to do either at the close of this novel? 

SKP: Yes, I believe that she did. Unfortunately for Henry, she took the first road, not the second. 

RHRC: Does Henry recognize the depth of his estrangement from Eleanor or the depth of her anger once Rosamund Clifford enters his life? 


SKP: No, he did not, and his blindness was to cost him dearly. Henry never learned to view life from any perspective but his own, and he seemed to be genuinely surprised when his family’s festering discontent burst into outright rebellion. He continually made excuses for his sons’ lack of loyalty and refused to believe the Count of Toulouse’s warning that Eleanor was conspiring with his sons against him. Even on his deathbed, he was still proclaiming his faith in his youngest son, John; it was only when he was presented with incontrovertible evidence of John’s betrayal that he turned his face to the wall and spoke no more.

RHRC: What made you choose Henry and Eleanor as subjects of their own trilogy? What have been the rewards and the drawbacks of focusing on two of the most celebrated and studied figures in medieval Europe? 

SKP: What novelist could resist the allure of such larger-than-life characters as Henry and Eleanor? No Hollywood screenwriter could rival their reality. They loved and schemed and fought and forgave and fought again on a world stage, and eight centuries after their deaths, people still find them as fascinating and elusive and compelling as their contemporaries did. So I’d say the rewards are obvious. 

The drawbacks? Perhaps the greatest one is that I had to forfeit the element of surprise. My novels about medieval Wales were set in unexplored terrain; my readers did not know what lay around every bend in the road. Henry and Eleanor’s story is far more familiar, even to people not particularly enamored with the Middle Ages. Who hasn’t seen The Lion in Winter, after all? 

RHRC: This novel covers a large canvas over a twenty-five-year period. Was it difficult to decide what stories to tell and what stories to mention in passing or leave out entirely? 

SKP: That is always a challenge. Usually some stories leap right off the page, practically screaming to be dramatized. Where Henry and Eleanor are concerned, there was almost a surfeit of riches. This is why I chose to tell their story in trilogy form; that way being able to do justice to all the critical events of their lives while not producing a book that would make Moby Dick look like a minnow, size-wise! 

RHRC: In your “Author’s Note,” you discuss when and where your narrative deviates from the historical record. What particular challenges does historical fiction pose? How are you constrained by the historical record? How do you decide when to take fictional license? 


SKP: In writing my historical novels, I obviously have to rely upon my imagination to a great extent. I think of it as “filling in the blanks,” for medieval chroniclers could be utterly indifferent to the needs of modern novelists. Sometimes it is necessary to “invent” essential details; for example, chroniclers often report a death without specifying the cause. But there is a great difference between filling in the blanks and distorting known facts. I also attempt to keep my characters true to their historical counterparts. I do my best to build a strong factual foundation for each of my novels and rely upon my Author’s Notes to keep my conscience clear. 

RHRC: How long did the research take for this novel? Do you do research in the beginning and then start writing or do you research as you go along? 

SKP: It usually takes me about three years to research and write one of my historical sagas; this is one reason why I take medieval mystery breaks, for they can be completed in only a year. 

Chance was so long in the making because of circumstances beyond my control. My first mystery, The Queen’s Man, was nominated for an Edgar and it was decided that I should follow it up with another mystery. I therefore put Chance aside–much to Henry and Eleanor’s dismay–and wrote Cruel as the Grave. The plan was then to finish Chance once I’d coaxed my pouting Plantagenets into cooperating again. I did not expect to come down with mononucleosis and I most definitely did not expect it to lay siege to my immune system for eighteen months! I research as I write–that is, I do specific research about a particular castle or town or battlefield. 

RHRC: What kinds of sources did you use for this novel? Did Henry or Eleanor leave personal papers or diaries behind? 

SKP: I make use of secondary sources such as historical biographies and translations of primary sources like chronicles, letters, charters, and government records. I do not have the linguistic skills to read medieval Latin or medieval French and I am sorry to say that Welsh continues to elude my best efforts. Fortunately, I have always been able to find translations of the materials I need. 

There are some extant letters written by Henry and a few by Eleanor which are part of the correspondence of state and therefore not that personally revealing. A notable exception is the outrage that sears through the formal phrasing of the ill-advised letter Henry sent to the French king after Becket’s flight into exile, which I quote in Chapter 17 of Chance. And Thomas Becket’s letters to the pope also shine a light into his psyche, displaying his aggrieved sense of injury, his instincts for high drama, his weakness for self-pity, and his stark, stubborn courage. Moreover, as I said in my Author’s Note, the Henry-Becket schism is probably the best-documented episode of the Middle Ages, a veritable treasure trove for historical novelists.

RHRC: Which writer would you invite to a reading group meeting to discuss what work? What would you most like to ask him or her? 

SKP: Emily and Charlotte Brontë, if I’m not limited to the living. If I am, I’d love the opportunity to meet Harper Lee and to ask her why she never wrote another book after her classic To Kill a Mockingbird. 

RHRC: What other titles would you recommend for a reading group discussion? 

SKP: Any of my books! Seriously, I do think Here Be Dragons would be a good candidate, as would The Sunne in Splendour. If you want to stray from Penman territory, I would highly recommend anything by Alice Hoffman or Barbara Kingsolver. 

RHRC: How would you describe your average workday of writing? 


SKP: I work on a chapter at a time and do not sit down at the computer until I have all the research done and the scenes in my head, waiting to spill out onto the page. I do not set specific work hours as some writers do. I generally stay with a chapter until I am satisfied, do very little rewriting, and if a scene is going well, I’ve been known to keep night owl hours. 

RHRC: What will Devil’s Brood, the final installment in the Henry and Eleanor trilogy, cover? When can your readers expect to find in the bookstore? 


SKP: I plan to begin Devil’s Brood with Henry’s return from his selfimposed exile in Ireland, when he reluctantly agreed to do public penance for Becket’s death, taking a solemn oath before the papal legates that “he neither ordered it, nor willed it, and that when he heard of it he was greatly grieved.” The final entry in my trilogy will deal with Henry’s fraying bond with his wife and sons, surely one of history’s most dysfunctional families. I expect to end the book with Eleanor’s release from confinement upon Henry’s death and Richard’s accession to the throne. 

As to when it might be in the bookstores, I do not want to tempt the fates by making any predictions, for my memories of mononucleosis are still too vivid for comfort. 

Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Becket and Ranulf wonder whether Henry is ruthless because he is king or king because he is ruthless. What do you think?

2. As a leader, how do you rate Henry? What about as a father, husband, and friend?

3. Henry believes he will be able to make up for his absence in his children's lives once they are older. Do you think this will be possible?

4. Discuss the pros and cons of a royal childhood in medieval Europe.

5. Despite his hatred of his former wife, Louis agrees to a marriage between his daughter and Henry and Eleanor's oldest son. Why does he do so? Is this a wise decision?

6. "If I were God Almighty, I'd have decreed that all kings be only children," remarks Henry. This novel provides ample evidence of the bloodshed and conflict succession in a monarchy has entailed.
Discuss this conflict as it played out in England, Wales, and France in the novel.

7. "Eleanor always seemed to be defying the natural boundaries of womanhood," remarked one character. Discuss how Eleanor both transcends and is constrained by the gender conventions of her day.

8. Ranulf remarks, "Passion might not be the soundest of foundations for a marriage, especially a royal one." Discuss the nature of Henry and Eleanor's marriage. What do you consider a sound foundation for a marriage?

9. Do you think Eleanor makes the right decision not to confront Henry about Rosamund Clifford? What do you think would have happened if she had?

10. What has Rosamund Clifford gained and lost with her decision to be with Henry?

11. When Henry announced his plan to elevate his chancellor Becket to Archbishop of Canterbury, Eleanor cautioned Henry that he might "be asking too much of Becket." Do you agree or disagree with Eleanor's assessment?

12. Henry cannot understand what he considers Becket's betrayal. Is it a betrayal? Is Henry simply blinded by his ego?

13. Do you agree with Hywel's characterization of Becket as a chameleon?

14. Henry struggles with his guilt over Becket's murder. What do you judge to be Henry's role in his death? Do you agree or disagree with the author's assessment?

15. This novel illustrates the fine line between church and state in medieval England. Do you agree that this novel makes a good case for the separation of church and state?

16. Henry's decision to commit the Constitutions of Clarendon to the written record is a controversial innovation. Discuss how a culture is changed in the shift from an oral to a written tradition.

17. Many characters in this novel suffer from divided loyalties. Who makes the most and least wise decisions regarding which side to choose?

18. Why does Ranulf finally choose a side and turn his back on Henry? Do you think Ranulf 's rejection is justified?

19. Why did your group choose this book? Are you happy with your choice?

20. Have you read the first book in the trilogy? Will you read the final installment?

21. Discuss the characters you found most intriguing. Who would you most like to see return in The Devil's Brood?

22. What is your group reading next?


  • Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman
  • February 04, 2003
  • Fiction - Historical
  • Ballantine Books
  • $16.00
  • 9780345396723

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