Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The reissue of Druon's "The Accursed Kings"

A friend kindly forwarded to me the link to an article in the BBC Magazine about the way in which Maurice Druon's set of seven novels The Accursed Kings (Les Rois Maudits), about the last Capetian Kings of France and the origins of the Hundred Year War were an inspiration for the currently very popular Game of Thrones novels of George R. R. Martin and the television series based thereupon. It can be read here.

I do not know, other than by name, The Game of Thrones series, with its Tolkienesque setting. However I do esteem the Druon novels, and the original 1973-4 ORTF tv production - you can find the six dramas on YouTube - and I am delighted to see that the novels are being reissued.

File:Philip iv and family.jpg

 The Accursed Kings
King Philip IV of France flanked, left to right, by his sons the future King Charles IV and King Philip V, his daughter Queen Isabella, wife of King Edward II, and by his eldest son King Louis X, King of Navarre, and his brother Charles, Count of Valois, father of King Philip VI


Their attraction is the way in which they use real historical events and present them in extremely readable form and in accessible modern language, and bring out the subtleties and cut and thrust of political life. These are flesh and blood people dealing with matters of life and death - literally. As a friend said in the 1970s of the television version, it had actors who behaved as if they were used to living in medieval clothes, not just dressed up for the part. 

In addition the novels have a series of historical endnotes to accompany their interpretation of events. Druon was writing with dramatic effect in mind, and he does exercise artistic freedom at times, but not such as to reduce the historic credibility of the books. One may question the interpretation he gives of some of the figures - notably King Louis X and King Charles IV - but the novels are a thoroughly good introduction to the period and a wonderful evocation of medieval political machinations.

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