Original date of publication: 1978
My edition: 1978 (ACE)
Why I decided to read: an interest in the Plantagenets led me to pick this up
How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, February 2010
The Royal Griffin is the story of Eleanor of England (youngest daughter of King John and sister of Henry III) and her second husband, Simon de Montfort, the baron who helped shape the parliamentarian history of England. The story covers the life of Eleanor from her first marriage in 1224 to William Marshal, eldest son of the famous William Marshal, goes up through Simon de Montfort’s attempt to take the throne, ending nearly at the end of Eleanor’s life, when she became a nun.
It’s a huge period of time to cover, and Dymoke does jump over periods of time in order to cover the major action of Eleanor and Simon’s lives. For example, at one moment Eleanor is giving birth to their eldest son, Henry; next thing you know he and his siblings are teenagers! In some ways this harms the novel, because there’s not a lot of room for character development; Eleanor hardly seems to change at all from being a teenager to being middle-aged.
Nonetheless, the novel is well-researched, and pretty much jives with what’s known about the people involved in this story, or what was written about them (the author seems to have borrowed a lot from Matthew Paris’s accounts of the Plantagenet family, which although contemporary were not always, shall we say, objective). Dymoke doesn’t take too many liberties with history, which is in many ways good, because it’s a fascinating story. The author recreates mid-13th century England and its various political struggles in great detail at times, though would have liked a more in-depth description of the scene at the battle of Evesham. Still, this novel is a good introductory, fictional account of this era, though for historical fiction on the period, Sharon Kay Penman’s novels are much meatier.