At just fifteen years of age, Emma, the sister of Richard II, duke of Normandy, is sent to England to marry King Æthelred. The alliance is purely for political purposes – both nations want support against the ever-growing threat of the Danes and both Richard and Æthelred believe Emma is the key. Though this is a marriage she is greatly against, Emma has been raised for this purpose and vows to be a good wife. Unfortunately, Æthelred is interested in little other than fathering heirs. Young Emma finds herself alone in a cold marriage, increasingly aware that her husband has no regard for her skills or her support. And when she begins to fall for one of Æthelred’s sons, things become much worse for the new queen.
Emma, the “twice crowned queen” is a fascinating historical character and one that few know much about. Patricia Bracewell aims to change this in her proposed trilogy on the eleventh century monarch. She succeeds in breathing life into this little-known ruler, giving her a depth of emotion that the historical record could never provide. And while the author’s imaginings are in part fictionalized (her relationship with Athelstan, for example), Bracewell does a wonderful job representing the history of the time and using what resources there are to introduce Emma to fans of historical fiction.
3/15 Becky LeJeune
SHADOW ON THE CROWN by Patricia Bracewell. Penguin Books (December 31, 2013). ISBN: 978-0143124351. 432p.