In The Battle of the Queens Plaidy offers yet another great insight into the turning of the wheels of that era, the eternal struggle between England and France, with the Church as an ever-present puppet master.
The two protagonists in the title, whom the book centres on, are Isabella, mother of Henry III of England, and Blanche, mother of Luis IX of France. The two women who despised each other, couldn't be more different: Isabella hot-tempered, promiscuous, self-centred and Blanche pious, level-headed, thoughtful of others.
Alongside the lives of the great historical personages, Plaidy includes those of seemingly lesser importance, who had nonetheless a great impact on history, or even those who had none, but give her story colour and beat, from the siblings of Henry III to nursemaids. And at that she doesn't forget Eleanor of Aquitaine in the last years of her life, who remained a powerful historical player till her very end.
Thus, the one thing that always frustrates me in historical fiction, women being looked upon as nothing more than political bargaining chips, is upturned on its head in Plaidy's books. For, despite being reduced to objects for political games of men, women were most often the ones who actively decided the fate of nations and affected the world history at large.
Isabella and Blanche were definitely one of those proverbial women behind successful men, the women who made their names, or – in Isabella's case – sometimes ruined them.