The Queen from Provence deals with the reign of Henry III of England. Henry III, crowned as just a child, has a difficult task placed upon him: to overcome the heritage of his father, the hated King John, and reinstate the rule of law and order in England.
Having good advisors, he is initially successful and, therefore, loved. However, as he grows up, his longing to be seen as his own man and not a mere puppet under the influence of his advisors combined with insecurity drive him to commit more and more mistakes in ruling his country.
His marriage to a wilful and spoilt Eleanor of Provence only worsens the matters, for out of love for her and the desire to indulge her every wish to make her happy, the injustice and ill-thought of actions escalate to the point where he is almost just as hated as his predecessor, and the country rises against him, the unrest culminating in the formation of England's first true Parliament, unlike any others.
In the book itself, Plaidy mentions the saying that a good man is not also a good king. Henry III was, mostly, a good man: a devoted, faithful husband, a loving father, and a religious man. But his love for his family was his undoing, for the care for their well-being and wealth blinded him to the greater good of his people, which he should have given more thought to.
I can't help myself to draw a parallel between Henry III, and even more so Queen Eleanor, and many of contemporary wealthy people with their attitude that they have some god-given right to their wealth and social status and that that right makes them indifferent to other people's lesser fortune. They may, subjectively, be 'good' people, but their 'goodness' does not reflect in their treatment of those less fortunate.
As such, historical fiction serves as a great, but tragic warning; for it seems that throughout the centuries, little has changed for ordinary people, while the rich and the well-connected have always gotten their way.
That makes me quite pessimistic. Yet, on the other hand, perhaps the more people look at the past and see its injustices reflected in the present, the greater chance there is that we might someday change the pattern at last.
In that aspect, The Queen from Provence is a great read, not only for its amazing insight into history, but also for what it can teach us - humanity as a whole - not to do in the future.