Maurice Druon – “The Royal Succession”

ABOVE: I bet that ring is poisoned too.

Louis X’s death in “The Poisoned Crowd” leads directly to “The Royal Succession,” the fourth book in Maurice Druon’s “Accursed Kings” series. Louis’ daughter with Marguerite of Burgundy SHOULD be the next Queen of France, but the suspicions cast upon her legitimacy after the Affair of the Tower of Nesle make that very unlikely. Clemenzia of Hungary is pregnant, but that child hasn’t been born, (and there’s quite a few people praying the birth never happens.) Charles de Valois and Phillipe de Poitiers butt heads throughout the Regency; Poitiers has a conclave of cardinals under siege at Lyon, strong-arming them into the election of  Pope John XXII, a Pope who’s interesting for the “heresy” of his epiphany that Christian beliefs about the afterlife don’t make a lick of sense. He reasoned that, if there was to be a Last Judgment at the end of the time, then people who die now can’t go to Heaven or Hell, since obviously that would imply they have already received Divine Judgment. In other words, you can be judged by God when you die, or at the end of the time, but it makes no sense to be judged twice. His inconvenient logic was stomped down by the succeeding Pope, who decreed that yes, when you die, you immediately go to Heaven, and that was the end of THAT topic, thank you very much.

Meanwhile Robert and Mahaut D’Artois continue the territorial squabble that, Druon posits, is at the corrupt heart of this turbulent time in history. Guccio de Baglioni has been separated from his beloved Marie de Cressay, and what Druon claims happens to THEIR son plays with history so boldly it would make the ghost of Alexandre Dumas proud, but might outrage someone who takes too seriously the “historical” part of “historical novels.”

ABOVE: King Jean the Baby.

Novelistic inventions aside, Jean I, Clemenzia of Hungary’s son, was born the undisputed king, but the unfortunate baby died five days later, making Philippe of Poitiers the de facto King. That’s not even the shortest reign in the history of France. In 1830, King Louis XIX was on that position of power for about 15 minutes.

RATING: COOL!

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