Simon de Montfort, the founder of English Parliament, has quite a resume. He was a renowned knight, amazing military strategist, and was pressed into a monarchy, which he rejected. However, all great men start somewhere, and Montfort The Early Years by Katherine Ashe details the early years of Montfort’s distinguished life.
We begin with a young Montfort, inexperienced in the ways of the world and not too eager to step out into it as well. Despite this, he is thrust into the fray early on as he is tasked with retaining his family’s long-unused earldom in the court of King Henry III. Although Montfort is new at this game, he begins full of pride and ideas about what his experience will be like. Unfortunately he regains nothing of his pride as he becomes infatuated with Queen Eleanor, King Henry’s wife, and becomes incredibly frustrated with his feelings as he cannot obtain her. As such, Montfort turns his attentions to the King’s sister, countess Eleanor, a nun. Already a rising star in Henry’s court, Henry gives his permission to Montfort to marry Eleanor, knowing that he truly does love her. This gaiety does not last for long, however, as Montfort soon begins seeing the Queen secretly, as rumors of Henry’s impotence fly. With all of this occurring at such a quick pace, we also are treated to the sights and sounds of medieval Europe and all of its decadence as a backdrop to this riveting and compelling story. Love him or hate him, Montfort is a definite force in Henry’s court, and the mark he leaves will be one that is not soon forgotten.
I enjoy historical fiction novels where it is evident that they have been meticulously researched. I always enjoyed history when I was in school, so I like the fact that on top of being entertained by the plot, I’m also learning. In this case, I learned about King Henry III, the Crusades, and medieval culture and customs. There is something so appealing and exciting about medieval knights and jousting tournaments and courtly love, and with all three filling the pages of Montfort, you can correctly assume that I eagerly gobbled this book up!
Along with the fantastic research, we are treated to Ashe’s astoundingly well written labor of love on Montfort’s life. We definitely go through a gauntlet of emotions with Montfort: from love and elation, to a deeply harrowing depression. The tides of emotions that we ride on with Montfort are incredibly detailed, taking the reader on the journey with him. I’m ashamed to say that prior to reading Montfort I was not at all familiar with his life and accomplishments. Having now read book one in the four-part series I can say that I’m definitely anticipating long nights of non-stop reading. I can’t wait to see what else Ashe has in store for us with her biopic on the remainder of his life. If the subsequent works are anywhere as good as this one I’m in for a treat!
5 out of 5 Stars
This is my eighth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
Montfort: The Early Years by Katherine Ashe
Paperback 332 pages
Special thanks to Katherine for sending me my review copy! Keep your eye out for my review on the next book in the series Montfort: The Viceroy.