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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
With a Sword in My Hand
by Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem and Pat van Beirs
Age Range: 14+
Marguerite is the feisty, stubborn daughter of the Duke of Flanders. Desperate for a son he finds himself stuck with a daughter who refuses to behave like a lady. Marguerite much prefers to roam free, learning how to ride, to fence and can often out-manoeuvre the boys. However, the Count of Flanders has plans for his wayward daughter. The pressure of politics and power dictate that she must have an arranged marriage to Edmund of England, a spotty, arrogant youth whom she comes to despise. Will she be able to resist her father’s wishes or find a way to choose her own husband?
Based on the read life Marguerite of Male (1348-1405), this is an enthralling historical novel written by two Dutch authors – Jean-Claude van Rijekeghern and Pat van Beirs. Although Marguerite, the last heir of Flanders, was a real person, very little is known about her and she is no more than a paragraph in most books covering European history. Marguerite received offers of marriage from both the English and French courts and married Philip the Bold, Prince of France in 1369 which brought Flanders under the yoke of the dukedom of Burgundy. She was buried in the convent church of the Collégiale Saint-Pierre in Lille, France.
According to the chroniclers of the day Marguerite was not beautiful but she was always expensively dressed and bedecked with jewels. She had a fiery temper and her relationship with her father was reported to be stormy. With such sparse detail the authors have managed to weave a rich medieval tale around Marguerite bringing her to life in mid-fourteenth century Flanders.
The authors have researched their subject meticulously. The careful detail about all aspects of medieval life in Flanders from childbirth, the lessons in sword fighting, the costumes, customs and the plague that sweeps through Europe all add real depth to this book. For fans of historical novels this is definitely a book to savour.