“I have been interested in the 12th Century since my twenties, I see it as the renaissance of civilisation,” said d’Alpuget.
With novels such as “Monkeys in the Dark” and “Turtle Beach” which have been described as “witnesses to history”, d’Alpuget has also written the biographies of notable Australians such as Sir Richard Kirby and former Australian Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke (her husband).
“The Lion Rampant” enthralls with the relationship between the charismatic Henry, (“one of England’s greatest kings”, as d’Alpuget describes him) and his wife Eleanor, who had previously been Queen of France before her divorce and remarriage to become Queen of England. Pragmatic and symbiotic, Henry and Eleanor’s relationship in the novel runs parallel to the early life and career of Thomas Becket before he became Archbishop of Canterbury and later, martyr.
Set against a climate of intrigue and political expediency, the stories of Henry, Eleanor and Thomas Becket make addictive and compulsive reading. Their portrayal reflects d’Alpuget’s gift for creating characters so real that readers are enabled to experience and understand the human motivations behind the veil and mystique of history.
The narrative is expertly spun and with deep understanding of humanity. The process of breathing life into historical figures is carried out by d’Alpuget with intuition and empathy. As she explains, “Fiction is much more difficult for me – trying to show, not tell, the workings of the human heart and consciousness is the challenge.”
“The Lion Rampant” reflects a time when people were unembarassedly overtly sexual – d’Alpuget is matter-of-fact, “There was no television to preoccupy their time”. It was an age when life was starkly often a case of survival, whether in battle or otherwise. D’Alpuget’s portrayal of human nature, with its strengths and weaknesses, is masterly and complements the excitement of the historical events unfolding and her key characters’ impact upon them. Remarking on her adherence to historical veracity in her “Lion” series, she states,“The sexuality in these novels is as much a part of the fabric of 12th C life as was feudalism and warfare.”
Eleanor D’Aquitaine, very unusually for the 12th Century, was a woman well ahead of her time, extraordinary strong-willed and determined. One of the wealthiest and most powerful women in her era and a shrewd negotiator, Eleanor kept her substantial assets intact when she divorced the King of France. She and Henry left history indelibly changed. Of their issue, two of their daughters became Queens of Castile and Sicily and of their sons, the most famous was Richard the Lionheart.
A perfectionist who takes her craft very seriously, d’Alpuget felt she had to earn the right to be called a “writer”. She says, “I did not dare call myself a writer until I had two books published.” Also the Patron of charity “Inala” (supporting individuals with disabilities) for the past 14 years, d’Alpuget has many interests and demands upon her busy life. Writing, following a long family tradition set by her father and great-aunt, is very much an essential part of it.
Readers will derive an excellent read and real insight into one of the most interesting parts of history from d’Alpuget’s latest gem.