A nautical disaster has left Henry I of England in a bind. His only legitimate child is his daughter Matilda, the former Holy Roman Empress. Matilda’s path to the throne may seem straightforward as she has the oaths of all the leading men in the kingdom and a new younger husband named Geoffrey of Anjou, but things take a drastic turn when Henry I dies. Chaos reigns supreme as her cousin, Stephen of Blois, is declared King of England. Matilda knows that the throne is rightfully hers, and she will fight tooth and nail to recover what has been lost. Her story is told in Carol McGrath’s latest novel, “The Stolen Crown.”
Thank you, Headline Publishing and Carol McGrath, for sending me a copy of this novel. I have enjoyed reading about Empress Matilda and The Anarchy, so when I heard about this novel, I jumped at the opportunity to read it.
We begin with the all-important oath ceremony, where the great lords of England pledge their loyalty to Matilda as Henry I’s heir. Matilda is an 18-year-old widow who is headstrong and is willing to fight to become the rightful ruler of England, even though she is a woman and no woman has ever ruled England. She was deeply in love with her first husband, Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, but her father has decided that she must marry again to keep his legacy alive, and the man he has chosen is the young Count of Anjou, Geoffrey. It would be an understatement to say their relationship was rocky initially, but they would have a family, including the future King Henry II.
On top of the typical cast of characters that one would expect in a novel about The Anarchy, McGrath invented new characters, Alice, Xander, Pipkin, and Sir Jacques. Alice, Xander, and Pipkin are performers willing to spy for Matilda, no matter how dangerous the mission, to ensure Matilda sits on the throne. McGrath shows the thrilling back-and-forth struggle between Matilda and Stephen for the throne that lasts for years. This novel has many strong women, not just Empress Matilda and Alice, but Stephen’s wife, Matilda of Boulogne.
McGrath has created an immersive story with strong, independent characters who are not afraid to fight for what they believe is right. The Anarachy was a time in history that is slowly getting more attention, and this novel will entice readers to learn more about this period in English history. A dynamic adventure full of intrigue and emotion, “The Stolen Crown” by Carol McGrath is a thrilling read for anyone interested in the birth of the Plantagenet dynasty and Empress Matilda’s fight for the throne.