Title: Lotharingia: Charlemagne’s Heir (A Novel of Medieval Europe)
Author: Lara Byrne
Publisher: Lara Byrne
Copyright: June 30, 2021
Format: E-Book, 432 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Women’s Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Inspired by Real Historical Figures
A.D. 1062. The Holy Roman Emperor is dead, and his underage son, snatched from his mother, is a puppet in the hands of regents. The fate of the empire lies in the hands of three women. Surprisingly, the Church takes their side, but Rome’s support has a price. Matilde refuses to be a pawn in the marriage game. Is she the child of Charlemagne’s prophecy?
After a long-held feud has claimed the men in her family, Matilde prepares to succeed her father as margrave of Tuscany. A descendant of Charlemagne, heiress to the most prestigious relics in Christendom, and a trained warrior, she could comfortably rule on her own. To her dismay, the Church will support her extraordinary claim to power only if she accepts a traditional role and marries the Duke of Lotharingia – a man who fills her with dread.
Despite her formidable mother’s diplomatic nous and mysterious relics of the Holy Blood, Matilde’s efforts to extricate herself from her betrothal are crushed by the intrigues of the all-seeing papal archdeacon Ildebrando.
Across the Alps, the late emperor’s son, King Heinrich, has come of age, in a court rife with passions and treasonous ambitions. Resenting the bride chosen for him, he stuns his subjects and Rome with a defiant request to divorce. Ildebrando shatters his hopes. When, after a chance meeting, Heinrich rescues Matilde from her abusive husband, friendship blossoms into forbidden love. If their sin is discovered, the Church may strike them down with excommunication, political and personal ruin. Unbeknown to Matilde and Heinrich, the stakes are even higher: Charlemagne’s prophecy is about to come true.
In the 11th century, Countess Matilda/Matilde of Tuscany was the most famous woman in Western Christendom, a trailblazer who defied the gender expectations of her age to become the most powerful prince of the Holy Roman Empire for two generations. Exploiting the gaps and contradictions in medieval chronicles, Lotharingia weaves history and fiction into an alternative account of the world and challenges that shaped her youth, as she grappled with the constraints of femininity in her quest for self-definition, power, and love.
It is 1062 AD. During the High Middle Ages, Countess Matilde of Tuscany is one of the most powerful women in all of Christendom. A descendant of the legendary Charlemagne, she is an heiress who stands to inherit vast lands. She lives in a world where strictures are placed upon women, including those who wield great power. While she is powerful, she must rule with a man by her side. Enter Gottfried, Duke of Lower Lotharingia. He is a beastly brute of a man, and Matilde cannot bear the idea of marrying the monster. After they marry, the marriage quickly turns abusive, and Gottfried breaks the non-consummation clause of their contract. She seeks asylum at the court of King Heinrich of Germany, where love eventually develops between the two.
This book can be likened to a masterfully woven tapestry, since it tells such a captivating story. The characters, of which there are many, are like the different colored threads that come together to create a compelling work. The result? Lara Byrne’s book is engrossing. While it does start off a bit slow, once I reached a certain point I had to know what would happen next. In Matilde we have an unconventional and strong heroine who faces such horrible circumstances but rises above them. With Heinrich, we have a young king who has just come into his own power and confidence. It is apparent that Byrne must have done an extensive amount of research. She writes beautifully and brings the politically unstable world of 11th-century Europe to life.
Originally featured on the History Novel Society website.