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The French medieval saga that inspired Game of Thrones


The BBC writes at length about the cult French novel that inspired George RR Martin to write his Game of Thrones series.

Les Rois Maudits (which translated as The Accursed Kings) is a seven-volume series written by Maurice Druon between the 1950s and the 1970s. His novels are set in medieval France and describe the battles for the French throne in the 14th century that led up to the Hundred Years War with England.

Thankfully, modern English translations of The Accursed Kings series are easy to find. Book one is The Iron King, book two is The Strangled Queen and The Poisoned Crown is book three. There are also one or two older translations on the used book market.

“The Accursed Kings has it all,” writes Martin, in an introduction to a recently reissued translation. “Believe me, the Starks and the Lannisters have nothing on the Capets and Plantagenets. It is the original game of thrones.”

The Accursed Kings series  starts in 1314, with Philip IV on the French throne. He has crushed the order of the Knights Templar and seized their wealth. The leader of the order is burned at the stake but curses his enemies as the flames engulf him. Philip dies soon and the struggle for the throne begins.

Druon died in 2009 and is hardly known outside of France. He served as head of the Academie Francaise, an organisation which protects the French language.

The Hundred Years War famously lasted for more than 100 years and ran roughly between 1337 to 1453. The French were essentially defending, or rather recapturing, their homeland with the English, who were unhappy about losing huge swatches of French land and their claim to the French throne. Remember, William the Conquerer had come from Normandy when he took control of Britain in 1066.

There were many battles on French soil but Henry V’s victory at Agincourt on 25 October 1415 is the most famous as far as the English are concerned. The France probably don’t dwell too much on that one.

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