The Girl of Many Crowns

D. H. Morris

Publisher: Pages: Price: ISBN: Reviewed: June, 2024

A forbidden romance is at the heart of D.H. Morris’ novel set in ninth-century Europe and anchored in historical fact.

Princess Judith, eldest daughter of King Charles of Francia, is a piece in a complex and constantly changing game of political chess. At age 12, when the novel begins in the year 856, she’s already betrothed to a foreign king, a gambit designed to help secure Charles’ claim to the throne. The king is in a battle for legitimacy with his half-brothers, Lothar I and Louis the German.

The fly in the ointment arrives in the form of Baldwin “Iron Arm,” a would-be knight drawn to the king’s court at age 15 by the prospect of glory and battle. Baldwin, whose nickname reflects his reputation for strength and bravery, is immediately assigned to train the king’s son, Prince Louis, in the ways of war, bravery and battle.

As the politics and fortunes of would-be rulers across the empire shift, Judith is twice thrown into marriages designed for political alliances. After her refusal to marry a third time, she is imprisoned in one of her father’s strongholds but nonetheless finds love with Baldwin, who proves a stalwart protector of Charles’ family and the kingdom, which is beset by enemies, including Vikings and would-be claimants of the Carolingian throne.

Against this complex political background, the romance between Judith and Baldwin blooms into a love story that’s touching and inspiring. Meanwhile, the author’s enthusiasm for the historical minutiae of France and its environs suffuses every scene, which is sure to please readers who share a similar passion for medieval history. Casual readers looking for simple romance and straightforward action, however, may find the plentiful discussions and detailed descriptions of political alliances, shifting fortunes and complex royal lineages challenging.

Nonetheless, Morris achieves an impressive combination of heartfelt character study and thoroughly researched history, complete with an Afterword that tracks the real-life fate of the characters featured in the novel.

Author's Current Residence
Kansas City, Missouri