Saturday, September 15, 2012

Unruly Princess by Marcelle Thiébaux

A compelling novel about Saint Margit of Hungary's defiant life.

In a vaulted chamber on the Danube, a radiant medieval princess bargains with God. How can she defy the conqueror Ottakar of Bohemia? He loves her. He's entranced by her heroic sanctity and he wants this glorious, headstrong girl for his queen. Willful Margit refuses him and scorns her regal duties. She wears her sumptuous gowns to rags, vowing to live as a penitent and the Hungarian kingdom's spiritual defender. Meanwhile the beguiling Princess Cunegonda, a widow of fifteen, covets the handsome warrior prince and makes a fervent bid for him. The two impetuous royal girls and the ambitious crusader hero are caught up in an unexpected triangle. One princess is consumed by divine ardor, the other is inflamed by songs of the silken dalliances of courtly love. The valiant Bohemian loves both enchanting girls in turn, and confronts his destiny. A riveting historical romance springing from fact and legend, Unruly Princess weaves a tale of passion and politics, spiked by warfare, wooing and wedding. 


The Unruly Princess tells the story of Saint Margit of Hungary, the daughter of a king whose kingdom was plagued by attacks by the brutal Tartars/Mongols. Desperate to bring peace to his lands and peoples, the king and queen pray to God for help. In exchange for His help, they promise to pledge their soon-to-be born 9th child to God. That child was a girl they named Margit. The royal couple’s prayers were answered, and in keeping with their promise, pledged 3 year old Margit to a Dominican convent where she was educated with other children of the nobility. But Margit was not like the other children. She was extremely pious and dedicated every moment of her life serving God. She demanded to wear nun’s clothing instead of her rich garments. She fasted, wore hairshirts, took on the dirtiest, hardest tasks of the convent, did laundry, prepared food for others, prayed throughout the night, tended to the most sick and vile, and wore the most ragged of clothes. To pledge her body and soul to God brought her the greatest joy and she yearned to one day take the vows to become a nun. But her family had other plans for this royal princess and they arranged a lucrative marriage for their daughter. Margit was incensed for she had been pledged to God even before she was born and refused to consider any other path for her life. 

Detailed hagiographies are hard to find, but Dr Marcelle Thiébaux has managed to take fact and blend it beautifully into fiction. Although this is fiction, it has been meticulously researched and is strongly based on the actual details of Saint Margit’s life. It is an ambitious but small hagiography that packs a powerful punch. This intriguing story about a young girl’s ambition to defiantly follow her heart and calling kept me interested from start to finish. Saint Margit is beautifully characterized, believable, real, and compelling. I especially enjoyed the setting of medieval Hungary. I hope that Dr Marcelle Thiébaux will write other fictionalized hagiographies. The stories of saints are always fascinating because of the terrible conflicts they faced and overcame. This one is no exception. Highly recommended.

From History and Women


LindyLouMac in Italy said...

I am not familiar with this author so I doubt I will be adding this title to my wishlist. Although it sounds interesting enough that I would read if given the opportunity.

Deborah Swift said...

A fascinating story. Where people are put into religious life so early, their view of the world must be so different from the ordinary person, and it makes for interesting reading. The book sounds great - thanks for your review.