The Poisoned Crown begins with the beautiful and devout Clémence of Hungary on her way into a pit of vipers, the court of Louis X of France, and marriage with the king. Louis has managed to rid himself of his inconvenient first wife. His attention span is short, however, so by the time Clémence arrives after a horrendous journey he is more involved with an ill-conceived siege against the Count of Flanders than with arrangements for the wedding. Still, the new queen is soon esteemed for her gentleness and generosity, even by her horrible husband.
During Louis’ short reign, France has already descended from relative prosperity to famine, and the progressive steps taken by his father have all been rescinded. Robert of Artois, always trying to cause trouble for his aunt Mahaut, has provoked her barons to rise up against her in Artois. The cardinals have still not settled on a new pope. In short, France is in chaos. Louis’ younger brother Philip of Poitiers has striven to dissuade his brother from his poorer decisions, but Louis sends him off to the papal conclave.
Another character who has served in previous books as almost comic relief will soon become more important. This is Guccio Baglioni, the very young nephew of a rich Lombardi merchant. He has fallen in love with the daughter of impoverished nobility, Marie Cressay, and hopes to marry her, without understanding how much beneath them her family considers him. He has just helped escort Clémence of Hungary to France when he is badly injured.
The curse against the Capet kings of France continues in this third book of Druon’s excellent series The Accursed Kings. Those who are following it will not be surprised to learn how short Louis X’s reign will be.