Archive for the ‘12th Century’ Category


The Lion In Winter is a fascinating movie about King Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aqutiaine and their three sons Richard The Lionheart, John Lackland and Geoffrey, Duke of Burgundy. Also part of the cast are the French King Philip August and Henry II’s mistress Alais.

Seven characters and one stage: the castle in Chinon where a Christmas court takes place.

The setting is known to history buffs: in a treaty between the king of England and the king of France, the daughter of the French king was given as a dowry for a region close to Paris called the Vexin. Time has come for the girl to marry the future king of England or else the French king gets back the strategic area. Philip August has come of age and proves to be a much more challenging enemy to the King of England than his father. Henry II’s first son has past and it’s unclear who of his three other sons will become the next heir. Henry favorites John, his wife Eleanor favorites Richard.

The stage play is based on historical facts, but the story feels more like a holiday movie about an extremely dysfunctional family. It’s made in 1968 and it’s set in 1183, but it feels very 2014. It’s a stage play though and not so much a cinematic experience. The cast is small, the locations are few, but the acting is great and the dialogue superb! Katherine Hepburn is brilliant as Eleanor (she won an Oscar for it) and Peter O’Toole is even more impressive as King Henry II. They are the true stars, even though a young Anthony Hopkins as Richard The Lionheart and newcomer Timothy Dalton as Philip August perform well too. However, the real reason why you need to watch this movie is for the story. The conniving, backstabbing, deceiving and lying is fascinating and you still get fooled when they pretend to actually like each other. It’s a real soap, but one of high quality.

Just try to follow. Henry II locked up Eleanor after she sided with her son Richard to fight against her husband to get back her beloved Acquitaine. He and Richard are at constant war and is reluctant to name him heir to this throne as the first in line, also called Henry, passed away. Henry II raised his youngest son John to become king, but even though it’s his favorite he doesn’t really think he has it in him to become king. And then there is still the dowry, Alais, the daughter of the previous French King Louis. She was given to Henry II and Eleanor in a treaty made a dozen of years earlier. She was given as a child to marry the future king of England and was raised by Eleanor, but once the queen was locked up she became the mistress of Henry II. Then there’s Geoffrey, who was given the title of Duke of Brittany, but feels left out in the battle for the throne. He manages to create even more tensions with all involved. Oh and Richard the Lionheart is in love with the French King Philip August and Eleanor admits having had sex with Henry II’s father.


The cool thing though: as ridiculous as it sounds, as modern as it is presented and as dramatic it is told, it feels believable and seems historically accurate for most of the part.

This is a great movie.