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The epic French saga that inspired Game of Thrones


The Iron King by Maurice Druon

George R.R. Martin is a household name, but do the millions of people who have their noses stuck in any one of the A Song of Ice and Fire books know the name Maurice Druon?  He happens to be the author of a series of novels set in medieval France – the same series that inspired Martin to pen the ever-popular Game of Thrones and its subsequent books.  The French author wrote Les Rois Maudits (translated to The Accursed Kings)  between the mid 1950s and 1970s, and until a translation was recently reissued the seven books have been scarcely found in English.

Martin provides quite the endorsement in the introduction to the new translation:

Whether you’re a history buff or a fantasy fan, Druon’s epic will keep you turning pages. This was the original game of thrones. If you like A Song of Ice and Fire, you will love The Accursed Kings.

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. Notably, 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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Jessica Doyle

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