I’m delighted to welcome Amy Maroney to the blog. I always love to hear about the historical research for author’s novels. So here we go.
Uncovering the story of Queen Charlotta of Cyprus, a forgotten heroine
My new novel, The Queen’s Scribe, features a fifteenth-century monarch with an extraordinary story of ambition, courage, and dedication to her kingdom. Just who was Queen Charlotta of Cyprus, and why was she so mesmerizing that I wrote a book about her?
As is often the case with women in history, very little information remains about this queen (she was baptized ‘Charlotte’, but may have referred to herself as ‘Carlotta’; I call her ‘Charlotta’ in the novel). Most scholars agree that she was born about 1444.
Charlotta was the only surviving child of King Jean II of Lusignan and his wife Eleni Palaiologina, princess of Morea. The following image is said to portray Charlotta, her mother, and her sister (subsequently deceased).
Charlotta’s father, King Jean, was a genial but ineffective ruler who loved hunting, hawking, and spending money. The glory days of the kingdom ended abruptly when his grandfather King Janus was taken captive by Egyptian Mamluks and subsequently ransomed for 200,000 ducats, which put the kingdom in deep debt. By the time of Charlotta’s birth, three centuries of lavish living coupled with a weak military presence had crippled the once-powerful Lusignan dynasty.
Within the royal court itself, animosity festered like a battle wound. Queen Eleni was a proud Greek and a dominating personality. She purportedly bit off her rival Marietta’s nose when she found the woman in bed with her husband (some sources say she cut it off). Jean and Marietta’s son, Jacques (also known as Jacco the Bastard) was the apple of his father’s eye. A handsome, charismatic bully, he became Charlotta’s protector before his desire for the throne soured their relationship forever.
Thanks to her mother’s influence, Princess Charlotta was thoroughly Greek and her understanding of French was rudimentary at best. Though her father was French and many of the ruling nobility claimed French roots, the French spoken in Cyprus at the time was so distorted that native speakers visiting from Europe could not understand it.This fact underpins the plot of The Queen’s Scribe, which features a fictional French heroine whose skills as a scribe and interpreter become essential to Queen Charlotta.
When she was about 13, Charlotta was married to the Portuguese Prince João of Coimbra. The young couple moved from the royal palace to a house elsewhere in the Cyprus capital of Nicosia, angering Charlotta’s mother and delighting the Western European (‘Latin’) members of the court. Tensions grew between the two camps until Prince João suddenly died under mysterious circumstances; the queen’s chamberlain—who was like a brother to Queen Eleni—was blamed.
In a royal tit-for-tat, the queen’s chamberlain was then killed by Sicilian associates of Jacco’s. Palace gossips said Charlotta had asked her half-brother to arrange the murder. Before he could be punished, Jacco fled for the island of Rhodes and the hospitality of the Knights Hospitaller.
Meanwhile, Charlotta grieved her dead husband and awaited a new betrothal, this time with her first cousin Louis (of the French-speaking Duchy of Savoy). Queen Eleni, who had been disabled by what might have been a paralytic stroke in early adulthood, slowly lost her health. Still, she fought the betrothal with every ounce of her strength, for in the Greek Orthodox tradition, marrying a first cousin was an unforgivable sin.
In 1458, both Queen Eleni and King Jean died. At 15, Charlotta was crowned queen. Soon afterward, Jacco sailed to Egypt, intent on gaining the sultan’s support for his campaign to seize his half-sister’s throne.
Meanwhile, the powerful barons who had served her father as council members now whispered in Charlotta’s ear. Some of them truly believed in her; others cared only for their own self-interest and survival; a few displayed breathtaking treachery.
Rumors began swirling that Jacco had charmed the Sultan of Egypt and was building a massive army of Mamluk warriors. Charlotta desperately needed help to preserve her throne, and naturally looked to her new husband, Louis, for support. But far from being the strong partner she’d hoped for, he was a disinterested and weak leader, more interested in fine food and amusements than strategizing for war.
Less than two years after her coronation, Charlotta moved her court to the seaside fortress of Kyrenia, where they survived a massive siege by Jacco. A few months later, she left Louis in the fortress and sailed around the Mediterranean beseeching allies to help save her crown.
I chose to tell Queen Charlotta’s tale through the eyes of fictional Estelle de Montavon, daughter of a French falconer. In The Queen’s Scribe, Estelle—a talented scribe and linguist—becomes as valuable as gold when the royal court retreats to Kyrenia Fortress and civil war looms. When Queen Charlotta voyages across the Mediterranean Sea entreating French-speaking allies for help, Estelle is at her side, witnessing every triumph and disaster along the way.
Like so many other women in history, Queen Charlotta has been lost in the shadows for too long. I hope The Queen’s Scribe plays a role in bringing her story back into the light.
Thank you so much for sharing. She sounds that an intriguing character, as does her mother:)
Here’s the blurb
A broken promise. A bitter conflict. And a woman’s elusive chance to love or die.
1458. Young Frenchwoman Estelle de Montavon sails to Cyprus imagining a bright future as tutor to a princess. Instead, she is betrayed by those she loves most—and forced into a dangerous new world of scheming courtiers, vicious power struggles, and the terrifying threat of war.
Determined to flee, Estelle enlists the help of an attractive and mysterious falconer. But on the eve of her escape, fortune’s wheel turns again. She gains entry to Queen Charlotta’s inner circle as a trusted scribe and interpreter, fighting her way to dizzying heights of influence.
Enemies old and new rise from the shadows as Estelle navigates a royal game of cat and mouse between the queen and her powerful half-brother, who wants the throne for himself.
When war comes to the island, Estelle faces a brutal reckoning for her loyalty to the queen. Will the impossible choice looming ahead be her doom—or her salvation?
With this richly-told story of courage, loyalty, and the sustaining power of love, Amy Maroney brings a mesmerizing and forgotten world to vivid life. The Queen’s Scribe is a stand-alone novel in the Sea and Stone Chronicles collection.
Praise for the Sea and Stone Chronicles:
“Island of Gold is a nimbly told story with impeccable pacing.”
—Historical Novel Society, Editor’s Choice Review
“Sea of Shadows is stunning. A compelling tale of love, honor, and conviction.”
—Reader’s Favorite Review
Amy Maroney is the author of the award-winning Miramonde Series, the story of a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern day scholar on her trail.
This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
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Meet the author
Amy Maroney studied English Literature at Boston University and worked for many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction. She lives in Oregon, U.S.A. with her family. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading.
Amy is the author of The Miramonde Series, an Amazon-bestselling historical mystery trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. Amy’s award-winning historical adventure/romance series, Sea and Stone Chronicles, is set in medieval Rhodes and Cyprus.
An enthusiastic advocate for independent publishing, Amy is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Historical Novel Society.
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2 thoughts on “Today, I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Amy Maroney and her new novel, The Queen’s Scribe to the blog, and to share a fabulous post about Queen Charlotte of Cyprus #HistoricalFiction #TheQueensScribe #RoyalHistory #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub”
Thank you for hosting Amy Maroney today. What a fascinating post!
The Coffee Pot Book Club
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Thanks so much for hosting me and The Queen’s Scribe today, MJ!
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