The Lion in Winter Study Guide

The Lion in Winter By James Goldman

This story takes place during Christmas in the year 1183, at Henry Plantagenet's château in Chinon, Anjou - part of the medieval Angevin Empire in what is modern-day France.

Eleanor of Aquitane arrives from prison, and immediately, the story begins to spiral around the conflicting personalities and fractionary alliances between Henry and Eleanor and their adult sons and heirs, Prince Richard the Lionheart (future King Richard I of England, famed in tales of the Crusades and the classic story Robin Hood), Prince Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, and Prince John (also of Robin Hood fame, future King John of England).

Also living in the château and involved in their own complex intrigues with Henry and Eleanor are King Philip II of France (the son of Eleanor's ex-husband) and Philip's half-sister Alais, a daughter of King Louis VII of France. Alais is betrothed to Richard the Lionheart, but is also one of Henry's many, many mistresses.

Almost every statement between château-mates in this incredible melodrama is a falsehood or half-truth designed to manipulate the family members against each other for their own goals. The subtext is the human misery that rises from war, not because of politics or international maneuvers, but because of the individuals who lead the nations and their personal quirks and foibles.

The Lion in Winter is fictional: none of the dialogue and action is historically verifiable, though the outcomes of the story are accurate.

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