The Accursed Kings  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Accursed Kings (Les Rois Maudits), is a sequence of seven historical novels by Maurice Druon, of the Académie française.

The seven books are:

I. Le Roi de fer (The Iron King)
II. La Reine étranglée (The Strangled Queen)
III. Les Poisons de la couronne (The Poisons of the Crown)
IV. La Loi des mâles (The Royal Succession)
V. La Louve de France (The She-Wolf of France)
VI. Le Lis et le Lion (The Lily and the Lion)
VII. Quand un Roi perd la France (When a King Loses France)


Plot summary

The novels take place during the reigns of the last five Direct Capetian kings and the first two Valois kings, from Philip the Fair to John II. The plot revolves around the attempts of Robert of Artois to reclaim the county of Artois from his aunt Mahaut.

Style and themes

The book's characters are colorful and larger than life, but also have depth. The narration is gripping and very much plot-driven, whether a conspiracy to assassinate the King or an exuberant teenager's search for romance are being recounted. The books are very thoroughly researched, with extensive and quite interesting footnotes; however, Druon does not hesitate to fill the silences of history with drama. The narration highlights the centuries-long effort by the French monarchy and especially the Capetians to transform feudal France into a Nation-State.


In 1972 an outstanding TV miniseries was made out of The Accursed Kings, thought by many to be the greatest such production in FrenchTemplate:Citation needed. Some of the best French actors from the stage and screen were involved, delivering fine performancesTemplate:Citation needed. The production relied on crisp dialogue and theatrical performances for dramatic effect, rather than on lavish realistic sets. Sets and costumes were kept minimal, giving the audience the feel of a small theater production, finely done and artfully lighted. On the whole it was a nearly flawless production which became even more famous than the original booksTemplate:Citation needed.

2005 Remake

In 2005 a new miniseries was made as a joint French-Italian production, with Philippe Torreton and Jeanne Moreau.

Episode 1 - The Iron King (2005)

France, 1307.

With the royal coffers empty, and no formalised system of taxation, King Philippe IV (Tchéky Karyo) asks Jacques de Molay (Gérard Depardieu), the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, for a loan. When he is refused, the King has every member of the Order arrested on the same night (Friday the 13th of October), and seizes the gold anyway.

Under torture, the Grand Master confesses to spitting on the cross and is convicted of heresy. The King promptly has him burnt at the stake, coercing the Pope into greenlighting the whole affair. However, as Molay burns, he issues a curse upon the King and Pope Clement, and all of their descendants for 13 generations…

When the Pope dies shortly afterwards, it seems as though the curse is at work.

Meanwhile, Robert of Artois, a French nobleman, feels that he has been cheated out of his inheritance by his aunt, Mahaut (Jeanne Moreau). Her daughters are married to the King’s sons, and when Robert learns of their infidelity, he enlists the help of the King’s daughter, Isabella, to bring them down.

His actions set in motion a series of events that are to have wide-ranging consequences for both France and England.

Episode 2 - The Strangled Queen (2005)

King Philippe is deeply affected by the deaths of the Pope and one of his most trusted advisors, which he blames on the curse of the Grand Master of the Knights Templar. Obsessed with the curse, Philippe starts wasting away and dies shortly afterwards.

With Philippe’s eldest son, Louis X, on the throne, Robert d’Artois intensifies his scheming to reclaim the County of Artois from his aunt Mahaut. To gain the support and trust of the new king, he allies himself with the king’s uncle Charles of Valois and plots to undermine the once influential chamberlain, Enguerrand de Marigny.

King Louis seeks a new wife to provide him with an heir and ensure the succession, but is hindered by the fact he is still married to Marguerite of Burgundy, who has been imprisoned for adultery. Furthermore, a new Pope has not been elected and his marriage cannot be annulled.

He sends Robert d’Artois to Marguerite in an attempt to coerce her into writing a letter stating that their marriage was never consummated and that her daughter is illegitimate. She writes the letter, but the king does not receive it, and another solution must be found…

Episode 3 - The Poisoned Crown (2005)

Episode 4 - The She-Wolf Of France (2005)

Episode 5 - The Lily And The Lion (2005)


Les Rois Maudits was spoofed on French television in the successful series Les Maudits Rois Fainéants by Roger Pierre and Jean-Marc Thibault.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Accursed Kings" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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