Cover of the book 'In a Dark Wood Wandering: a Novel of the Middel Ages' by Hella Haasse.

A French poet in prison

When his father is assassinated, Charles d'Orleans (1394-1465), becomes a duke at age fourteen with responsibilities in vast areas of France and Italy.

As is customary at the time, he swears an oath to avenge his father’s death. A heavy duty for a boy who is not very fond of weapons and fights. He faithfully does what is expected of him: he wages war with weapons and diplomacy. He also does his duty as a vassal of the French king in the war against the English.

At the battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French meet with a dramatic defeat. Many French noblemen are imprisoned and freed in exchanged for large ransoms. Charles also ends up in English custody. As a full cousin of the French king, who is utterly mad, he is too important to be set free. As an important nobleman, he stays in different English mansions and is treated well.

Through the support of his English keepers, he finally returns to France a free man in 1440. He has been away for 25 years.

His confinement allows him to spend time on the love of his life: writing poems. Even today his works are widely available in French, as well as in Dutch and English translations. Both in print and in full text on the web.

Hella Haasse’s magnificent debut, 'In a Dark Wood Wandering: a Novel of the Middle Ages ', tells the story of this poet whose fate it is to spend his life on politics, power, and persecutions.

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