Margaret FitzGerold, the daughter of Warin FitzGerold, chamberlain to King John. When she first appears, she is a girl of thirteen, immediately promised in marriage by her father to the son of a powerful neighbor. Her story from then on is an account of her struggle to assert her independence and authority in a world in which a woman, especially a noblewoman or heiress, must at all times be the property of one man or another, to be married off at the will of her current protector, whether this is her father or (once her father is dead) King John himself. Margaret’s first marriage does not last long, but by the time her sickly first husband dies, England has been plunged into civil war between the king and his barons. In this confusion, Margaret suffers a severe social degradation, being married to Falkes de Brealte, a Norman knight of low birth but a successful mercenary soldier and captain of the king’s crossbows. Margaret is half attracted and half repelled by him. She compromises, assisting him as long as he is rising in the social scale but deserting him in the end and claiming that her marriage to him eight years earlier was forced and therefore should be declared void. Sadly for her, her desertion at this point is condemned even by Falkes’s enemies. After she has died alone and friendless, it is revealed that her appeal for annulment of marriage was rejected by the pope. Readers know that her marriage was in a sense compelled, even though she made no effort to escape from it while her husband was successful. Her tragedy is that of a strong, if selfish, character, condemned by a world that is as selfish as herself, but more calculating and without her errors of timing.
Falkes de Brealte
(The entire section is 721 words.)