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, she faces a brutal reckoning for her loyalty to the queen. Will the impossible choice looming ahead be Estelle’s doom—or her salvation?
Queen Charlotta of Cyprus, a forgotten heroine
While doing research for the Sea and Stone Chronicles, a collection of novels set in fifteenth century Rhodes, Greece, I kept bumping into tantalizing references to the medieval court of Cyprus.
I soon learned that one of the historical figures who intrigued me most about Rhodes, Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller Jacques de Milly, had spent part of his career in Cyprus.
When I dug deeper, I was astonished to discover that a teenaged, widowed queen had ruled Cyprus for a moment in time during the exact era of my research. Jacques de Milly had been at her christening. A decade and a half later, he would become her staunchest ally.
For in 1458, Queen Charlotta of Cyprus took the throne alone, held off her power-hungry half-brother’s massive siege and—when her second husband Louis of Savoy proved a weak leader—sailed around the Mediterranean entreating allies to help save her crown.
She was in Rhodes visiting Jacques de Milly when he died in the summer of 1461. Several years later, the queen had her infant son interred in Lord de Milly’s tomb. She must have respected this man deeply if she chose to bury her only child alongside him. I imagine her husband, King Louis, had no say in the matter. He was not in Rhodes at the time.
I was amazed by this courageous queen’s story. For two years, I built up a treasure trove of resources about the Lusignan kingdom of Cyprus, a French dynasty that ruled the island for centuries. As soon as I finished writing about Rhodes, I turned my attention to the Cypriot court, resolved to bring Charlotta to life with The Queen’s Scribe.
Though King Jean and Queen Eleni’s daughter Charlotta grew up for all intents and purposes a Greek girl in her mother’s apartments, she had to communicate with her husbands and potential allies in French. Despite the fact that her father was of French origin, she barely spoke the language. The need for trusted interpreters only grew stronger as civil war loomed between the queen and her half-brother. This is how I developed the concept of a fictional heroine serving the queen as a skilled interpreter and scribe.
After the 1457 murder of her husband, Prince João of Portugal, Charlotta faced a new betrothal. This time, her fiancé was her first cousin, Louis of Savoy. In the Greek Orthodox tradition, the marriage of first cousins doomed the bride and groom to hell. Charlotta’s mother, a proud Greek, naturally opposed the union. But as soon as she died, the marriage was on.
King Jean died suddenly just a few months after his wife (the sheer number of mysterious deaths and outright murders in the Lusignan Court was astounding). Thus, at fifteen, Charlotta ascended the throne. Her half-brother, Jacco, vowed he would seize it from her. His plan: gain the favor of the Sultan of Egypt, raise an army, and attack his sister’s kingdom.
I chose to tell Queen Charlotta’s tale through the eyes of fictional Estelle, daughter of a falconer. I first wrote a story starring her in an anthology a few years ago, and she plays a minor role in my novel Island of Gold.
Estelle, a talented scribe, develops a knack for languages once she arrives in Rhodes from France with her family. As a French-born person, she offers unique value to the Lusignan court of Cyprus, which steadily lost touch with its French roots all through the late medieval era. This became especially apparent in the mid-fifteenth century after King Jean married Queen Eleni Palaiologina, who turned the court rapidly Greek.
In The Queen’s Scribe, Estelle’s language skills become as valuable as gold when the royal court retreats to Kyrenia Fortress and a civil war looms between the queen and Jacco. When the queen crosses the Mediterranean Sea beseeching allies for help, Estelle is at her side, witnessing every triumph and disaster along the way.
This extraordinary queen’s ambition and courage burned bright, but her story has been lost in the shadows of history. I hope that The Queen’s Scribe plays a role in bringing Charlotta of Cyprus back into the light.
Meet Amy Maroney
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 award-winning historical fiction trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. Her new historical suspense series, Sea and Stone Chronicles, is set in medieval Rhodes and Cyprus.