The Lion in Winter

by James Goldman

    This brilliant and witty but poignant play, made into a film in the 1960s starring Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn, is a must-see for its cleverly-worded script and fascinating subject.  It is Christmas, 1183, and Eleanor of Aquitaine, imprisoned in London by her husband, Henry II, for leading a rebellion against him, has been freed for the festive season to join Henry and their sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John, at the castle of Chinon in France.  Also invited is King Philip of France, Henry's arch enemy.  Matters are complicated as Philip's sister, Alais is also present.  She has been living at the English court since she was 7 years old, destined to marry Richard, and for which Henry received the county of Vexin as her dowry.  However, the marriage never took place, and as she grew up, Henry decided he wanted her for himself and took her for his mistress.  Now Philip is at Chinon demanding that the marriage to Richard takes place or he will have the Vexin back.  Not if Henry has anything to do with it!
    Add to this all the intrigue and bickering between the three brothers and Eleanor about who will succeed Henry as King and you have the scene set for a typical disfunctional family Christmas – except this is a family of Plantagenets!   Sparks and fur will fly, but who will get their way and come out on top?