Maurice Duron (born April 23, 1918) was a renowned novelist of French origin and a key member of the Academie Francaise where he served in the capacity of Perpetual Secretary between 1985 & 1999. Born in Paris, Duron was actually the nephew of Joseph Kessel, the famous writer, with whom he wrote Chant des Partisans. The music was composed by Anna Marley and it was used primarily as an anthem by the famous French Resistance at the time of World War. Meanwhile in 1948 he was conferred the coveted Prix Goncourt for Les Grandes Familles. Maurice Duron is famous for the series of 7 historical novels that was published and became popular during the 1950s under the famous title – Les Rois Maudits. He was also the Minister of Cultural Affairs in 1973 & 1974 in the cabinet of Pierre Messmer and was a deputy of Paris from 1978 to 1981.
After World War II ended, Maurice Druon started on a successful literary career. The 1st novel I the famous trilogy – Les Grandes Familles – won him the much coveted Prix Goncourt in 1948. The book gives a vivid description of the bitter rivalries that existed within the family of industrialists in France and the book strongly depicts the ruthlessness and selfishness of the bourgeoisie.
Les Rois Maudits
Druon became highly conservative over the years and this was greatly reflected in the 7 volume historical novel – Les Rois Maudits – which was written sometime in the period of 1950s and 1960s. The series managed to narrate the travails and trials of French Monarchy in the period which led to the famous Hundred Years War. The novel had the essence of strong storytelling and it conveyed a rightful message that France desperately needed a strong leadership. The 6 volume novel was very popular and the individual English titles (as published in the US) are as follows –
1. The Iron King
2. The Strangled Queen or La Reine etranglee
3. The Poisoned Crown
4. The Royal Succession or La Loi des males
5. The She-Wolf of France
6. The Lily & the Lion or Le Lys et le lion
7. The King without a Kingdom
THE IRON KING, 1955
In the 1st novel of the 7 volume series, we come across the French King Phillip the Fair who rules the country with an iron hand but is left surrounded by intrigue and scandal. Isabella, the Queen of England and Phillip’s daughters devises an ambitious plot with Robert to catch red-handed the better halves of her 3 brothers namely Jeanne, Blanche and Marguerite in their adulterous affairs. Robert has his own motive as he wants to take revenge on Jeanne and Blanche’s mother, Mahaut – the Countess of Artois – who has probably stolen his right to inherit. The younger brother of Phillip, Charles – Count of Valois – deeply resents the influence of prime councilor of Phillip, Guillaume de Nogaret and the coadjutor of Phillip, Enguerrand de Marigny.
This is the first book in Druon’s excellent series which deals with the demise of the Kapetian dynasty and the initiation of the 100 year war. There is a legend which says that after King Phillip the Fair disbanded and destroyed the famed Order of the Templars, their Master – Jacques Molais – actually cursed Phillip and his seed as he was left burning at the stake. At the time of the curse, Philip was in great health and had three sons who were all grown-up. Less then 25 years later, the Kapetians ceded the throne to their cousins Valois. This first book focuses on the family from the last months of Phillip’s reign till it was ascended by his oldest son, Louis X.
LE REINE ETRANGLEE (THE STRANGLED QUEEN), 1955
The 2nd installment of the 7 volume series starts from the time when Louis X, the eldest son of Phillip, has been crowned as the king. However, Marguerite, his adulterous wife, is still in jail at the Chateau Gaillard. Louis is now contemplating to marry again and become a father to a male heir and for this reason he sends none other than Robert of Artois to compel the wife of Phillip to sign a statement which states that the marriage to Louis was never ever consummated and their daughter, Jeanne, is actually illegitimate. In return she was supposed to get her freedom. But much to the disappointment of Louis, Marguerite refuses to sign the statement. So his plan to end his previous marriage and then marry the beautiful Clemence of Hungary is further stopped by the failure of the papal’s conclave to bring forth a new pope. Meanwhile Marigny found out that his enemies including the Count of Valois are slowly pulling him from the inner circle of the new king. Phillippe, brother of Louis X and Valois try to assert huge influence over the highly indecisive king for the betterment of the country and also for his personal gain also. On the other hand, Marguerite was desperate for freedom and reconsidered his decision but the news of her new decision does not reach Robert. As he returns to the prison, Marguerite is totally ill from confinement and on orders of Valois, Lormet brutally strangles Marguerite to the death. It is true that his early efforts to eliminate Marigny totally failed but he managed to assemble a bevy of criminal charges which saw Marigny executed.
BOOKS TO MOVIES
The Les Rois Maudits novel series was a highly successful and this seven volume series was made into a highly successful TV drama in 1972.
On 6th June, 1944 General Charles de Gaulle had announced to the people of France that liberation was just a few moments away. This broadcast was immediately followed by a moving melody of the hugely popular Chant des Partisans that became the unofficial song of the famed French Resistance. The lyrics of this beautiful melody were penned by none other than Maurice Druon who later died at an old age of 90 on April 14, 2009.
Not much information is available with respect to his personal life but it is said that after his death, Maurice Druon was survived only by Madeleine Marignac, his 2nd wife, whom he married way back in 1968. It is true that the people of France will never forget the name of Druon mainly because of Chant des Partisans that has been officially inducted by the Government of France as a national anthem of the country.Book Series In Order » Authors » Maurice Druon