Charlotte Yonge was a passionate student of history and her books for children reflect her genuine love of her subject.
The Caged Lion deals with the historical figures of the English king Henry V, one of the most significant warrior kings of the 15th Century; and the captive king James I of Scotland, who on attaining the throne wrought many reforms in his lawless country before his grisly murder 14 years later.
The fictional character of the story is a nephew of James I, one Malcolm Stewart. He is a timid, bookish youth who would prefer to leave his inheritance and all the responsibilities entailed with managing lands in a country as lawless as Scotland was during that time of anarchy, and live in the peace of the monastary.
Circumstances for a time prevent him fulfilling his desire for a quiet life. He is taken to the English court as the companion of his cousin, king James, and accompanies him to war in France with King Henry.
There is a romantic interest in the fair Esclairmonde, who has promised herself to the church, and is a guiding force for righteousness in the volatile young man Malcolm becomes under soldier’s life in France.
At times Malcolm’s character is frustratingly lacking in strengths to admire, and the Catholic overtones in the book would cause me to hesitate to give it to young readers who may be burdened by the concept of Malcolm’s reluctance to leave for a dangerous journey before obtaining absolution from the priest. (Sola Gratia!) However, overall I found this book very interesting: Malcolm does manage to become a man of integrity, and the historical characters and events figure largely in the story rather than being a mere backdrop to a fictional story. Yonge also does us the great courtesy of describing any literary license in the forward of the book.
I would consider this book suitable for confident readers aged 11 and over, and recommend reading it after “A Gentle Falcon” by Hilda Lewis (reign and demise of Richard II), and “Men of Iron” by Howard Pyle (ascension of Henry V). Men of Iron is available as an ebook from Project Gutenberg or an audio book from Librivox.
Your student may also enjoy reading Ring Out Bow Bells (published in America as The Sign of the Green Falcon), by Cynthia Harnett. Ring Out Bow Bells is set during the reign of Henry V, and has as one of the primary characters the Mayor of London, Dick Wittington, who is also mentioned in The Caged Lion as offering hospitality to King Henry and forgiving him a huge debt.