Author, Alice Walworth Graham; published in 1955 by Eyre and Spottiswoode.
The novel is narrated in the first person by Elisabeth (spelt with a 's' for some reason) Beauchamp, one of the daughters of Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick - the man who abducted Piers Gaveston in June 1312 - and Alice Toeni. Elisabeth is selected in early 1308 to be one of the companions of Isabella, the new queen of England, when she (Elisabeth) is said to be a little younger than the queen and eleven years old, which would place her birth in 1296 or early 1297. The immediate problem with this is that Earl Guy and Alice didn't actually marry until 1309; Alice's first husband Thomas Leyburne, father of her daughter Juliana, died in the summer of 1307. So the choice of narrator is somewhat odd. Perhaps fifty-odd years ago it was assumed that Guy and Alice's marriage had taken place much earlier than it did. Anyway, it gives the author a narrator close to Isabella and Edward II who can see and report on the events and personalities of his reign, though (as sometimes happens when writers choose first-person narrators, especially female ones) events are often reported to her afterwards rather than her experiencing them personally, which can make the narrative seem distant and uninvolving, particularly when the battle of Bannockburn and Edward III's arrest of Roger Mortimer in 1330 are explained to Elisabeth at rather tedious length after they happen.
The novel is extremely descriptive and contains little action; it's a pretty traditional re-telling of Edward II's reign, beginning with Isabella's arrival in England in 1308 and ending - as Edward II novels almost invariably do - with the arrest of Roger Mortimer in October 1330. The novel's title refers to Edward and Isabella's long visit to the court of her father Philip IV in 1313, when the royals swore vows to, variously, go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, defeat Robert Bruce once and for all, promote good relations between England and France, and so forth. Much of the novel is about Elisabeth's marriage to Thomas Astley, and it often feels as though the real story is happening elsewhere while she talks about feasts and hunts and spending time with her in-laws and the endless minutiae of her daily life. (The couple didn't actually marry until the 1330s, and at least one of their children lived into the 1400s.) Piers Gaveston barely appears, except to sneer at the queen and Elisabeth in very sneery fashion, and is described as 'graceless' and 'of low birth', which doesn't sound like the Piers I know. The narrative moves so fast that one minute we're in 1308, then suddenly it's 1312 and Piers is dead, then we're in 1314 and Edward loses at Bannockburn, and a few pages later it's suddenly 1321. Edward II is at first described as extremely handsome, but he soon 'loses his youth' and gains a 'thickened' body and features, and is kind of gross and overweight. (Yes, the sporty athletic Edward II who spent a lot of time outdoors swimming and digging and so on.) He's contrasted unfavourably with the very manly and wonderful Roger Mortimer, with whom Elisabeth is obsessed, who is often talked about in the narrative off doing very manly and wonderful things in Ireland and elsewhere while Edward II drinks and behaves pettishly and very little else. Isabella is a far more complex character than her husband, depicted sympathetically though not uncritically. She despises her husband - not surprising, given the way Walworth Graham has written Edward as astonishingly dislikeable - and falls madly in love or lust with Mortimer. In this novel, you can see why, and they're described several times as lions, fierce, 'snarling and snatching'. Edward, Hugh Despenser, Piers Gaveston, Thomas of Lancaster, in fact all the characters apart from Isabella, Roger Mortimer and the weirdly too-old Elisabeth Beauchamp, are enigmas, barely characterised beyond the absolute basics.
Vows of the Peacock is another of those novels that have to describe Isabella's beauty constantly, which gets really dull (at least for me). None of the other women, except Elisabeth herself, are attractive: Piers Gaveston's wife Margaret de Clare, for instance, is called 'blowsy' and 'florid' in 1308, with breasts that are already starting to sag. Poor Margaret, fourteen years old and already looking like a forty-year-old. Her sister Eleanor is a barely even one-dimensional 'sheep of a woman', and - groooooooooooan - Edward II arranges her marriage to Hugh Despenser in or after 1321 (it's hard to get a sense of the correct date in the narrative), a mere fifteen years too late. Walworth Graham appears confused about the age of the de Clare siblings, and says that the earl of Gloucester was not yet eighteen at the time of his death at Bannockburn - actually he was twenty-three - and yet describes his sister Margaret as already middle-aged shortly after her marriage to Piers a few years earlier. The novel is reasonably accurate historically, although Edward II's sister Joan of Acre is still alive at the time of her daughter Margaret's marriage to Piers, and Margaret's second marriage to Hugh Audley has already taken place in 1313, four years too early. Henry of Lancaster's wife Maud Chaworth appears unaware that she is Hugh Despenser the Younger's half-sister, while Henry himself and his brother Thomas are unaware that they are Isabella's uncles. (In fairness, a lot of writers have missed that, including someone who gained her doctorate writing about Isabella.) Did the English nobility in the 1300s really still think of themselves as solely 'Norman' and the rest of the English as 'Saxons', and the English language as 'barbarous'?
Vows of the Peacock overall is a reasonably good read if you find a copy, though the narrative manages at once to be too slow and endlessly descriptive, and too fast, by skating over most of the major events of the reign. There's a great deal about daily life in the fourteenth century, which some readers will certainly enjoy, though anyone looking for an in-depth historical study and character-driven fiction will probably be disappointed.