Much like Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Lady and the Unicorn fictionalizes the creation of six famous tapestries, boasting the design of — you guessed it — ladies and unicorns.
In Paris, 1490, the talented miniaturist Nicolas des Innocents is commissioned by the powerful and ambitious Jean le Viste to design six tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. Nicolas is at first reluctant to take on this charge, but soon changes his mind when he encounters Jean's eldest daughter and heir, Claude - and their subsequent attempts to defy custom and be together have dire consequences.
Meanwhile, in Brussels, Georges de la Chapelle and his family take on the task of turning Nicolas's designs into reality, even as the commission makes increasing demands of them, and could spell disaster for them all.
The Lady and the Unicorn includes examples of the following tropes:
- Bittersweet Ending: In Brussels, at least; it's implied that Aliénor and Philippe will have a happy marriage; the epilogue says they had three more sons. But Georges has lost a lot of his passion for weaving and turns down several other 'unicorn' commissions, and Christine never weaves for the workshop again.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: At fifteen years old, Claude is most definitely this, but Geneviève has certain ways of dealing with it.
- Downer Ending: On the Paris side of things it's much more this than a Bittersweet Ending: Claude's spirit has been broken by her confinement in the nunnery, she's trapped in an arranged marriage, and can only watch as Nicolas is forced to marry someone else. That someone being Beatrice. It's implied in the epilogue that both Claude and Nicolas's marriages are unhappy; she has no children with either of her husbands, while he has three more children, none of them with Beatrice.