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Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England [Hardcover]

Alison Weir
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2005
The first full-length biography of a much maligned - but astonishingly colourful - Queen of England. In Newgate Street, in the city of London, stand the meagre ruins of Christ Church. On the same site once stood a royal mausoleum set to rival Westminster Abbey in the fourteenth century. Among the many crowned heads buried there was Isabella of France, Edward II's queen - one of the most notorious femme fatales in history. Today, popular legends speak of how her angry ghost can be glimpsed among the ruins, clutching the heart of her murdered husband, and even the reputable publications of English Heritage maintain that the Queen's maniacal laughter can be heard on stormy nights at Castle Rising in Norfolk. Such stories paint a picture of a tragic, tormented, cruel and evil woman. In literature and poetry, she has fared no better with Christopher Marlowe calling her 'that unnatural Queen, false Isabel'; Thomas Gray appropriating Shakespeare's epithet 'She-Wolf of France' in The Bard (1757); and Kenneth Fowler describing her as ' a woman of evil character, a notorious schemer.' How, then, did Isabella acquire such a reputation? Isabella is known to have lived adulterously with Roger Mortimer for at least four years. But the evidence surrounding accusations of murder and regicide is unsubstantiated. Thus, what has condemned Isabella, in ways which no other queen has had to endure, is her sexual transgression. Had it not been for her unfaithfulness, history may have immortalised her as a liberator - the saviour who unshackled England from a weak and vicious monarch and helped put a strong king - her Lover Mortimer - on the throne. In the first, full-length biography of Isabella, Alison Weir revisits the facts of Isabella's life in a scholarly context in which women's personal lives do not dictate wholly the way we interpret their roles in the public world. A dramatic and startling biography which will change the way we think of Isabella and her world for ever.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First Edition edition (1 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224063200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224063203
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 5.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 144,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alison Weir lives and works in Surrey. Her books include Britain's Royal Families, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Children of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry VIII: King and Court, Mary, Queen of Scots and Isabella: She-Wolf of France.

Product Description


"This is history which reads like a novel.Weir writes lucidly, with an eye for the details which bring the period to life." (Christopher Hudson Daily Mail)

"This compelling story is told in even tones.Weir carefully balances her subject's good points with her bad... Alison Weir succeeds in bringing to life a murky period of history, which has been shrouded in myth and legend.She makes us sympathetic to Isabella's plight, while acknowledging her faults, and helps us to appreciate how a resourceful and intelligent woman managed to cope and even triumph in difficult circumstances, at a time when political power was, with a few notable exceptions, the preserve of men." (Literary Review)

"This enthralling biography doesn't just correct the calumny of centuries, it provides a beautifully nuanced portrait of a fascinating lady and gives a vivid sense of the riotous realpolitik of medieval times." (Scotsman)

"This meticulous no-nonsense biography presents a fascinating story complete with puzzles." (Independent on Sunday)

"An utterly compelling, gripping and believable portrait of a formidable queen." (Lisa Jardine Washington Post) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The first full-length biography of a much maligned - but astonishingly colourful - Queen of England. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By Clio
Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England is a non-fiction work concerning the life and times of Isabella of France, Queen to Edward II and mother of Edward III. I was interested in reading this due to the fact that this is one of the only biographies of Isabella published in recent times, and because it attempts to reconsider her damaged reputation and rehabilitate her character. One of the main points of the work is whether or not having her lover Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, affected her historical reputation aversely. Weir thinks ultimately that without Mortimer, Queen Isabella could have been respected or even celebrated through the ages, claiming that `history may have immortalised her as a liberator' in the blurb.

The main point and thesis is an interesting one, although ultimately I think that a large part of the problem of Isabella's damaged reputation stemmed from the invasion of England, her sheer amount greed for money or lands when in power, the overthrow, deposition, and possible murder of her husband alongside preventing him from seeing his children all played a role in the destruction of Isabella's pristine reputation. The book is good for all the information it gathers together about Isabella and her life, especially before the invasion of England in 1326. I also enjoyed the discussion of Isabella actions post-coup to a certain extent. The remarkable document of the Fieschi letter and the possibilities surrounding that were also something I had never considered with any degree of seriousness, so that was an interesting part to read about.

However, the book contains many flaws. The main problem is Weir's obvious bias for her subject.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a good tale but... 18 Mar 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book, as I have enjoyed many of Ms weir's books (I can particularly recommend Eleanor of Acquitaine). She clearly is an enthusiast for her subject and closely examines and imaginatively interprets her Primary Sources. The tale itself is well worth re-telling (politics and sex it never fails!)and one is always intrigued by the overwhelming folly of Edward II and the novelty of a woman having such an effect on her environment in the Middle Ages. Given the interest of the subject and the way it is absorbingly told the only disappointment in the book lies in the author's determination to protect her subject from many of her accusers. Given the woman's predicament the reader wouldn't have blamed her for anything!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A very thorough biography of the She-Wolf, 22 July 2008
Alison Weir has written better biographies than this. Although it is very, very thorough, this same thoroughness makes it quite boring. The author often keeps repeating the same things. For example, the people who supported Isabella are repeated times and times again with long explanations of the reasons why, while they remained mostly the same people with the same motives.
Nevertheless, Isabella is a very interesting subject and Weir is convincing in her effort to rehabilitate Isabella from the bad press she has received from male chroniclers through the ages.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Tedious Journey 25 Oct 2006
By D Pole
The subject of Isabella is compelling, considering how little appears to have been written about her. However, I was disappointed in Alison Weir's treatment of her subject. There is no doubt the author has done thorough research, which is evident throughout. The level of detail especially in the first half of the story, is tedious and frankly, quite boring. Devoting so many pages, for example, to the number of servants she had and what they got paid, is more bureaucratic than enthralling. Disclosing what dates Isabella travelled and where she went, without many journeys having any historic significance or interest, makes for dull reading. However, I persisted and the pace does pick up and eventually, an absorbing story unfolds. It is a pity I had to wade through a long-winded account of her early life, to get to the interesting bits.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic work 14 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Well researched book on one of the most (in)famous women in history. I liked the detail and the very personal approach to the subject. I've always enjoyed the author's style and admired her passion. There are many proven facts and some mysteries such as the Fieschi letter. Recommended to who loves history and the story of amazing women who helped shape it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars St Isabella 2 Nov 2010
I very much enjoyed this account of Isabella's life and world. In the past, Isabella has often been vilified. This account goes some way to redressing the balance -- actually it probably goes a bit too far to be honest. Once you finish the book you have the feeling Isabella may be a good candidate for canonisation. Inevitably, since there isn't a great deal written about Isabella, a substantial part of the book encompassed the life of her husband Edward II. This wasn't a problem to me; I found this equally fascinating. I was very interested to read of the theory that Edward II escaped his traditional grizzly demise at the hands of Roger of Mortimer. However, I felt this theory, fascinating and interesting though it is, was given rather too much emphasis as being the correct interpretation. Fascinating and well written piece of history nevertheless.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 days ago by E. Tait
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Arrived on time, great read
Published 14 days ago by Jo Foster
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Excellent book. It give you a different aspect of Isabella. Not just what we think we know about her.
Published 24 days ago by Dave
5.0 out of 5 stars Alison Weir
What a wonderful work! I am engrossed in it now, about 2/3's through it. Though a historical biography on Isabella, it reads easily and sets the reader in the midst of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nurture's Path
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant factual easy read book
I loved this found the detail and information second to none. I would highly recommend it Alison Weir is a great historian.
Published 6 months ago by Shirley Lougheed
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and thorough
Firstly, this history volume is highly readable and most facinating. Weir, one of Britain's most accomplished popular historians puts together allm the evidence accumulated and... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Gary Selikow
3.0 out of 5 stars It's a book that my wife wanted and I have not read.
I'm told it's very good if you like that sort of thing. Sounds like the tale of another immigrant taking one of our jobs.
Published 15 months ago by Geoffrey Franklin
3.0 out of 5 stars Precise
As precise information as is possible. Interesting read but seemed a long book. But 30% is where information came from so shorter than perceived.
Published 15 months ago by zoie lambert
5.0 out of 5 stars Poor Isabella.
Although I have read a lot about the life and death of Edward the second and find the debate fascinating, this book presented the facts in a totally unbiased and eminently readable... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mary Hickey
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully researched and clearly presented
A view onto an amazing woman's life and historic times. Worth the long read. Historical writing ayt it's best. Gives the various interpretations and never makes up fake dialogue.
Published 15 months ago by Doretta Meshiea
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