27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars
Nothing new and rather biased., 29 Feb. 2008
This book won't bring any new information to people already familiar with Edward II's story. And I emphasize Edward II's story for this biography of Isabella can hardly be considered a book about her life.
While Alison Weir gives a good idea of the nature of European society in the 14th century, the problem is that she gives way too many irrelevant details that sometimes have nothing to do with the events she is supposed to inform us about.At times I forgot I was reading a book about Isabelle Capet.Indeed the major lack of sources regarding the life of this woman wouldn't make a book about her life longer than 50 pages.
Moreover, this book doesn't bring any light to many of the questions we asked ourselves about this forgotten English Queen.It merely presents the author's own theories, based on suppositions and sheer speculation. Weir pretends that Isabella was innocent of most of her crimes, blaming her "lover" Mortimer for her failures instead.
For instance, Weir is inclined to believe that Isabella was innocent regarding the murder of her husband simply because "no murder ever took place". Her evidence? Kent's plot designed to undermine Isabella's regime and the Fieschi letter saying Edward II was indeed never killed. Why should we believe this man? Because, according to Weir, he belonged to a good Italian family and he was related to the English royal family. Since when those are grounds for honesty and reliability?
Another example of Weir's poor judgement regarding the nature of sources is the fact that she blames only Mortimer for the attempt murder of Edward II leaving Isabella completely innocent in the eyes of the reader. The reason is the sadness Isabella expressed regarding his husband in her letters. One can only laugh at Weir's naive good faith, for it is common sense that Isabella didn't want her husband to be alive. Her life and crown were threatened as long as Edward II was alive. It is clear that she was well aware of the plots to kill her husband even if it was Mortimer who gave the order for his execution.
That being said, Weir is very convinced of the sexual nature of Isabella's relationship with Mortimer. Her sources are simply court gossip and propaganda. There is no way of knowing they were lovers. Both of them were fertile all right, but allegations of the Queen ever being pregnant are ludicrous for she lived a public life and her pregnancies would have been noticed.Again, Weir presents NO valid sources for her allegations regarding this matter.
In the end of her book she goes as far as bashing other historians for misjudging Isabella simply because they were male.In view of her lack of critical treatment regarding sources one can only guess she wanted to present a rather romantic figure, innocent of her most serious crimes.In other words, Weir seems to imply that her only crime was her alleged "love" for Mortimer.Mortimer was very influential in her life, but no serious sources have been able to prove they were in fact lovers.
In other words, Weir choses to believe whatever sources will help her convey the image she prefers of Queen Isabella, whose life remains a mystery.I bought this book inspite of all the criticism Weir gets in Academic circles, and I am frankly disappointed. I won't read any more biographies by this author....