1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and entertaining
Four sisters who married two pairs of brothers. The elder of the first pair was the King of France; the elder of the second was the King of England. The King of France's brother became King of Sicily, and the King of England's brother became King of Germany. As if that wasn't enough, the King of France was canonized less than thirty years after his death, and had a...
Published 18 months ago by Jeremy Walton
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promises not fulfilled - NOT a must-have -read book
This book promised to tell the story of four queens, four sisters who married to kings and ruled Europe. At least the title claims that.
First one has to recognize that these sisters were married to kings indeed - the Kings of France, England, of the Romans (Germany) and of Sicily, but they were Queen Consorts not sovereigns. So it was their husbands which...
Published on 14 Jun 2007 by Amelrode
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promises not fulfilled - NOT a must-have -read book,
First one has to recognize that these sisters were married to kings indeed - the Kings of France, England, of the Romans (Germany) and of Sicily, but they were Queen Consorts not sovereigns. So it was their husbands which ruled not them. Their influence on their husbands was different and varied over time. One - Sanchia, the Queen of the Romans - definitely had no influence over her husband. While their maternal uncles of Savoy gained much influence through their nieces and became most important councillors to the kings, the queens themselves were part of this network. However, there is no evidence that these four sisters joined forces and jointly ruled over Europe. Very often, their realms were fighting each other or their husbands (two in France, two in England) were at odds with each other. Not denying that the Queens had of course influence, but I can not see that they jointly ruled Europe. So the title is quite sensational but the book's content does not match this.
I agree with the previous reviewer that there is a quite casual approach by the author and a sort of very popular language. On top I feel that she does not really understand European history. F.e. her description of the Holy Roman Empire seems to be rather bizarre.
Nevertheless, I feel that one nevertheless can learn quite a bit about the time, the personalities of the four couples and the politics of that period. I read to the end and I suppose I regard it slightly better than the previous reviewer but it is definitely not a must-have-read book.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A very sloppily written and bad book,
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One for fans of romantic fiction, not lovers of history,
This review is from: Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe (Paperback)If you know nothing about the Queens in question, then this is an aimiable romp through their lives and some of the better known stories associated with those who surrounded them. If you know anything at all about them, my recommendation would be to avoid like the plague - it will lead to severe loss of temper and book throwing incidents!
While said to be history, it is written in true romantic novelist style, with assertions about what dresses people wore (how often does this sort of detail ever get reported in C13 chronicles?), and what impressions people made on others, or their romantic feelings for others etc etc. As to facts, I would place it firmly in the "handle with care" category - like a previous reviewer I got bored with turning down corners of pages where a factual errors occurred.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment,
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and entertaining,
This review is from: Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe (Paperback)Four sisters who married two pairs of brothers. The elder of the first pair was the King of France; the elder of the second was the King of England. The King of France's brother became King of Sicily, and the King of England's brother became King of Germany. As if that wasn't enough, the King of France was canonized less than thirty years after his death, and had a city in Missouri named after him. This story might sound like something out of Narnia, but it's all true, and is entertainingly laid out in this excellent book. The author delineates the stories of Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia and Beatrice: their origins, marriages and the roles that they played in their husband's lives in the world of the thirteenth century.
Besides the little details that set their world apart from ours (such as the unacknowledged reference to the somewhat eye-watering fact that Eleanor was married at thirteen, and gave birth to her son - the future Edward I of England - at sixteen), there's a wide-ranging control of the action that - for example - follows Marguerite and her husband Louis IX of France on his disastrous first crusade (which resulted in the bloody defeat of the French army and the capture of the King by the Egyptians), and his second crusade, which was even worse. Marguerite stayed at home in Paris this time; it took six months for the Crusaders to return home, at which point she "discovered the magnitude of the loss that the crusade had wrought: her husband, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, prospective grandchild, and brother- and sister-in-law were all dead." (p293).
Matters were no easier for her sister the Queen of England, whose husband had to contend with Simon de Montfort and the Second Baron's War, which saw Eleanor leaving the King holed up in the Tower of London and taking a small boat up the Thames in order to reach her son Edward who was based in the castle at Windsor. She got as far as London Bridge before she was spotted by pedestrians, who started pelting her boat with insults and stones; she was eventually rescued by the mayor of London, and took refuge at the house of the bishop of London. The fact that I was reading this vivid account on the day that the present Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant was taking place on the same river made me conscious of the resonance of history.
Other reviewers who doubtless know more about the thirteenth century than I have taken issue with some of the facts, the author's sources and her style, but I greatly enjoyed this book, and thought it shed illumination on a fascinating historical period in an entertaining and lively fashion.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars splendid history,
This review is from: Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe (Paperback)This is a really wonderfully written account of the lives of four rather lowly sisters who all married into the most powerful royal families of Europe. In time they became the most influential women of thirteenth century Europe--respectively: queen of France, queen of Sicily, queen of England and queen of Germany. They had quite individual personalities and one sees how differently they react to their circumstances.
Marquerite, the eldest, who became wife of Louis the Nineth of France, had the mother-in-law from hell. The white queen as she was called was the de facto ruler of France. She was a consummate and skilled politician, who controlled everything, particularly her son. She was extremely jealous of her beautiful and cultivated daughter-in-law and made Marguerite's life miserable. Marguerite reacted by slowly becoming more and more like her mother-in-law, learning from her, reacting to her strategies by developing strategies of her own, and thus integrating herself into the complicated chess game that medieval politics involved.
Eleanor had to deal with a husband, the king of England, who was completely unskilled for the job. He was temperamental, tactless, refused to listen to advice and gave out enormous sums of money that he didn't have. Eleanor had great ambitions and romantic dreams but ended up rather disappointed. Her dreams were best realized by her son.
Sanchi was beautiful, sweet, shy and not up to the task of being a political figure. She reacted to the chess game by refusing to play or being unable to play. Her husband quickly grew weary of her. His first wife had been his best advisor anda knowledgeable strategist.
Beatrice was the youngest and had to prove herself. She married a younger brother of Louis the Nineth with a similar psychology. Both were driven by an unbridled ambition to shine more brightly than their elder siblings.
Not only does Nancy Goldstone succeed in bringing the cast of characters to life but gives a wonderful panoramic view of the period. The book is well researched and a pleasure to read.
5.0 out of 5 stars A complex period made simple,
This review is from: Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe (Paperback)Carefully researched and engagingly written, "Four Queens" is pure history but reads like a novel. Forget Walt Disney; these four sisters were the real thing: beautiful, intelligent, artistically talented and aristocratic at a period when the troubadours were inventing the romantic culture of the high middle ages. Independent and competitive, they fully engaged in their father's ambitions. It is a joy to see behind the elegant paintings and illuminations of the period to the real people behind. Highly recommended.
4.0 out of 5 stars Much needed light shed upon a rarely written about era,
This review is from: Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe (Paperback)There are so many books written about the Tudors (and the Stuarts),that you could be forgiven for assuming they were the only monarchs ever to have ruled England or Great Britain. We have had monarchs that have ruled longer and have had equally a great impact on their realm. Such was Henry III, whose life could be glimpsed through the prism of an exploration into the biography of his wife and sisters in law. Even the most ardent historian can enjoy a book written with the accessibilty of its readers in mind. The story of these 4 sisers is beautifully interwoven alongside the powerful men they married and the children they bore. A worthwhile and entertaining read!
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable,
This review is from: Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe (Kindle Edition)I enjoyed this history of 4 sisters who all became Queens in 13th century Europe. Found the writing easy and that the author was able to present complex political situations in a straight forward and accessible manner. Like some previous reviewers I did find some odd judgements re about the Holy Roman Empire. Also though she has 'The Sicilian Vespers' by Steven Runciman in the bibliography [but, strangely, not his History of the Crusades] she assumes that it was Peter III of Aragon who investigated the revolt and not Michael VIII Palaiologos of the Byzantine Empire. The map of the Latin Crusader States still shows the County of Edessa which had disappeared in 1144/1159. However she quotes a lot from original [interesting] sources and her bibilograpy at the back is strong.
In the end I have given this 4 stars as I believe it does give a good overall view of the political situation and interlocking royal dynasties of Europe of this period.
I read the Kindle version and only found a couple of typos.
Ps one of the reviewers mentions Goldstone's descriptions of clothing. Clothing and food were important distinctions of status in the 13C thus Joinville [1224 - 1317] in the Penguin edition I have mentions the how king Louis IX dressed on pages 177 and 187 [ie simply for a king]. Pages 198 and 199 mentions the loss [after a storm at sea] of the Empress of Constantinople's wardrobe and how Joinvilee sent her 'cloth to make her a dress, together with a piece of squirrel skin to trim it' etc etc.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It Not always Great to be the King or Queen,
The daughters, Marguerite, Eleanor, Sashia and Beatrice became queens of France, England, The Romans (Germany) and Sicily. Marguerite's husband was to become Saint Louis (Louis IX), and Eleanor's son was Edward Longshanks and her father-in-law was King John (brother of Richard the Lionheart, of Robin Hood fame). Sashia husband did such a bad job that he was replaced by an unknown named Habsburg (and we know how that turned out). Beatrice spent years helping her husband (the Count of Anjou) find a kingdom, and then died eighteen months after being crowned.
Louis spent the majority of his kingship either on Crusade or planning for one and did more to ruin the family fortune than was thought possible. His last crusade ended up killing half the family including one of his heirs and two of his daughters-in-law. He lived a religious, pious life and had no need for the trappings of royalty, which was just the opposite of what Marguerite wanted. Henry III (Eleanor's husband) was deposed by the barons of England on at least two occasions and both times had to flee to France. During his reign, he lost Normandy, Poitu and Brittany in France for the english crown.
So even though all of the girls (most were married by fifteen) became queens, not one of them had an easy life and none could be said to have died happily. After her death Eleanor had to wait a year before her son could make time to bury her.
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Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone (Paperback - 1 Jun 2009)
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