30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Queens Consort - England's Medieval Queens (two stars only!),
This review is from: Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens (Paperback)
I have been reading historical fiction and non-fiction for over 20 years, so was pleased to see a book covering all the medieval queens - while some are extremely popular in both non-fiction and fiction (eg Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York), many others are much more obscure.
I have read a few biographies of pre-Tudor English queens, but have found that these are better described as histories of the reigning king and the times - it seems that there is just not enough information recorded about medieval queens to write a specific biography. I thought, therefore, that the format of this book - a chapter per queen - was an excellent idea, but the book was a disappointment.
Firstly, there seemed to be an assumption that the reader had a background knowledge about key events in each reign (which may not necessarily be the case, especially for overseas readers, or those new to the medieval era). Some events were described in detail, whilst others appeared to be skimmed over.
The personalities of the various medieval kings would have had a signficant impact on their queens, and for the most part, these were ignored.
I realise that it is impossible to accurately analyse the personality of a woman who lived over 500 years ago (particularly given the scarcity of sources for court life pre-Tudor times), but there are "clues" which can be followed, and I think more work could have been done to develop a "personality profile" of each queen. Similiarly, although there are few physical descriptions or illustrations of medieval queens, some do exist, and there are tomb monuments based on actual appearance. To make the blanket statement that all high-born women were typically described as beauties and seemingly make no attempt to describe each queen was disappointing. If nothing else, there are physical descriptions for each king, and for their male heirs, so this could be used (as it has been by some fictional authors such as Sharon Penman) to create a "best guess" on each queen's physical appearance. In addition, there are detailed descriptions of some queens (eg Philippa of Hainault, Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York)in existence.
Greater context in the introduction regarding key issues for high-born medieval women would have supported the text (for example, female life expectancy, literacy, infant mortality).
The numbers of children born to some queens differed from other books I have read (for example many texts identify 16 children for Edward I and Eleanor of Castile). Some medieval queens would have spent the majority of their queenships pregnant, many of these pregnancies ending in miscarriage or stillbirth, which would have also had an impact on their psychology, their health, and their influence on events.
There were a number of errors scattered through the text, some from careless editing (ie wrong name) but also occasional factual errors. While some points of view expressed by the author were backed up with contemporary evidence and reference to other texts, others (eg the reasons for Eleanor of Acquitaine's annulment, the fate of the Princes in the Tower) were not.
As another reviewer has stated, a family tree (and a list of key dates and people) at the start of each chapter would have been useful - even for someone who has a good overview of medieval history, the family trees are very interwoven and complex.
In summary - a good idea, but quite poor execution.
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Initial post: 16 Aug 2011 09:16:54 BDT
Mr. A. Wightman says:
This is in my opinion a very fair and accurate review. I would add that as a genealogist I was very disappointed with the family trees that did appear in the book. These were riddled with inaccuracies, most of which I guess were the result of careless proof reading, but often led to subtantial misunderstanding of key relationships. And I became tired by the amount of inaccuracies in centuries quoted occured - eg 1324 instead of 1424 on page 315......trust in a text is vital and the frequency of these errors spoilt mine in this one! I believe Ms Hilton should take this up with her editors in future works.....
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