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Customer Review

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Weir's own morality prejudices a highly readable and engrossing account, 13 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England (Paperback)
As usual, beautifully written and engaging, if you can wade through all the detail of the characters' marriages, living expenses, deliveries of cloth and alms giving.

However, this is the only Weir book I have found personally quite difficult to read. She lets her own prejudice against homosexuality permeate into the text. Given her criticism of the 'Victorian morality' of previous historians who've dragged Eleanor's name through the mud, her double standards were glaring in this respect. First of all, she refers to homosexuality being a capital crime in 'medieval times' which even from my own knowledge is not strictly true. From what I've read, it depends on the specific period in the middle ages, which part of Europe and what class of people are being referred to.

Secondly, Weir assumes that because Edward II was 'capable of normal sexual relations' he might have been bisexual, which overlooks the pressure he must have been under to produce an heir. Her language throughout the book characterises homosexual sex as perverse and morbid behaviour, yet she is quite happy to refer to Edmund of Kent, who kidnapped a young girl presumably to sexually abuse, as of 'great strength and stature'. Indeed, Weir is happy throughout all of her texts that I've read to not judge too harshly men who abused women, took part in orgies with multiple women or who bore illegitimate children through mistresses. And yet Edward's 'normal' sexual relations are characterised as (and this is the other part I didn't like) an affront to Isabella's 'femininity'.

Edward might have been a poor judge of character, and in the end an inept ruler and a tyrant who died by the sword he lived by, but it seems Weir has very set ideas about gender roles which I feel prejudice her against Edward from the beginning. Before the Despensers were in the ascendancy, he was in some ways a decent husband to Isabella, trusting in her far more than many kings would have done their wives, and thus in her 'femininity'. Ultimately, Edward was fatally flawed in being a terrible judge of character, easily led, while his pent up frustration from years of being relatively merciful yet facing one rebellion after another because of his poor leadership led him to morph into a ruthless and brutal tyrant almost as if to prove his masculinity, one felt. Up until that point, when he also turned against Isabella under the influence of Despenser, I had felt some empathy for him.
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