Here we have a great read carefully researched and attractively compiled by Elizabeth Norton whose work I find both more readable and more fascinating than many novels. There's no skimping and around 25% of the work is taken up dealing with the Anglo-Saxon queens, some of whom, and especially Emma, are fascinating characters. This section is followed by four more sections: The Norman Queens; The Plantagenet Queens; The Lancastrian Queens and The Yorkist Queens and the work begins with another chapter concerning the early and mythical queens with several pages allotted to Boudica. She and Matilda, daughter of Henry I (1100-1135) are the only queens regnant during the period covered in this volume, which also contains genealogical tables, notes, bibliography, illustrations and index.
Approaching history from the distaff side casts a whole new light on everything, not least in how we see how some of these special ladies played a more important role in affairs than is often realised. In some cases they were, in a very real sense, the power behind the throne. Among the most influential queens was Emma of Normandy (983-1052) who was the wife of two kings, Ethelred the Redeless and Canute, the mother of two kings, Hardicanute and Edmund the Confessor. She was also a great aunt of William the Conqueror.
No fewer than five 11th/12th century Matildas are featured: an empress, three queens and a duchess, all of whom played significant roles in the development of the English royal house. Since Henry I died without any surviving male children, his daughter Matilda, who was then the widow of the Holy Roman Emperor and had become known as 'The Empress', was the rightful heir to the English throne. Unfortunately, since a large section of the English nobility were not keen on having a female monarch, her cousin Stephen of Blois was invited to become king, a decision which caused civil war. Although Matilda was initially very successful in her attempts to oust Stephen, things began to go badly for her and she eventually agreed to allow Stephen to remain king until he died, after which her son, Henry of Anjou, would inherit the English crown as Henry II. Although Matilda was never crowned, bona fide claimants to the throne do not have to be crowned in order to become monarchs.
One of the most influential of all these queens was Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of Henry II and mother of Richard I and King John and who lived until she was over 81, an unusually long life for those days. Isabella, queen of Edward II, was another strong character. In fact, there are several of these among the queens, among the most likeable of which are Elizabeth Woodville, the commoner who married Edward IV, and her daughter Elizabeth of York who married Henry VII, first king of the Tudor dynasty. Since this Elizabeth was directly descended from Edward III through his eldest surviving son it meant that the shaky Tudor claim to the throne was strengthened through the children of this marriage, one of whom became Henry VIII. Henry VII was descended from John of Gaunt and his liaison with Catherine Swynford (nee Roet). Henry VII was her great great grandson through her great grand daughter Margaret Beaufort.
This wonderful work is packed with fascinatingly interesting facts such as this and I could go on writing about it all for pages and pages, but long reviews can be very off-putting. It's a 'pick up any time book' when you need to find out something and is excellent for using in conjunction with relevant websites. Tracing history through the distaff side casts a whole new inspiring light on everything especially when it's so well done as achieved here by Elizabeth Norton. Although this work ends with Elizabeth of York, there's a second volume that takes us right up to Queen Elizabeth II, which I shall be buying shortly. History is a real joy when it's researched and presented in such an attractive fashion as it is here.
on 19 December 2012
I brought this book for a family member at Christmas as i knew they where interested in History and wanted to learn more and having read snippets of the book i was sure it was the right one for them- they absolutely loved it and recommended me to read it as well.
What's so great about this book is it covers every women known to ever have been Queen of England ( nearly eighty either as regnant or consort) from the mythical Guinevere to the controversial ones Emma of Normandy, Eleanor of Aquitaine, the 'warrior' ones Boadicea, Margaret of Anjou and the one who fought for her right to be crowned Queen the Empress Matilda, the one that changed the course of her country's history Anne Boleyn, the one who was branded a tyrant for ordering the burnings of hundreds of Protestants Mary I, the one that proved women could rule equally as well as men- the enigmatic Elizabeth 1, the one who lost her head after plotting to take her cousins throne Mary Queen of Scots, the one who took her fathers position after he fled the country during the Glorious Revolution Mary II our current longest reigning Monarch- Queen Victoria and of course our current Queen Elizabeth II.
What's so great about this book is that it is not to heavy at all for anyone, even those that have just the slightest bit of interest in History, it will give you an insight into what each one went through and how they helped shape the role for female rulers- from those who where the power behind the throne and through one way or another helped shape their husbands rule good or bad- Emma of Normandy, Matilda of Flanders, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Margaret of Anjou, Anne Boleyn, Caroline of Ansbach, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, to the those who's time ended in tragedy- Katherine Howard, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, and those whose marriages where true love-Eleanor of Provence and Henry III, Anne of Bohemia and Richard II, Mary II and William of Orange, Queen Anne and Prince George of Denmark, Queen Charlotte and George III, Queen Adelaide and William IV, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, George V and Mary of Teck, George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and our current queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
What's so fascinating is to see the role of Queen change as you go down the line and see how each one played some contribution no matter how small to shaping the position of female rule, every single Queen is covered in this book from Guinevere to Elizabeth II, each story will either fascinate, intrigue you, make you sympathise or admire them.