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The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc Hardcover – 29 Dec 2011
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Joan's fleeting moment at the centre of Anglo-French politics retains its historical and cultural currency precisely because her story is never less than compelling; and Yolande of Aragon is a significant and fascinating example of those medieval women who brought extraordinary intellectual capacity and hard-won political expertise to bear on a structure of power that assumed its leaders would be male. (Helen Castor SUNDAY TIMES)
Yolande, as an astute politician, was savvy enough to cover her tracks, but, says Goldstone, without her there would be no Joan of Arc. (THE TIMES)
The story has been told many times but Goldstone tells it well...She writes very well, with a talent for locating neglected tales, and she has a rare ability to bring the past to life. (Jonathan Wright GLASGOW HERALD)
Goldstone recognises and makes clear the great influence of these two remarkable women on the course of French history. (Zoe McIntyre FRANCE MAGAZINE)
An eye-opening book, muchn of its evidence taken from primary sources that rewrites history with all the drama and pace of a good thriller. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)
This story...has now been retold with verve and a fresh approach by Nancy Goldstone...(a) highly readable book. (John Ure COUNTRY LIFE)
An exceptionally dramatic life of Joan of Arc and her previously unchronicled mentor, Yolande of Aragon.See all Product description
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To me, this theory sounds convincing enough. What adds to the credibility is that Jeanne's actions are de-mystified - while she was a helpful morale booster, the actual French victories were engineered by able military professionals like the Bastard of Orleans (the illegitimate son of the Duke of Orleans who was murdered by the Burgundians).
More importantly, the book is very well-written and a true pleasure to read - just as Goldstone's other books about Joanna I and Catherine de Medici, by the way. Certainly recommended.
The period around Joan of Arc is a complex one and much has already been written about the warrior saint, but few even know the name of Yolanda. This book is written in a very easy to read style and because the author is generally following a single theme [tying in the events of Yolanda to Joan] it helps to explain those difficult politics and intrigues in a very readable way.
The book falls into three almost equal parts, the first and third being much the same length with the middle only marginally longer. The first part is a biography of Yolanda and the background to the later part of the Hundred years wars. The middle deals with the overall story of Joan, whilst the ending looks at what happened once Joan had been betrayed by those around her.
Caution should be used for its not entirely a `hard factual' take but contains much `evidence' that is conjectural or hearsay at best. For example, the accusation that the Duke of Bedford [English] spied on Joans virginity test is from a contemporary source by Boisguillaume (aka Maître Guillaume Colles), that actually reads "I heard it said by one I can no longer remember...." so it cannot be entirely relied upon as being `the last word', but it does raise many points that have been neglected. It reminded me a lot of `Holy Blood, Holy Grail'.
As they would have said back in the day, "A jolly good yarn." and well worth the read. It's ease and simplicity at giving a credible account is admirable and well deserving of a ***** rating for those who want to know more or those looking for a new angle.
What is less well known is the role that supporters played in getting her to the point where she was even able to meet Charles, never mind lead an army on his behalf. We are talking here about the Middle Ages, when simple peasant girls didn't just magic up sufficient support and, crucially, funds to lead troops as a figurehead wearing specially tailored armour and carrying a personalised standard. She also had to quickly learn to ride, handle arms and deal with senior and seasoned army commanders. Nor could she have navigated her way alone through the tortuous web of factions that formed the French political landscape at this time. Yolande of Aragon (widow of Louis II of Anjou) was an extremely shrewd and powerful woman with widespread lands and titles and, importantly, strategically placed eyes and ears in all the power bases that mattered. She had been Charles VII's foster mother for many years, as well as being his mother-in-law. She was, for example, present when Joan was examined to prove her virginity. Yolande also had a clear vested interest in the coronation of Charles taking place to secure her daughter's position as Queen of France, and it was also critical that she should not be seen to be overtly supporting Joan on behalf of her own faction at court. The myth of The Maid had to stand alone. So, her role as silent partner in the Joan of Arc triumph is absolutely feasible and to my mind, has the ring of truth.
These two women could not have been more different, or more unlikely partners, but the combination of one's courage and belief with the other's money and ambition, was highly effective. Yolande of Aragon achieved the all important coronation, although again remaining in the background to focus all attention and glory on Charles himself.
What is also clear from the quotations from actual witness statements during Joan's trial for witchcraft, is that when she began to believe her own publicity and wished to carry on as God's soldier for the French King, it all got a bit too much: she was basically hung out to dry and abandoned to her fate at the hands of the English and the Church authorities to whom she had become anathema. Tellingly, there was a point at which Charles VII for whom she had risked so much, could have ensured her safety, but his silence on the matter was deafening. Such gratitude!
In the final analysis, Joan was always doomed. She could have saved herself from the flames by recanting, but would have lived in perpetual imprisonment as a penitent - no life for a girl who had known amazing freedom of action and incredible success. This book also makes it clear that she did not go to her death in calm resignation but in tears and distress that her 'clean and whole' body was to be consumed.
I liked this book enormously, although I agree the illustrations could have been improved upon. That apart, excellent and thought provoking work.
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