Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens by Lisa Hilton

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “In an age where all politics were family politics, dynastic marriages placed English queens at the very centre of power – the king’s bed. In the mercurial, often violent world of medieval statecraft, English queens had to negotiate a role that combined tremendous influence with terrifying vulnerability. Between 1066 and 1503, twenty women were crowned Queen of England. War, adultery, witchcraft, child abuse, murder – and occasionally even love – formed English queenship, but so too did patronage, learning and fashion. Lisa Hilton dispels the myth that medieval brides were no more than diplomatic pawns.”

REVIEW: My knowledge of English Queens begins with Eleanor of Aquitaine, disappears for over a century and returns during the Wars of the Roses, where from then onwards I tend to be pretty good or at least average in remembering who they were and what factors marked their queenships. Therefore this book was really useful in giving me an insight into the lives of all of England’s medieval Queen consorts with mini biographies that explore the characters of these Queens, as well as their relationships with their husbands, the political circumstances surrounding them, and the nature of their queenship. The book was engaging and interesting, and went into a surprising amount of depth given the sparse number of pages given to the analysis of each Queen and their reign. I found several historical figures that were new to me and greatly captured my imagination, particularly Isabella of France, who I knew nothing of before reading this book. I was also pleased to read more on Anne Neville, who I have a great interest in but who is often neglected in works on medieval history. The only thing that spoilt this book slightly for me, however, was the fact that Hilton and I have extremely different opinions on Richard III – she sees him as the undisputed murderer of the Princes in the Tower and cites evidence of deformity and cruelty to prove her point, some of which has since been disproven since the books publication in 2008 due to the discovery of Richard’s skeleton in a Leicester car park. Other than this, however, I found the book absolutely fascinating and was glad to be given the chance to explore new historical figures, as well as being reacquainted with some of my own favourite Queen consorts. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for an introduction to medieval English Queens and English policy in general during this period, as it provides a great insight into not only the private lives of Queens but also the social, economic and political circumstances prevalent in England during this period.

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