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Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe Paperback – February 26, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
One recent volume of history tells the story of the daughters of Raymond-Berenger, the Count of Provence. Living in what is now the south of France, he and his wife, the formidable Beatrice of Savoy, controlled a vital part of the medieval world, creating a semi-independent kingdom that was rich in trade and culture. Without a son to inherit, this prize of lands and castles would be divided up somehow between their four daughters, all of whom were talented and beautiful, and so started one of the more intriguing dynastic tangles in history.
The eldest, Marguerite, would be married off at the age of thirteen to the equally young Louis IX of France. Marguerite was clever and attractive, and to become the queen of the most powerful realm in Europe must have been intoxicating. But the king was under the control of his mother, Blanche, and she evidently made her daughter-in-law's life miserable. Marguerite managed to be patient and when she managed to give France an heir, she discovered that she had another rival for her husband -- Crusading. Louis XI would lead the country into one of the more disastrous Crusades, and he would take his wife and her sister Beatrice along with him through a terrible saga of lost troops, imprisonment and ransom -- and then twenty years later do exactly the same thing again...
The next daughter, Eleanor, was just as ambitious as her sister, and married young as well.Read more ›
Any biography of a major figure from the 13 century has hurdles: few contemporaneous first-hand accounts, few to none documents written by the figures themselves, etc. These problems are compounded exponentially when the figure in question is female. All too often, women just didn't rate making it into the chronicles. So Goldstone has her work cut out for her. She makes a valiant effort to piece together the careers and characters of these women drawing conclusions from the smattering of available facts. The reader can take issues with these conclusions but that, to me, is one of the rewards of reading about this era.
All that said, this book was a disappointment. Other reviewers have noted the multitude of factual errors in this book and I have to add my voice to the chorus. Silly, stupid mistakes are present in every single chapter. Were all the fact checkers on vacation when this book was being edited? Did Goldstone get her index cards mixed up? Popular history often needs to tread lightly on the details but never on the facts.
The narrative starts well but writing starts to become heavy going before youngest sister Beatrice hits the stage. Goldstone starts overwhelming the reader with "events" that aren't particularly telling about the four sisters or illuminating of their times. She also over does the adjectives; Sanchia is too frequently "gentle Sanchia", for example. The last quarter of the book was a real trial for me to finish.Read more ›
Nancy Goldstone writes to illuminate the roles the four women and others connected to them, like Blanche the "White Queen" of France, in the power politics of Europe in the thirteenth century. In emphasizing the power these women held behind the scenes Goldstone does a good job of refuting the common misconception that women's voices were stilled, by choice or by necessity, during the European Middle Ages.
Goldstone is not a professional historian, but she does an excellent job of depicting the world of the thirteenth century, when Europe's medieval civilization was in full flower. She provides colorful and accurate pictures of the lives the four sisters led: their castles and palaces, ceremonies, luxuries, and sometimes privations. Although much of the detail on the womens' lives must be inferred because sources at the time rarely paid much attention to females, Goldstone never makes the mistake of assuming too much or over romanticizing. She interweaves the sisters' lives and the careers of their husbands and of their countries so skillfully that her book becomes an excellent example of history at its best.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting take on the period. I have read other books starring the same protagonists and they don't seem to notice that these four queens were sisters. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mimi
I read a lot of history and it can be hard to keep things in context. This connects the dots and tells a fascinating story. Nancy Goldstone has a clear and simple writing style. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Cheri
Interesting book about this once powerful family in medieval times. I have discovered a new love of World History. Easy to read and entertaining if you like history.Published 7 months ago by LaRose Seltzer
I had read about two of the sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor, bit knew little about Marguerite's life and almost nothing about the other two beyond their names so I found it... Read morePublished 11 months ago by daisycb
Second of her books I read and will continue as she is very easy to read with good facts and interesting presentation. Cannot praise highly enough.Published 11 months ago by grace
Nancy Goldstone can take a period of history that few are familiar with and make it come alive. This book is so well and engagingly written that even someone not a... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Julie Murphy