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Travels with a Medieval Queen Hardcover – December 7, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Simeti offers a delightful, reflective reconstruction of a journey undertaken in 1194-1195 by the Sicilian princess Constance from the dark forests of Germany back to her ancestral island in the company of her cold, conquering husband, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. Simeti, who has lived in Sicily for 40 years and written about the island in Pomp and Sustenance and On Persephone's Island, retraces Constance's itinerary in the relative comfort of her car, creating a pleasant exchange between the two journeys. She empathizes intensely with the princess's more grueling travails, from the horseback ride across the Alps, to the dangerous experience of childbirth (which, with her first child, Constance chose to undergo in public to prove that the child was hers). Throughout the book's 12 chapters corresponding to the months of Constance's trip, Simeti renders her sense of connection with her subject: they are both expatriates caught between two cultures, maneuvering for space in a male world. As Simeti is aware, much of the reconstruction is a projection of her own experience, since few documents speak directly to Constance's life. The author senses and evokes possibilities, introducing invented characters like the princess's Arab nurse or fictitious relationships such as her wooing by the courtly poet Frederick von Hausen. She dips into medieval scholarship, rather than immersing herself fully, though her friendship with Columbia University professor Caroline Walker Bynum bears fruit in the discussion of individualism in the Middle Ages. Like another 12th-century traveler, Gerald of Wales, Simeti is fond of engrossing intellectual side trips (astrology, chess, medicine, etc.). 144 b&w and 10 color photos.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Constance of Hauteville, the medieval queen featured here, was the daughter of Sicily's king and the wife of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. Few details about her life exist, but it is known that she had her only son at the age of 40 while returning to Sicily in 1194 to help her husband claim the Sicilian throne. Constance is buried in Sicily, which is where Simeti, an American who has lived there for almost 40 years, first learned about her and became fascinated by the mystery surrounding her life. Retracing Constance's return trip to Sicily, Simeti (On Persephone's Island) combines historical facts with her own speculations. The historical information, which fortunately makes up the bulk of the text, is well researched and quite interesting. The travelog sections, on the other hand, are flat. The reader often feels cheated by the author's contrived imaginings, which are neither fact nor fiction. In the end, it seems that the blending of genres simply doesn't work. Still, so little is available on Constance that this book fills an obvious gap. For libraries with medieval collections. Kathleen Shanahan, Kensington, MD
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (December 7, 2001)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0374278784
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0374278786
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.24 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 7 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.1 out of 5 stars 9 ratings

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4.1 out of 5 stars
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5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT
By Vincent A. Petraglia on August 21, 2005
GREAT_If you love history you will love this book. Fun. Great book for a rainy day - take the time travel machine.
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