Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Elizabeth of York by Lisa Hilton

Received free review copy from publisher via NetGalley.

At first glance this looked similar to Helen Castor’s “She Wolves”. But Castor focuses more on the misogyny of the times, the individual powerful women who took control of their own destinies in spite of it, and what that meant for their reputations, whereas ‘Queens Consort’ is more about the role of queenship, both domestic and political, how each consort defined those roles and how it evolved. Castor also talked about Mary I and the lead up to her ascent after her brother Edward VI died when, for the first time, all the contenders for the throne were female. Hilton does not discuss female regnants, only the role of queen consort. There is some overlap in the factual biographies but the thesis and assessment are approached differently and Hilton studies several more queen consorts than Castor.

And for this reason, I was glad to see Hilton actually covered each and every consort from Matilda of Flanders to Elizabeth of York (the subtitle of the book is a little misleading in this regard), whether they are well known or not; you can’t explore the role of queenship by picking and choosing certain queens. The conclusion sums everything up by analyzing how Beowulf and Thomas Malroy’s Le Morte d'Arthur portray, and thus how the different time periods they were written in perceived queenship.

It’s very well written and it feels comprehensive despite fitting so many historical figures into one book so I expect this will make an excellent reference book.

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