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I can t remember the last time I spent three plus weeks reading a book straight through In retrospect, maybe I should have alternated queenly chapters with lighter reading, but I found this fascinating on the whole and was highly motivated by wanting to see what happened next I found this very dense, rather than dry, and actually a lot of fun But it was slow going keeping all the Edwards and Isabellas straight, making sure I was following which faction was on which side at any given time allegiances were constantly shifting, trusted allies double crossing each other, loyalties formed and broken The reward for paying such close attention was a truly gripping set of stories I wish I d read this before Niccol Rising, just to have asolid understanding of the intrigues gripping Europe at the time I ve been pretty history impaired most of my life and catching up now, with an adult s knowledge of the world s workings, is a lot of fun And it s got me craving the next installment of Wolf Hall Recommended for fans of history and politics and patient, attentive readers. 4.5 5Over the years, for one reason or another, I ve picked up a hell of a lot of English history through inadvertent measures The Tudors and the Borgias are the two families I ve studied on an amateur level since grade school, and a systematic repetition of Shakespeare at various levels of education and varied modes of entertainment has built up an instinctive recognition of names and plots that, for all the 16th 17th century fanfiction treatment, still serves me well My story is not unusual for one born and bred in the military industrial complex inheritor of the most ubiquitous colonial monstrosity, and the fact that everyone in the stories looks like me only explains the sticking of stories to my inherent recall evenIndividual bits of truth, then, are not the pieces of worth in this field of knowledge, although the histories this work churns through has been such a fortuitous boon in my hardcore current study of Chaucer Shakespearean Tragedy Austen Eliot Evans that fickle fortune must indeed be contemplated.The English Queen is dead Long live the Queen What s to be done now is to look at all this prescriptive junk that s built up over centuries of land, murder, betrayal, popularity contests, drowning, heterosexual fertility, non heteronormativity, the word of God, the word of Fate, and plain and simple incompetence We could ve had a golden age far closer to Henry I and II than Henry VIII had a certain uncle not thrust his way into the limelight There may have been a line of names that drowned Shakespeare s she wolf in its own fear of backlash had a certain fool son not gone and gotten himself killed The King is always male because that is how the dice happened to fall That s it Add in a little superstition, always the driving force of bigotry when sanctity of rule is made to hinge on color and skin and what lies between a person s legs, and of course you re going to get a certain type of malodorous conspiracy that demands incestuous begetting by reason of its previously successful incestuous history It s not actually that successful of course when one looks at the sheer number of Henrys that just sat on the throne and failed, but that s not what they re going to teach you in school.With regards to thenarratological aspects of this work, I like Castor s style Between the mounds of unavoidably androcentric history, there s a very keen picking apart of just what was keeping Matilda and Eleanor and Isabella and Margaret from that Elizabeth level undeniable proof in the history books In some lives, the gynephobic rules of ruling had not yet firmly established themselves in the sociopolitical and religious contests, and what ultimately decided the fallout was a matter of speed and ease of conformity In others, female despots are still despots, and the only difference between one successful revolution and the other is how nasty the historians are going to be about the usurper who had a womb Looking back on the facts and the formulas that are the cause and consequence of any history of power, I can now appreciate just how much unorthodox spitting in the patriarchal eye had to go on before Elizabeth could become Elizabeth the First If she didn t closely analyze the previous English histories of women coming to power and learn from every one, I ll eat my hat.This is why history is so much fun Between the learn or you are doomed to repeat and those on top wanting exactly that, you have the liminal realm where seemingly irrefutable states of being haven t yet had the time to become established The King rules because of this The Queen doesn t rule because of that We do this because of this We don t do this because of that All very cute, those ways of following, but time waits for no indoctrination for the sake of inoculation To those who disagree I ll see you on the other side She was not bound, they said, by any of England s laws since the Conquest and could therefore choose to sweep away the entire apparatus of the Reformation at will because all previous statutes had been made in the name of England s king, while its queen was nowhere mentioned. @Download ç She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth ⛓ When Edward VI Henry VIII S Longed For Son Died In , Extraordinarily, There Was No One Left To Claim The Title King Of England For The First Time, All The Contenders For The Crown Were FemaleIn , England Was About To Experience The Monstrous Regiment The Unnatural Rule Of A Woman But Female Rule In England Also Had A Past Four Hundred Years Before Edward S Death, Matilda, Daughter Of Henry I And Granddaughter Of William The Conquerer, Came Tantalisingly Close To Securing Her Hold On The Power Of The Crown And Between The Th And The Th Centuries Three Exceptional Women Eleanor Of Aquitaine, Isabella Of France, And Margaret Of Anjou Discovered, As Queens Consort And Dowager, How Much Was Possible If The Presumptions Of Male Rule Were Not Confronted So ExplicitlyThe Stories Of These Women Told Here In All Their Vivid Humanity Illustrate The Paradox Which The Female Heirs To The Tudor Throne Had No Choice But To Negotiate Man Was The Head Of Woman And The King Was The Head Of All How, Then, Could A Woman Be King, How Could Royal Power Lie In Female Hands Description When Edward VI Henry VIII s longed for son died in 1553, extraordinarily, there was no one left to claim the title King of England For the first time, all the contenders for the crown were female.In 1553, England was about to experience the monstrous regiment the unnatural rule of a woman But female rule in England also had a past Four hundred years before Edward s death, Matilda, daughter of Henry I and granddaughter of William the Conquerer, came tantalisingly close to securing her hold on the power of the crown And between the 12th and the 15th centuries threeexceptional women Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and Margaret of Anjou discovered, as queens consort and dowager, how much was possible if the presumptions of male rule were not confronted so explicitly.The stories of these women told here in all their vivid humanity illustrate the paradox which the female heirs to the Tudor throne had no choice but to negotiate Man was the head of woman and the king was the head of all How, then, could a woman be king, how could royal power lie in female hands Opening The boy in the bed was just fifteen years old He had been handsome, perhaps even recently but now his face was swollen and disfigured by disease, and by the treatments his doctors had prescribed in the attempt to ward off its ravages Their failure could no longer be mistaken The hollow grey eyes were ringed with red, and the livid skin, once fashionably translucent, was blotched with sores The harrowing, bloody cough, which for months had been exhaustingly relentless, suddenly seemedfrightening still by its absence each shallow breath now exacted a perceptible physical cost PART I MATILDA Lady of England 1102 1167 On 1 December 1135, another king of England lay dying Not a boy but a man of nearly seventy, Henry I had ruled the English people forthan half his lifetime A bull like figure, stocky and powerfully muscular, Henry was a commanding leader, the greatest of kings , according to the chronicler Orderic Vitalis, who observed his rule admiringly from the cloisters of a Norman monastery A Surfeit of LampreysThe White Ship Henry I s son and heir William drowned.PART 2 ELEANOR An Incomparable Woman 1124 1204 A casual observer at Henry II s court in September 1166 might have been forgiven for thinking that Eleanor of Aquitaine was the most conventional of queens A great heiress, famed for her beauty and her agile mind, she had brought her royal husband a rich inheritance that stretched from the green valleys of the Vienne river, where soft light danced on stately water as it flowed toward the Loire, to the foothills of the Pyrenees, where a stronger sun struck towering crags of granite and limestone.At left, a 14th century representation of the wedding of Louis and Eleanor at right, Louis leaving on Crusade.One of the most significant acts for political history was the divorce of Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 1150s.PART 3 ISABELLA Iron Lady 1295 1358 It was a cold day in Boulogne, 25 January 1308, when two of Eleanor s descendants met in the cathedral church of Our Lady to exchange their wedding vows The bridegroom, King Edward II of England, great grandson of Eleanor s son John, was a tall and handsome figure, powerfully built and gorgeously dressed PART IV MARGARET A Great and Strong Laboured Woman 1430 1482 Margaret of Anjou was not born to be a queen It was not that she lacked royal blood flowing through her veins she was directly descended, after all, from Philippe of Valois, the king who had succeeded to the French throne after the deaths of Isabella s brothers Like Isabella herself, she could trace her line back to Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Empress Matilda.NONFIC NOVEMBER 2015 CR White Mughals5 A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts3 Rome and the Barbarians4 Field Notes From A Hidden City3 The King s Jews Money, Massacre and Exodus in Medieval EnglandCR A History of Palestine 634 10993 Charlotte Bront A Life3 The Alhambra5 A Long Walk in the Himalaya A Trek from the Ganges to Kashmir3 Buddhist Warfare4 A Gathering of SpoonsAB A Brief History of Roman Britain Conquest and Civilization4 Victorian Glassworlds Glass Culture and the Imagination, 1830 18803 Food Safari4 She Wolves3 India A Portrait2 The Archaeology of Ancient Sicily Had to re Readto get who is who straight again..geez..4 1 2 Stars. againNormally, I will only read historical biographies when I m reading a book about a historical figure that I really don t know much about their backgroundonly that they fit in a certain period of time between such and such Queen or such and such King I find some of them historical figures very confusing and I still get them mixed upwhat can I say shrugs Now if the names back then weren t all the same it be a piece of cake, at least for me.So, I will pick up a book at the library that usually helps me outbut they are SO dry, and I always skim just to get what I need But with Helen Castor s She Wolves I did not find it dry at all, and I actually understood what was being said without still being confused No skimming..the author not only filled in the blanks for me but she made it understandable AND interesting.This is a keeper for me to refer back to which I had to do again this month.Now I look forward to reading further books on the other women who ruled before Elizabeth I The Tutors I m ok with there, I have them down pact No issues there.Now.if Helen Castor could write about the Richards I may just get the hang of who was who And where and when.There is hope for me yet. I borrowed this book from the library about a lifetime ago So I really should be taking it back But once you reach the max finereally, what s the incentive The hold up was that I couldn t get into it It s not that the subject isn t interesting, because I dare you to find something boring about Eleanor of Aquitaine Double Dog Dare The problem was the writing The first parts of the book were pretty much recitations of facts and happenings, with very little analysis She covers Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Margaret of Anjou, and Mary Tudor And wow, did she skimp on Mary Tudor I admit she wasn t Queen for long, but she deserved a fewpages at least It wasn t until she started comparing and explaining how these women fit together and set the stage for Elizabeth, perhaps influencing her that the author s passion came out But those few pages simply can t make a book that drags along like a barge through muddy water It s a fine read if you have nothing better, but you d be better off just picking out five biographies and then reading a good one on Elizabeth. Really excellent history and an easy and compelling read I had been involved in a discussion on the subjects of this book with a fellow GR reviewer and friend which inspired me to read it myself and I am glad that I did For myself, the most interesting sections were on Isabelle and Margaret of Anjou, simply because they were less well known to me but I enjoyed this so much that I have every intention of reading anything and everything that Helen Castor writes.NB Forgot to say I was sorry to see Ms Castor state in the last page of the Margaret of Anjou section that Richard III went on to usurp the throne and murder his nephews There really is no excuse these days for making a statement like that as if it is fact. This was supposed to be a quick note of thanks to the author, but it morphed into a review fangirl squee overshare Enjoy Or not Dear Dr Castor,I just finished your wonderful book, SHE WOLVES The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth, and had to write you to rave Also, I m pretty annoyed at you because my book bill is about to go sky high er and frankly, you might want to think about starting fundraisers for your readers, because I doubt I m the only one with this problem.I ve been into the Tudors for years, especially Henry VIII and his wives, long before Showtime cast a slender brunette of medium height to play Henry I read everything about them I could find and eventually started to get Tudor ed out there were only so many takes on Ann Boleyn s fall, and Henry s growing sociopathy and waistline, before I needed a break So I started reading about the gang who came before Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III and the Wars of the Roses, which is how I discovered Margaret of Anjou In a word whoa It s wrong that I want to see her and Elizabeth I in a cage match, right I couldn t believe the woman s courage, audacity, determination, and focus So I started reading books about the Wars specifically to find outabout Margaret, though I also loved reading about Warwick losing his hit when King Edward had the audacity to a choose his own queen and b be king Which is how I ended up with SHE WOLVES.I m embarrassed to say it sat in my TBR pile for a year It wasn t entirely my fault my eldest started college which I dealt with by re reading all her favorite YA novels Remember reading the last Harry Potter book I remember you wouldn t let me near it until you finished it, Mom, you harpy Oh the memories , and I got hooked on WORKAHOLICS, which is a terrible American comedy that is my walk of shame Then I went through a graphic novel phase All right another graphic novel phase I go through about four a year Don t judge me Then Philippa Gregory s THE WHITE QUEEN hit TV and reminded me how much I loved learning about the House of York, whose tenacity and courage was only exceeded by their inability to not devour each other.Once the TV show had run its course, I remembered there was another kind of TV books And there was SHE WOLVES, where it had held pride of place on my bookshelf for a year, nestled snugly beside Stephen King s DR SLEEP and back issues of Fine Cooking magazine I highly recommend the grilling issue When I picked up SHE WOLVES, I was tempted to start at the end with Margaret s story, since she was the reason I bought the book in the first place Then I thought, well, Dr Castor is probably going somewhere with Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France I m embarrassed to admit I only knew of Eleanor from being played by Glenn Close in a remake, and the only royal Isabella I knew of was Catherine of Aragon s mother, and the only famous Matilda I knew of was from Roald Dahl s book I ve got to stop telling you things I m embarrassed about I need to keep my humiliation to myself Their stories, I figured, might be relevant to Margaret s, or why else would you include them On the other hand, why would you do any of the things you do I don t know you You could be an enigma Or a Tory They still have those in England, right So maybe you had a plan when you included queens who weren t Margaret Or maybe you didn t I had nothing to go on, and in the end, I figured if their stories didn t grab me I d just skip to Margaret.Which brings me to my increasing book budget, since of course you made Matilda and Eleanor and Isabella pretty much leap off the page a good trick in those medieval gowns By the time you got to the White Ship disaster I was hooked and that was only page 26 Of all the dumb ways for Henry I to lose his heir The guy conquered Normandy but lost his son when a bunch of drunks tried to steer a ship through a rock, which was probably the twelfth century equivalent of losing your kid to a party bus crash All that before we even got to Matilda, who proved that her father didn t just pass the badass gene to his son And then Eleanor of Aquitaine History should just rename her Eleanor, Never To Be Messed With, and get it over with She makes pretty much everyone who wasn t queen of at least two countries look like a slack ass Queen of France Sure, but not enough of a challenge Also, the king of France was great if you like amiable eunuchs, which she didn t, so buh bye, King Louis Queen of England Sure, why not, she got all her queen practice out of the way in France Oh, the king of England would like his line to continue Sure, Eleanor says, here are five sons and three daughters Go nuts Eleanor was on board with pretty much everything King Henry II needed done, as long as she didn t have to choose between her sons and her husband Oh Whoops Well, at least she didn t have to pay the price by being imprisoned for over a oh Whoops But then Henry, known throughout history as King Grouchypants, was kind enough to die of a fever, leaving his son Richard in charge King Richard made Son Of The Century by basically saying, Mom, I gotta go force my religion on people I ve never met who ve never done me any harm, so heeeeere s England Have fun running the place The Crusade thing was annoying, but as a mom, I appreciated his no, really, my mom can have whatever she wants, including England, so stop bugging me because I have to go repress another culture attitude Eleanor didin her last decade than I ve done in three, which I should resent, but mostly I just admire.Then Isabella, married to a paranoid crybaby who held grudges like dragons store treasure, a guy who had no interest in letting his wife into his man cave figuratively as well as literally Nightmare Isabella of France should be studied and admired solely for not strangling Edward II before their first anniversary I know the movie BRAVEHEART is riddled with inaccuracy, but whenever I picture Edward II, I picture the weasel face actor who played him, and I just want to punch things Things like his face Also, Isabella of France should be renamed Isabella of Awesome So Isabella of Awesome got to watch her husband king do the medieval equivalent of passing notes in class to a guy he had a crush on, except instead of passing notes he was passing tons of land and money and titles But at least Piers Gaveston, King Weasel Face s man crush, was mature and dignified and didn t use his influence to yeah, I can t finish that sentence without giggling But then Piers bit the big one, courtesy of the medieval equivalent of high school teachers cracking down on kids passing notes they ran him through and cut off his head That would teach King Edward II to pass notes Except it didn t Queen Isabella decided deja vu all over again wasn t acceptable, so she put on the medieval equivalent of big girl panties and deposed King Weasel Face and arranged a nasty death for Hugh Despenser or as I call him, Piers Gaveston 2.0 , and if she d stopped there it would have been terrific but if she d stopped there, she wouldn t be Isabella, Stomper of Weasel Face She went too far and had her ass handed to her politely , but lived to tell the tale The worst thing I can say about her is that she shouldn t have been surprised to find Edward III was his mother s son Finally, the reason I bought your book, Margaret of Anjou By then, mywish list had increased by 12 books damn you, Dr Castor and I hadn t even finished SHE WOLVES And yep, by then I d realized you had a plan when you told Matilda, Eleanor, and Isabella s stories first, because even I, with my American high school education, lack of college, and gross amount of TV watching Do they have Game of Thrones in England It s terrific , could see the parallels in their lives As a fan of watching medieval royal houses pretty much eat each other, I loved Margaret s story As a mom, I ached for her when the one time she let her son leave her side and fight, he died In battle, fighting for his father s crown, if that comforted her It wouldn t have comforted me, but I wouldn t have lasted a week in any of their courts There s a reason there isn t a book called SHE BITCH Why MaryJanice Davidson Should Never Have Been Allowed To Write.Which brings me to well, me I m fortunate enough to be published most of my books are romantic comedy and paranormal chick lit, and I threw some YA books in there, too, for the heck of it When I m on deadline I like to read the opposite of what I m writing So I d ask myself, what is the literary opposite of a fluffy romantic comedy where everything works out perfectly for the feisty heroine medieval English history Emphasis on queens in a primitive patriarchy where you could get put to death for picking your nose in church Where often nothing worked out and if you got a splinter it sometimes killed you Perfect Which is how I started with the Tudors and, a decade later, found SHE WOLVES All that to say your book was wonderful and I m assuming you are, too I ve got BLOOD AND ROSES on the way via , and I have my fingers crossed you re taking a break from writing another wonderful book to read this Scratch that I hope you re taking a break from finishing another wonderful book Like, reading the galleys finished It s about to be published finished Because I m hooked, and I ve got to haveYou showed me an entire area of history I d willfully ignored for years I m kind of hoping you ll be able to teach me trigonometry next Many, many, many thanks.Warmest regards,MaryJanice Davidsonwww.maryjanicedavidson.netUNDEAD AND UNWARY, October 2014 NERD ALERT This is the yardstick by which I measure all nonfiction Historians often sacrifice the human aspect their subject to detail dates, times, economics, etc They often overload you with information for no clear reason, maybe to validate their amount of research Or they can go the opposite tack and leave you desperate for a year, a town, a battle, dear god anything you can use as a frame of reference Helen Castor is not that type of historian She is a consummate storyteller who supplies her nerds with their fix of dates, names, and places Say Simon Schama is at one end of the nonfiction spectrum the modern day chronicler who relies on the beauty of English language to tell the story of the English people, but often ignores specific dates and places and a McGraw Hill history textbook dry and matter of fact is on the other Castor falls right in the middle Her work is captivating, with a compassion for her subjects and a flair for the dramatic It flows like a novel but is unmistakably scholarly And like Schama, she has such a knack for putting subjects, events, and people into modern contexts I just love when an historian uses the phrase It would be as ifShe Wolves tells the story of forgotten queens, fleshing out their lives and explaining their motivations without recasting them as self conscious feminists Here again, Castor does a great job of avoiding the cliches many other writers of female history repeat These were flawed people and they made decisions based on power, survival, greed you know, like men not to prove the merits of their gender In all, this is just a fantastic book that balances facts with flair, the medieval with the modern, and therefore is satisfying on several levels. For a rigorous non fiction history book, this one s so easy to read that time flies by without notice and before you know, you ve finished it Helen Castor is definitely one of those few academics who can narrate true facts from history as if it were a novel, very amenable style, and not dry at all despite the amount of information.And it s so enjoyable despite already being pretty fairly familiar with the women discussed in this book, four extraordinary women who wielded royal power before the three Tudor queens that count as Britain s first official female rulers on their own right Their names are Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and Margaret of Anjou, and each of them led a very tumultuous life as Queen of England, or aspiring Queen Regnant in the case of the first, and started rebellions and civil wars in defence of their rights or their children s to rule.Of those, Matilda was the most interesting to me, and the most tragic Castor makes a good case in demonstrating how her gender was so huge an obstacle that her throne was usurped by men unable to accept a female ruling over them, in spite of solemn oaths taken to respect her father Henry I s bestowing of his crown on her as his heir but she doesn t stop at bemoaning the stupid oppressive patriarchy like I ve seen other scholars too focused on gender politics and political correctness do No, instead Helen Castor also discusses how Matilda s own personal flaws and mistakes in judgment played a role in her never attaining the crown that was hers I very much appreciated this balance, because there s nothing that annoys methan modern gender ideology retrospectively reinterpreting history to prove a point.Another section that I was impressed with was the one dealing with Isabella of France Again, a balanced study of the queen, and her husband as well Here, Castor debunks accepted myths about Edward II, like those related to his male favourites and the manner of his death, to cite just two examples But unlike others, she doesn t paint the king as someone simply misunderstood or slandered He wasn t competent, and made plenty of mistakes, full stop The sections dedicated to the lives of Eleanor and Margaret were the least interesting to me, mostly because I already know both queens perhaps a tad too well for an introductory type of biography to add anything really new to me I do love Eleanor s life story, and Castor does a great summary of the key events in her long existence But in the case of Margaret of Anjou, there s also the additional detail that she s never been an intriguing person to read about for me, unlike the other women I can t even picture her as a tragic figure but rather as a political failure It doesn t help that she s the only one of the four queens who didn t leave behind a legacy to justify in some measure all that spilt blood.In sum, this is an excellent introductory history book, very recommended for casual readers and those who want to know a bitabout the real history behind the popular novels that have a non Tudor English queen as a main character.