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Queens of the Conquest: England's Medieval…
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Queens of the Conquest: England's Medieval Queens Book One

by Alison Weir

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Although I am an avid History reader, I always approach any Non-Fiction History books with caution, since we all know that no Historian (either professional or amateur) can be wholly objective, especially when it comes to biographies. Now, I can't claim to be much familiar with Alison Weir's work, but she comes highly recommended by trusted Goodreads friends and since the extraordinary queens in English History have always been a favourite subject of mine, I chose "Queens of the Conquest" eagerly. I wasn't disappointed. I found the book to be thoroughly researched and a satisfying read with only a few weak parts.

The book narrates the lives of the queens of England after the Norman conquest in 1066 but doesn't include Emma of Normandy and Eleanor of Aquitaine (who is mentioned in the periphery, nonetheless) along with Isabella of France since Weir has written separate biographies of the two illustrious monarchs. So, our focus is on Matilda of Flanders of the Bayeux Tapestry fame, Matilda of Scotland, Adeliza of Louvain, Matilda of Boulogne, and my personal favourite, the Empress Maud.

Weir stresses the fact that sources of information coming from monastic chronicles are difficult to be trusted. Think of the raiding Vikings and the horned helmets which was a fairy-tale way for the monks to refer to the Norsemen as the personification of the Devil. And it is to be expected that the views of the Church authorities about a woman in a position of full power were not favourable, to put it mildly. It is evident in her writing that Weir tries to create a balanced view of each queen by presenting the positive and the negative opinions of the time. She includes letters, chronicles and testimonials to paint a portrait of each woman that will be as rounded and objective as possible. In my opinion, she succeeds to the fullest and creates a vivid biography by providing background information about the era, the daily life, the castles, the clothes, the customs and beliefs.

"And so it lasted till the land was all undone and darkened with such deeds; and men said openly that Christ and His Saints slept"

The narration of the war between Maud and Stephen and the time of his reign which was called "The Anarchy" is the most fascinating moment of the book, in my opinion. Maud has always been one of my favourite queens along with Isabella of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I like the rebel queens who refused to be defined by their husbands and bend the knee. Maud is also one of the reason I love Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth" so much. Part 4 is a beauty. There we have the first years of Henry's reign in the shadow of his mother, Maud, and his wife, Eleanor.It is an era that most history buffs are very familiar with, an era that brought about so many changes not only in England but in the whole European continent. Another incident that attracted my attention was the complex, turbulent relationship between Matilda of Flanders and William the Conqueror. If the historical anecdotes are indeed accurate, then Matilda was an extremely courageous woman to put up with such a husband. Not that there were many means that women could use to defend themselves at the time, whether they were queens or peasants.

The only weak part of the book, in my opinion, was the heavy inclusion of correspondence. Certainly, it helps us understand and realize that these historical figures that contributed in shaping Europe were people with fears, hopes, passions and incredible responsibilities on their shoulders. However, the Appendixes include the letters in their entirety. It became progressively tiresome to stop the narration in order to present quotes from the same letter again and again. Another thing that diminished my enjoyment was the plethora of syntactical and grammatical mistakes in my ARC. I hope and - believe that they will be corrected in the published book, because they are almost childish at parts and yes, I am a serious case of Grammar Nazi, I admit.

Whether you are a connoisseur of the times of the Norman conquest and the monarchs that sealed England's future forever or whether you wish to become familiar with the lives of five of the most fascinating women to ever grace this continent in an era full of changes, fights and progress and all at the same time, this book will definitely satisfy your craving.

Many thanks to Random House UK, Vintage Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange of an honest review.
( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
Although I am an avid History reader, I always approach any Non-Fiction History books with caution, since we all know that no Historian (either professional or amateur) can be wholly objective, especially when it comes to biographies. Now, I can't claim to be much familiar with Alison Weir's work, but she comes highly recommended by trusted Goodreads friends and since the extraordinary queens in English History have always been a favourite subject of mine, I chose "Queens of the Conquest" eagerly. I wasn't disappointed. I found the book to be thoroughly researched and a satisfying read with only a few weak parts.

The book narrates the lives of the queens of England after the Norman conquest in 1066 but doesn't include Emma of Normandy and Eleanor of Aquitaine (who is mentioned in the periphery, nonetheless) along with Isabella of France since Weir has written separate biographies of the two illustrious monarchs. So, our focus is on Matilda of Flanders of the Bayeux Tapestry fame, Matilda of Scotland, Adeliza of Louvain, Matilda of Boulogne, and my personal favourite, the Empress Maud.

Weir stresses the fact that sources of information coming from monastic chronicles are difficult to be trusted. Think of the raiding Vikings and the horned helmets which was a fairy-tale way for the monks to refer to the Norsemen as the personification of the Devil. And it is to be expected that the views of the Church authorities about a woman in a position of full power were not favourable, to put it mildly. It is evident in her writing that Weir tries to create a balanced view of each queen by presenting the positive and the negative opinions of the time. She includes letters, chronicles and testimonials to paint a portrait of each woman that will be as rounded and objective as possible. In my opinion, she succeeds to the fullest and creates a vivid biography by providing background information about the era, the daily life, the castles, the clothes, the customs and beliefs.

"And so it lasted till the land was all undone and darkened with such deeds; and men said openly that Christ and His Saints slept"

The narration of the war between Maud and Stephen and the time of his reign which was called "The Anarchy" is the most fascinating moment of the book, in my opinion. Maud has always been one of my favourite queens along with Isabella of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I like the rebel queens who refused to be defined by their husbands and bend the knee. Maud is also one of the reason I love Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth" so much. Part 4 is a beauty. There we have the first years of Henry's reign in the shadow of his mother, Maud, and his wife, Eleanor.It is an era that most history buffs are very familiar with, an era that brought about so many changes not only in England but in the whole European continent. Another incident that attracted my attention was the complex, turbulent relationship between Matilda of Flanders and William the Conqueror. If the historical anecdotes are indeed accurate, then Matilda was an extremely courageous woman to put up with such a husband. Not that there were many means that women could use to defend themselves at the time, whether they were queens or peasants.

The only weak part of the book, in my opinion, was the heavy inclusion of correspondence. Certainly, it helps us understand and realize that these historical figures that contributed in shaping Europe were people with fears, hopes, passions and incredible responsibilities on their shoulders. However, the Appendixes include the letters in their entirety. It became progressively tiresome to stop the narration in order to present quotes from the same letter again and again. Another thing that diminished my enjoyment was the plethora of syntactical and grammatical mistakes in my ARC. I hope and - believe that they will be corrected in the published book, because they are almost childish at parts and yes, I am a serious case of Grammar Nazi, I admit.

Whether you are a connoisseur of the times of the Norman conquest and the monarchs that sealed England's future forever or whether you wish to become familiar with the lives of five of the most fascinating women to ever grace this continent in an era full of changes, fights and progress and all at the same time, this book will definitely satisfy your craving.

Many thanks to Random House UK, Vintage Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange of an honest review. ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
I think Alison Weir made a good choice to cover the Norman queens collectively, rather than dedicate individual books to each consort, as there isn’t enough info available on any of them to achieve an effective biography. Her biographies on Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabela of France, and Katherine Swynford rank – in my view – as this talented authors weakest non-fiction books because of the scant info on each of these women.

Therefore, with this collection we have a much better read on all the Matildas. I was already familiar with the period covered, though not so much from the women’s perspective, apart from Henry I’s daughter Matilda’s conflict with King Stephen and her years mentoring her son Henry II.

Overall, I thought this was a very good read, though not quite captivating enough to rate it five stars.

I listened to the audiobook version, which is read by one of the oddest narrators I’ve ever heard. She pauses too long at the end of sentences, and worse still, she pauses in the *middle* of sentences. This irritating habit really spoiled the listening experience. One star for the narrator. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Mar 19, 2018 |
An absorbing account of England's first medieval queens. This is the first in a set of books detailing the lives of the medieval queens of England. It is very well researched and sheds light on how they lived and the power they wielded. As a descendant of four of the five queens chronicled on this book, I found the subject matter endlessly fascinating. Of course, having a healthy love of history helps, too. In this book, we see the life of William the Conqueror's wife, Matilda, all the way through the life of his granddaughter, Empress Maud. Very interesting reading. ( )
  briandrewz | Mar 14, 2018 |
I cannot believe this but I didn't finish this book. I read 200 of the 400 plus pages and just found it boring. This is my all time favorite historical non fiction and fiction author, so it pains me to say this.
  dawnlopez29 | Feb 21, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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"Spanning the years from the Norman conquest in 1066 to the dawn of a new era in 1154, when Henry II succeeded to the throne and Eleanor of Aquitaine, the first Plantagenet queen, was crowned, this ... book brings to ... life five women: Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror, the first Norman king; Matilda of Scotland, revered as 'the common mother of all England'; Adeliza of Louvain, the young beauty whom the aging Henry I married to get an heir; Matilda of Boulogne, one of the most desirable brides in Europe, who fought a war on behalf of her husband, King Stephen, against the Empress Maud, England's first female ruler and this book's fifth queen, whose son King Henry II would go on to found the Plantagenet dynasty. More than those who came before or after them, these Norman consorts were recognized as equal sharers in sovereignty. Drawing from the most reliable contemporary sources, Weir skillfully strips away centuries of romantic lore to share a balanced and authentic take on the importance of these female monarchs."--From dust jacket.… (more)

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