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Isabella of France: The Life of a Medieval…

Isabella of France: The Life of a Medieval Queen

by Alison Weir

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Being a big fan of Alison Weir I had expected much from this biography. As it transpired, I found it disappointing.

Sections here and there were engaging but on the most part I found this tedious. Normally Ms Weir's non-fiction works feel almost like an entertaining novel, whereas this title felt more like a mundane academic thesis.

The style, which is usually good in Weir's books, was let down here with long-winded sentences kept going with semi-colons and commas. The majority of the semis could've been replaced with full stops followed by a new sentence, thus giving a smoother read. There were also a few too many sentences beginning with "Then", which always strikes me as poor style whilst sounding childish.

This work is similar to the bio on Katherine Swynford, which is the only other weak title that I've read to date by this otherwise great author, in that the text focuses more on those in the main subject's life rather than on the actual subject.

Thus, it seems misleading to name this as a bio on Queen Isabella when little info is available on her. Something like "Isabella and Her Times" may have been a more appropriate title.

In short, I found this good in a few parts, but disappointing on the whole. ( )
  PhilSyphe | May 3, 2015 |
I had previously read five of Alison Weir's books about the British monarchy, four of which are fiction, so when I saw this was available in audiobook format, I had to select it for my library's collection.

Subtitled "Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England," the book is about Isabella of France (1295-1358), the wife of England's (probably bisexual) King Edward II. Frustrated (along with much of England) with the king's promotion of his "favorites," she and Roger Mortimer (who became her lover) overthrew Edward II. They put her son Edward III on the throne, with Isabella ruling as regent on his behalf. Unfortunately she and Mortimer became unpopular, partly because of Isabella's greed. When her son Edward came of age, he executed Mortimer, but Isabella lived out the rest of her natural life in peace. I found much to admire in this queen.

However, Weir is a bit of an apologist for Isabella in this book. While I knew little about this queen before reading the book, and would agree she has gotten a bad rap in history, Weir seems to go to great effort to rehabilitate her "She-Wolf of France" reputation. Much of that reputation is based on theories that she and Mortimer had her husband murdered, but Weir presents theories that he did not even die naturally, but lived out his life as a hermit. There's not a lot of primary source material from that era, other than Isabella's account books - which do provide an excellent record of her movements and travel, as well as interesting detail about life in those days.

Unlike a lot of other nonfiction audiobooks I've tried, I found it pretty easy to follow this one. I think that's due to the narrator, Lisette Lecat, a native of South Africa, who lived in Spain, France, and England, where she worked as an actress, voiceover artist, journalist and translator. She now lives in the USA, narrates audiobooks, and writes plays. Lecat read the book slowly enough that I found I did not have to stop and repeat sections as often as I usually do with nonfiction audiobooks.

Nevertheless, I'd recommend a print copy of the book in addition to or instead of the audiobook, to have access to the many illustrations (most color plates), genealogical tables, extensive end notes and bibliography, and the index.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my university and local public libraries respectively. This review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Feb 27, 2015 |
Alison Weir's "Queen Isabella" was written to make the record straight when it came to Isabella. She was a woman who did what she had to do to get by but people saw that as a bad thing. Isabella, Edward II, and Mortimer all led interesting intertwined lives. I would recommend this book but I gave it 3 stars because it is a little hard to get through, the years and people are constantly changing and there isn't a real order to things. ( )
  Desilu42 | Aug 1, 2013 |
Like most of Mrs Weir's work, I found Queen Isabella to be a very entertaining and forceful read. Weir has a way of putting us right there with these historical figures in such a way that we start feeling like we know them intimately. Isabella was just a child of 12 or 13 when she came to the court of her, likely gay, new husband. Quickly shunted aside, she soon figured things out for herself and started taking charge.

Forgetting all of that, Weir adds great little details to give us a fuller, more 3D picture instead of just some biased, flat image like many historians will do. For instance, I found the bit about how Isabella became friends with her husband despite everything particularly moving. Another winner for Weir. ( )
  singtoangels | Jul 11, 2013 |
Normally I steam through books in one sitting, but this one is a harder nut to crack. It's very dense (well, it is a proper historical work and has a lot of stuff in the late 13th and early 14th century to lay out or recover from fragmentary sources). It's quite slow. But mostly, the point of it is to redeem or explain Isabella, who was married to Edward II (you'll know him as the one who died from a red-hot poker up the bum). The thing is that I hadn't heard of her before opening up this book, so had no particular need to have her redeemed to me - though finding out that it's quite likely that Edward didn't die of a red-hot poker after all is interesting, and the strong possibility that he escaped to the continent instead is even better. Quite exciting, that!

I'd recommend her book about the Princes in the Tower, or the other one about Eleanor of Acquitaine, more than this one - but I am getting plenty out of it, to be fair. ( )
  comixminx | Apr 5, 2013 |
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On 20 May 1303, a solemn betrothal took place in Paris.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345453204, Paperback)

In this vibrant biography, acclaimed author Alison Weir reexamines the life of Isabella of England, one of history’s most notorious and charismatic queens. Isabella arrived in London in 1308, the spirited twelve-year-old daughter of King Philip IV of France. Her marriage to the heir to England’s throne was designed to heal old political wounds between the two countries, and in the years that followed she became an important figure, a determined and clever woman whose influence would come to last centuries. Many myths and legends have been woven around Isabella’s story, but in this first full biography in more than 150 years, Alison Weir gives a groundbreaking new perspective.

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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:17 -0400)

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A portrait of Queen Isabella describes her marriage to Edward II, the king's homosexual affairs, her flight back to France, and her alliance with her husband's arch-enemy, Roger Mortimer, with whom she launched a revolution.

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