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The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of…

The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples,… (2009)

by Nancy Goldstone

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A fascinating biography of an overlooked medieval queen, Joanna of Naples. Nancy Goldstone does an excellent job of portraying the opulent court of Naples, the motivations behind its leaders and rivals, and making sense of the intrigues and politics that surrounded Joanna during her thirty-year reign and eventually led to her downfall. Good reading for anyone interested in medieval Europe! ( )
1 vote wagner.sarah35 | Mar 26, 2014 |
If you didn't know that it was all true, the life story of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, would read like something from a terrible daytime soap: heir to the throne of Naples, she inherits the throne from her grandfather at the age of 17. She marries first her younger cousin, Andrew, who lacked both intelligence and charm; Andrew was murdered by some of her partisans, and accusations that Joanna had been involved led to Andrew's family taking away Joanna's toddler son by Andrew, who died shortly afterwards. Joanna then married another cousin, who was a total bastard, and had two more daughters by him (who both died young); then a Spanish king-without-a-kingdom who turned out to be insane; and finally to an older German duke who was attractive because of his military savvy. Are you boggling yet? This is all before I tell you that this took place against a backdrop of plague, Papal schism, economic collapse, the writings of Boccaccio, and general political intrigue.

Goldstone does a pretty good job at piecing together Joanna's life from the surviving sources--the medieval sources for the kingdom were largely deliberately destroyed by the Nazis in '43. Where the book is weak is in some of its treatment of the chronicle sources, and in how consistently it tries to place Joanna in her wider context, or in using some of what we do know about Joanna to plausibly extrapolate more about her role. Goldstone has also a tendency to go off on tangents which I suspect she felt necessary in order to pad out the word count—did we really need a blow-by-blow account of the battle of Crécy when our focus in on Sicily? All that said, I think it wouldn't be a bad text to use in an undergraduate history course, especially as Goldstone's conscious aim is to show how a woman could successfully govern a medieval kingdom, despite the ways in which Joanna was largely dismissed by later historians. There's a lot here which undergrads could usefully tackle in terms of both the pros and the cons of historical writing.

(As an aside, I can't believe the number of reviews on this site about The Lady Queen which dismiss it for 'not being a very good novel'. Are there really so many people out there who don't grasp the difference between a novel and a biography? Between fiction and non-fiction? 'Novel' is not a straight synonym for 'book'.) ( )
3 vote siriaeve | Feb 16, 2013 |
A very enjoyable read: in fact, so enjoyable I became a little paranoid. Well-written revisionist history that purports to overturn or substantially add to our understanding of a period often turns out to have remarkably shaky foundations, with the author so keen to spin out a brand ne way of looking at a figure or era that it turns out there's more wish-fullfilment than anything else.

Happily, it appears that Goldstone has done her research: there is meticulous detail around her sources, sadly limited by an act of Nazi barbarism in destroying a huge cache containing much of the extant records of this period, and has consulted expert translators for primary sources she herself is unable to read. She appears to have familiarised herself with both the primary and secondary sources available on Joanna herself, and also on the other figures who touch on her life, and the period in general.

Joanna's story is fascinating: her father having obtained papal recognition that she be able to rule Naples and Avignon in her own right before he died the story of her life are the decades of battles to retain her kingdom; in that regard she is perhaps no different to many other monarchs of the era, but she faced the special challenge that every marriage, bar her last, would see a husband determined to overturn her primacy by one means or another; her relationships with a sucession of Popes, the good governance of her kingdom, personal capability (she represented herself, in Latin, at a Church trial against a claim of murdering her husband), and her sheer determination to retain her birthright make for compelling reading.

I would highly recommend it to anyone with more than a passing inerest in medieval or feminist history. ( )
2 vote hroethgar | May 29, 2012 |
I was very excited to get into this book. Unfortunately, it has been hard to finish. The book is a very detailed history of Joanna I and was very dry at times. I was expecting it to be more along the lines of "The Other Boleyn Girl" etc. and was sadly disappointed it was more like reading a history book for my college course. If you are into the history, you will love this book. ( )
  Nojiskma | Sep 14, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
At first I was intimidated by trying to tackle a historical biography, but Nancy Goldstone writes in a way that makes reading history easy and imaginative. Her research is impeccable and composed in a way that can keep a reader engaged.
I was disappointed in myself for not knowing about Joanna I sooner! As a Literature student I should have known about the queen who supported both Petrarch and Boccaccio. Which brings me to believe that Goldman is selecting her topics wisely as an author. By providing detailed information on the people readers "should not about but don't" and writing about history in a way that makes it accessible to readers that are not history buffs... Goladman has really found a needed niche in the literary community. ( )
1 vote kylljoi | Mar 23, 2010 |
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The Papal Court at Avignon, March 15, 1348--more than six hundred and fifty years ago, Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Sicily, and Jerusalem and countess of Provence, stood trial for her life.
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A biography of Joanna or Joan I (1328-1382), Queen of Naples in her own right, who had one of the most complicated inheritances of the Middle Ages. She succeeded to her thrones and estates due to the lack of a male heir and was married four times. The first time was to her cousin Prince Andrew of Hungary, a marriage devised while they were children as an expedient to satisfy the rival claims of the two branches of the house of Anjou. Although Joan and Andrew were supposed to be joint rulers, she obtained help from Pope Clement VI to become sole queen at age 16. A year later, Prince Andrew was murdered, and it was believed that Joan was behind the deed. Andrew's brother King Louis I of Hungary invaded Naples and seized power. The deposed queen and her new husband fled Naples but later returned to expel the Hungarians. Louis then proposed a compromise: that Joanna should stand trial for the murder at Avignon (then the seat of popes), and if found guilty, she should surrender her kingdom to him. Joan agreed. In 1352 the papal court declared her innocent, and the kingdom of Naples was restored to her and her husband. Joan held on to power during another 30 years of political violence and war before being murdered herself.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802716709, Hardcover)

The riveting history of a beautiful queen, a shocking murder, a papal trial—and a reign as triumphant as any in the Middle A ges.

On March 15, 1348, Joanna I , Queen of Naples, stood trial for her life before the Pope and his court in Avignon. She was twenty-two years old. Her cousin and husband, Prince Andrew of Hungary, had recently been murdered, and Joanna was the chief suspect. Determined to defend herself—Joanna won her acquittal against enormous odds. Returning to Naples, she ruled over one of Europe’s most prestigious courts for more than thirty years—until she was herself murdered.

As courageous as Eleanor of Aquitaine, as astute and determined as Elizabeth I of England, Joanna was the only female monarch in her time to rule in her own name. She was notorious: The taint of her husband’s death never quite left her. But she was also widely admired: Dedicated to the welfare of her subjects and realm, she reduced crime, built hospitals and churches, and encouraged the licensing of women physicians. While a procession of the most important artists and writers of her day found patronage at her glittering court, the turmoil of her times swirled around her: war, plague, intrigue, and the treachery that would, ultimately, bring her down.

As she did in her acclaimed Four Queens, Nancy Goldstone takes us back to the turbulent and colorful Middle Ages, and with skill and passion brings fully to life one of history’s most remarkable women. Her research is impeccable, her eye for detail unerring, and in The Lady Queen she paints a captivating portrait of medieval royalty in all its incandescent complexity.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:08 -0400)

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The riveting history of a beautiful queen, a shocking murder, a papal trial--and a reign as triumphant as any in the Middle Ages. As courageous as Eleanor of Aquitaine, as astute and determined as Elizabeth I of England, Joanna, Queen of Naples, was the only female monarch in her time to rule in her own name.… (more)

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