Saturday, October 9, 2010

Review: She Wolves - The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

From the Financial Times:
Shakespeare dubbed Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI, the “she-wolf of France”, a title that Helen Castor applies to four women who grasped regal power in England between the 12th and 16th centuries: Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Margaret of Anjou and Isabella of France.

Castor, however, gives their medieval stories a Tudor frame, opening with the dilemma of the dying Edward VI confronted by the fact that all the contenders for the throne are women, and concluding with the dramas of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, the triumphant Mary and the resolute Elizabeth I.

Through the tales of her heroines Castor traces the background to this indictment, before showing how it was negotiated by Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. She skilfully combines this analysis with driving narratives, using vivid details from contemporary chronicles to bring those distant days alive. She Wolves makes one gasp at the brutality of medieval power struggles – and at the strength and vitality of the women who sought to wield royal power.

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