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Queens of the Crusades

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Packed with incredible true stories and legendary medieval intrigue, this epic narrative history chronicles the first five queens from the powerful royal family that ruled England and France for over three hundred years. This remarkable recreation of the action-packed century that saw the murder of Thomas Becket and the signing of the Magna Carta covers the lives and reigns Packed with incredible true stories and legendary medieval intrigue, this epic narrative history chronicles the first five queens from the powerful royal family that ruled England and France for over three hundred years. This remarkable recreation of the action-packed century that saw the murder of Thomas Becket and the signing of the Magna Carta covers the lives and reigns of the first five Plantagenet queens, who ruled England and France throughout the bloody 1200s, a particularly dramatic and violent period of European history. Wars, crusades, treachery, murder, passion, and the interplay between rival monarchs of Britain and France provide a surprising picture of these five ambitious women and their struggle for power. The queens covered in the book are Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile. One of these queens became legendary when, accompanying her husband on crusade, she saved his life by sucking the blood from his poisoned-arrow wound. Equally intriguing are the descriptions of their marriages, including one that was extremely tempestuous, and one that was a love match turned sour when the jealous husband discovered his queen's infidelity and retaliated by killing her lovers and hanging their bodies from the canopy of her bed. This second volume of historian Alison Weir's critically acclaimed Medieval Queens series brings these unfamiliar, fascinating royals to life, demonstrating how very much they resemble self-determining women of our own time.


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Packed with incredible true stories and legendary medieval intrigue, this epic narrative history chronicles the first five queens from the powerful royal family that ruled England and France for over three hundred years. This remarkable recreation of the action-packed century that saw the murder of Thomas Becket and the signing of the Magna Carta covers the lives and reigns Packed with incredible true stories and legendary medieval intrigue, this epic narrative history chronicles the first five queens from the powerful royal family that ruled England and France for over three hundred years. This remarkable recreation of the action-packed century that saw the murder of Thomas Becket and the signing of the Magna Carta covers the lives and reigns of the first five Plantagenet queens, who ruled England and France throughout the bloody 1200s, a particularly dramatic and violent period of European history. Wars, crusades, treachery, murder, passion, and the interplay between rival monarchs of Britain and France provide a surprising picture of these five ambitious women and their struggle for power. The queens covered in the book are Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile. One of these queens became legendary when, accompanying her husband on crusade, she saved his life by sucking the blood from his poisoned-arrow wound. Equally intriguing are the descriptions of their marriages, including one that was extremely tempestuous, and one that was a love match turned sour when the jealous husband discovered his queen's infidelity and retaliated by killing her lovers and hanging their bodies from the canopy of her bed. This second volume of historian Alison Weir's critically acclaimed Medieval Queens series brings these unfamiliar, fascinating royals to life, demonstrating how very much they resemble self-determining women of our own time.

30 review for Queens of the Crusades

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vonda

    This one is for the history lovers, another well researced book from Alison Weir. This is a very in depth look at the wives of some of the greatest kings of medieval England. Ms. Weir has a magical way of bringing history to life and making each character alive and vibrant. She has a beautiful, lyrical way of portraying history. Reading any of her books are a learning experience on history that never gets boring.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Margolynn

    What an amazing creative read. I always know I’m in for a great read when I get one of this authors books. And this one was didn’t let me down. The storyline was captivating and intriguing the characters were engaging and believable. You could almost see it playing out as you read. If you enjoy historical fiction you’ll enjoy this book. Can’t wait to read what this author has for us next

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    Like the first book in the series, this was a well researched study, but for me it wasn't as compelling as other Weir's works; probably because Weir focuses on the kings just as much, if not more, as the queens. This is probably because for some of them the available informations are not many, or because she wants to give a more complete view of the times. Personally I would have preferred if the book was shorter but more focused on the queens. However, it is still a good non-fiction book and I Like the first book in the series, this was a well researched study, but for me it wasn't as compelling as other Weir's works; probably because Weir focuses on the kings just as much, if not more, as the queens. This is probably because for some of them the available informations are not many, or because she wants to give a more complete view of the times. Personally I would have preferred if the book was shorter but more focused on the queens. However, it is still a good non-fiction book and I would recommend it if you are interested in the historical period.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    What struck me the most from reading this marvelously researched and thorough book, is the dynasty of the Plantagenets family timeline! Alison Weir does it again. She is the epitome of historic authors particularly in this Medieval realm. I cannot read enough of her books. I had no idea that the word Plantagenet came from Planta genista - which was a sprig of broom, and that the name wasn't adopted as a royal surname until the 15th Century. This book is filled with wonderful new things that I di What struck me the most from reading this marvelously researched and thorough book, is the dynasty of the Plantagenets family timeline! Alison Weir does it again. She is the epitome of historic authors particularly in this Medieval realm. I cannot read enough of her books. I had no idea that the word Plantagenet came from Planta genista - which was a sprig of broom, and that the name wasn't adopted as a royal surname until the 15th Century. This book is filled with wonderful new things that I didn't know, as that. The women of that time who were queens went through so much, especially with their randy husbands, all Kings. They gave birth to so many children which is unheard of today. This book had me riveted and answered many questions I have had over the years when reading about these 5 Queens. The riches, the furs, the jewelry....amazing! But all the Kings dalliances were outrageous! I particularly loved reading that during the Eleanor of Aquitaine chapter that the food wasn't very good during that time in one of their castles. Realizing how old Windsor Castle is, is still amazing to me. Thank you Alison Weir, for once again, writing the most amazing book. These Queens would be proud to read it and you continue to give the people of this time such respect, awe and dignity. Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the perusal of The Queens of the Crusade by Alison Weir. It was a pleasure to read!!!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Helen Carolan

    Another excellent piece of history from Ms Weir. This is the second in her medieval queens series. It starts with Eleanor of Aquitaine and follows the queens who came after her, from her daughters, daughters in law and other family. Terrific read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC. I enjoyed this. I'd previously read Weir's longer book on Eleanor of Aquitaine and loved it, and I liked this too, although I'm not sure the different spellings of the Eleanors helped me always keep everyone straight. If one is not familiar with this period, I am afraid that keeping people straight might be a challenge; even I struggled with this and I for nerdy reasons memorized all the Norman and Plantagenet kings and queens when I was about 14. Not a ton of ne Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC. I enjoyed this. I'd previously read Weir's longer book on Eleanor of Aquitaine and loved it, and I liked this too, although I'm not sure the different spellings of the Eleanors helped me always keep everyone straight. If one is not familiar with this period, I am afraid that keeping people straight might be a challenge; even I struggled with this and I for nerdy reasons memorized all the Norman and Plantagenet kings and queens when I was about 14. Not a ton of new info, and my copy did not have the illustrations (bummer). I liked it, not sure how widely applicable and attractive it will be for the average American.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    This author is amazing. I cannot even imagine how much time she spends doing research. And she publishes fairly frequently. It's stunning. This is the second in the series about the queens of England. This one covers the time period coinciding with the Crusades. Instead of looking at the kings, the author delves into the lives of the queens. It covers early lives and goes through widowhood. It looks at contemporary accounts and tries to pull truth out of other people's opinions. She manages to h This author is amazing. I cannot even imagine how much time she spends doing research. And she publishes fairly frequently. It's stunning. This is the second in the series about the queens of England. This one covers the time period coinciding with the Crusades. Instead of looking at the kings, the author delves into the lives of the queens. It covers early lives and goes through widowhood. It looks at contemporary accounts and tries to pull truth out of other people's opinions. She manages to have an opinion and be unbiased all at the same time. I hope there will be more of these. I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John Marshall

    Reasonable introduction for the general reader, let down by factual errors, an over reliance on Mathew Paris for source material and poor to non existent foot noting - the latter perhaps excused for a book aimed at the general reader. In short, disappointing .... for Leonor de Castille recommend Sara Cockerill and Alianor de Provence recommend Margaret Howell

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    As usual, I loved this book. It didn’t seem to have as many funny asides as the first in the series but I’m always amazed at how quickly Weir can churn these books out! This installment follows Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile. I would say that the first and the last Eleanors get the most air time, but the women also have overlapping timelines (which can make things a bit confusing). Weir’s research uncovers what the wo As usual, I loved this book. It didn’t seem to have as many funny asides as the first in the series but I’m always amazed at how quickly Weir can churn these books out! This installment follows Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile. I would say that the first and the last Eleanors get the most air time, but the women also have overlapping timelines (which can make things a bit confusing). Weir’s research uncovers what the women wore, where they spent their time, how their relationships were with their husbands (and sometimes their children), as well as the legacies they left behind. It’s sad how much was destroyed during the English Civil War and the French Revolution, very little is left from these women’s lives, and in some cases we don’t even know what happened to their remains. It’s hard to get a sense of what personality each of these women may have had, but it’s clear that they commanded love and respect from their people even if they did not always get it from their families or peers of the realm. There is so much information here, I know that I could read this book multiple times and always learn something new. See more of my reviews: Instagram

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    560 pages 5 stars The research for this book must have been exhaustive. My hat is off to Ms. Weir for her dedication and determination to fully examine any available documents of the day in order to put this book together. Covering so many important personages in one book is a serious undertaking. The reader gets a full picture of what life was like for these queens. Most I had not heard of – only their husbands. (Isn't that just the way?) I was very glad to read about these courageous women who m 560 pages 5 stars The research for this book must have been exhaustive. My hat is off to Ms. Weir for her dedication and determination to fully examine any available documents of the day in order to put this book together. Covering so many important personages in one book is a serious undertaking. The reader gets a full picture of what life was like for these queens. Most I had not heard of – only their husbands. (Isn't that just the way?) I was very glad to read about these courageous women who made a difference in their world. Alison Weir has been a favorite author of mine for years and I very much look forward to reading her next book. We learn that the Plantagenet queens mentioned in the book were not just royal consorts of their husbands, but took an active part in the making of policy and the contributions to the monarchy were valuable. For over three hundred years, these women influenced the court. During a period of time when wives were completely subjugated to their husbands or fathers, being listened to and assisting with decision-making was quite an achievement. (Although not all of their decisions or machinations were for the good.) I want to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing – Ballantine/Ballantine for forwarding to me a copy of this instructive and interesting book for me to read, enjoy and review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bookgrrl

    Queens of the Crusades is Alison Weir's new book about five powerful Plantagenet queens from medieval times. I was already familiar with several of these queen's stories, but had never heard of Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, or Alienor of Provence. I have to admit medieval England & France is not my strong suit (I read more Tudor era), so this book provided a lot of new information to me. Alison Weir is the author who got me hooked on history. Her books are always well researched, Queens of the Crusades is Alison Weir's new book about five powerful Plantagenet queens from medieval times. I was already familiar with several of these queen's stories, but had never heard of Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, or Alienor of Provence. I have to admit medieval England & France is not my strong suit (I read more Tudor era), so this book provided a lot of new information to me. Alison Weir is the author who got me hooked on history. Her books are always well researched, chock full of information, and yet never stuffy or boring. The Six Wives of Henry VIII remains my favorite of Weir's books, but this book was very enjoyable as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir is an excellent nonfiction that gives the reader a wonderful opportunity to delve into the fascinating women that were the first of the Plantagenet Queens in England. This book is the second installment of a fabulous series of books by Ms. Weir that delves into the women that helped rule and shape a nation in their own rights. The first book, Queens of Conquest discusses the pivotal women that predate this book. This is a stand-alone nonfiction, but if you e Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir is an excellent nonfiction that gives the reader a wonderful opportunity to delve into the fascinating women that were the first of the Plantagenet Queens in England. This book is the second installment of a fabulous series of books by Ms. Weir that delves into the women that helped rule and shape a nation in their own rights. The first book, Queens of Conquest discusses the pivotal women that predate this book. This is a stand-alone nonfiction, but if you enjoy this novel as much as I did, you will want to read its predecessor. This book covers five queens: 1. Eleanor of Aquitaine- Queen of Henry II 2. Berengaria of Navarre- Queen of Richard I 3. Isabella of Angoulême- Queen of John (Yes that John) 4. Alienor of Provence- Queen of Henry III 5. Eleanor of Castile- Queen of Edward I. Some more famous then others, all equally fascinating. Ms. Weir clearly did her research, and this book weaves together the stories of these women seamlessly. At times, it felt like I was reading fiction vs nonfiction...it was that enjoyable. I learned so much more about these intriguing women, as well as even more English history. Truly wonderful. 5/5 stars Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine/Random House for this wonderful ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR, Bookbub, and Instagram accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kay Mcleer

    I always enjoy Ms. Weir's writing and this book had what I was looking for and I really enjoyed reading this. I love the use of history and that Ms. Weir writes about interesting Queens in history. I always enjoy Ms. Weir's writing and this book had what I was looking for and I really enjoyed reading this. I love the use of history and that Ms. Weir writes about interesting Queens in history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir is an excellent nonfiction that gives the reader a wonderful opportunity to delve into the fascinating women that were the first of the Plantagenet Queens in England. This book is the second installment of a fabulous series of books by Ms. Weir that delves into the women that helped rule and shape a nation in their own rights. The first book, Queens of Conquest discusses the pivotal women that predate this book. This is a stand-alone nonfiction, but if you e Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir is an excellent nonfiction that gives the reader a wonderful opportunity to delve into the fascinating women that were the first of the Plantagenet Queens in England. This book is the second installment of a fabulous series of books by Ms. Weir that delves into the women that helped rule and shape a nation in their own rights. The first book, Queens of Conquest discusses the pivotal women that predate this book. This is a stand-alone nonfiction, but if you enjoy this novel as much as I did, you will want to read its predecessor. This book covers five queens: 1. Eleanor of Aquitaine- Queen of Henry II 2. Berengaria of Navarre- Queen of Richard I 3. Isabella of Angoulême- Queen of John (Yes that John) 4. Alienor of Provence- Queen of Henry III 5. Eleanor of Castile- Queen of Edward I. Some more famous then others, all equally fascinating. Ms. Weir clearly did her research, and this book weaves together the stories of these women seamlessly. At times, it felt like I was reading fiction vs nonfiction...it was that enjoyable. I learned so much more about these intriguing women, as well as even more English history. Truly wonderful. 5/5 stars Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine/Random House for this wonderful ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR, Bookbub, and Instagram accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    If there was such a profession as forensic time-traveling trip advisor, British author Alison Weir would qualify, and then some. QUEENS OF THE CRUSADES, her latest in an impressive canon of more than two-dozen historical biographies and novels, tracks medieval journeys with an extraordinary precision worthy of 21st-century royal itineraries. Days, months, years, routes, retinues, lodgings, weather conditions, luggage, expenditures, catastrophes --- all some nine centuries in the past --- leap fro If there was such a profession as forensic time-traveling trip advisor, British author Alison Weir would qualify, and then some. QUEENS OF THE CRUSADES, her latest in an impressive canon of more than two-dozen historical biographies and novels, tracks medieval journeys with an extraordinary precision worthy of 21st-century royal itineraries. Days, months, years, routes, retinues, lodgings, weather conditions, luggage, expenditures, catastrophes --- all some nine centuries in the past --- leap from Weir’s pages amid the turbulent politics and culture of 12th- and 13th-century post-Norman Conquest society. Simply put, European rulers of widely dispersed subjects were almost obliged to be constantly on the move, since in-person engagement was the only sure means of verifying one’s existence and presenting a visibly powerful image to supporters and rivals. Back then, the borders of England and France were fluid, to put it mildly. During the fractious period spanned by the reigns of Henry II, Richard I, John I, Henry III, Edward I and their remarkable consorts, all queens in their own right, the distinct countries we know today were uneasily twinned across the Channel as a bickering, contentious empire of semi-autonomous regions and states. While these kings officially held all the power, they proved inconsistent and sometimes indecisive in its application, often leaving their responsibilities for years at a stretch to go on papal crusades against little-known but greatly feared “infidels” in the Holy Land. Their queen-consorts, who occasionally accompanied them but mainly held fragile realms together in their absence, were another story, as Weir so powerfully conveys. QUEENS OF THE CRUSADES is a brilliant, compelling and meticulously detailed revelation of the overlapping lives led by Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204), wife of Henry II; Berengaria of Navarre (1165-1230), wife of Richard I; Isabella of Angoulême (c.1186-1246), wife of John I; Alienor of Provence (c.1223-1291), wife of Henry III; and Eleonore of Castile (1241-1290), wife of Edward I. Statistically alone, all five women lived far beyond average “old age” of the era. Even Eleonore of Castile, dying just short of 50 and having birthed at least 18 children, would have been a medieval senior citizen by 40. At the other end of the spectrum, the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine lived to the extraordinary age of 82, a tireless traveler and administrator until her final year. Not surprisingly, most outlived their older (or more reckless) husbands, becoming powerful even behind the scenes as regents, deal makers, marriage brokers, fundraisers, administrators and, of course, fashion icons. Through deep research into what medieval royalty bought, ate and wore, Weir turns ancient lists, ledgers, invoices, receipts and personal letters into vivid slices of life at a time when rich and poor alike were equally vulnerable to diseases that baffled medical knowledge. In all of QUEENS OF THE CRUSADES, a single book in the possession of one of Weir’s royal heroines dealt with health and hygiene. That small but important piece of evidence attests to the proactive stance that all five women took when it came to quality-of-life issues. Because travel was limited to the three basic modes of foot, horse or boat, it entailed elaborate and extensive preparations. Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries, royals on both sides of the Channel didn’t just go on single-suitcase visiting tours. They moved entire households of furniture and personal effects from one castle to another using huge fleets of ships or wagon convoys. There was no guarantee that the castle left empty for a season wouldn’t have been conquered and taken over by an upstart baron or two before one could return, so it was not unusual for seats of government to move frequently. What never fails to astonish history lovers today is how often and how far people did travel, not just within the land masses of early France and England, but back and forth across the unpredictable English Channel. Travel may well have influenced royal parenting as well. It was rare for preteen children to travel with their parents, even for arranged political marriages. Infant betrothals, in which all five queens were masterful negotiators, were typically followed by proxy marriages until couples were old enough to meet in person. And with royal parents seemingly always on crusade or touring the country in the interests of political stability, children were placed very early in the care of nurses and surrogate families of high-ranking loyal nobility. As father and son respectively, Henry II and III barely knew one another and competed for power; it wasn’t unusual for siblings or close cousins from both sides of the water to end up at war. As Weir illustrates with copious references to correspondence and contemporary chroniclers, it was left to the queens to influence and foster strong personal relationships among themselves and their families throughout long overlapping reigns. Records of lavish gifts in clothing or jewelry, loans, interventions, protection and any number of favors were usually enough to keep channels of communication open even during the worst of times. In its abundant detail about real lives lived amid the broad political strokes of medieval kings, QUEENS OF THE CRUSADES captures a rich sensory impression of how five brilliant yet fallible women managed their subject societies in a precarious and dangerously changeable world. Reviewed by Pauline Finch

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    Alison Weir's new book Queens of the Crusades begin pretty much where Queens of Conquest ended once Henry was designated heir. We obviously start with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry's queen, at the beginning of her life. We continue with Matilda as well. The book progresses through the life of all subsequent queens through Eleanor of Castile's death in 1290, at which point there were none still living. All were followed through the end of their life, not the end of their husband's life, which I app Alison Weir's new book Queens of the Crusades begin pretty much where Queens of Conquest ended once Henry was designated heir. We obviously start with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry's queen, at the beginning of her life. We continue with Matilda as well. The book progresses through the life of all subsequent queens through Eleanor of Castile's death in 1290, at which point there were none still living. All were followed through the end of their life, not the end of their husband's life, which I appreciated, particularly in the case of Richard's queen, Berengaria. I had never known that she had such issues obtaining the funds due to her and retired to become essentially the lord of a town in France. Obviously included were descriptions of their husband’s activities at this time when they related to the queen’s life. The book tried to bring many of these queens to life, infusing them with a probable exaggeration of their feelings and personalities compared to what chronicles provide. This was at its worst for Isabella of Angouleme and Eleanor of Aquitaine (see below). In addition, there was often dialogue added, which just made no sense, particularly when there wasn’t even a citation to back up where it came from. Obviously, any dialogue would have been written ex post facto and shouldn’t be used to make historical judgements. The majority of legends were accurately treated and dispelled as historically inaccurate, which I appreciated, having read the historians analysis of them in classes last semester. Still, why did Weir use the much later, unsourced history of William Camden at least once? It diminished her credibility, already on shaky ground. There was also a weird diagnosis of one of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile’s daughters with Rett syndrome, again without a source. You can’t do that for concrete information like this. I did like Weir’s emphasis on the relationship of Eleanor of Provence and her children, especially with her daughter in Scotland, since it always seems like they’re just forgotten by their families when they’re married off. Eleanor of Aquitaine I found Weir's description of Eleanor of Aquitaine at times especially flowery, describing her with far more detail than I can see chroniclers doing. I’m not quite sure how Weir could know what she felt about some of Henry’s more minor action. With fairly major events, particularly surrounding Beckett, I found Weir to stretch what even the more potted chronicles would have given her. I also think Eleanor was assigned too much of a role in the rebellion with Weir missing the blatant dislike for women acting at all in most chronicles. It seems more likely Eleanor played a role in the rebellion than actually being the mastermind behind it. Other statements about how Eleanor’s daughter Joanna would have pleaded to Henry to treat Eleanor better in prison seems far-fetched, given that no previous relationship between Joanna and Eleanor was mentioned in the book. In addition, there was a tale about how when Henry’s corpse had a nosebleed for the entirety of the time Richard was in its presence, something that clearly doesn’t make sense, so why include it as a true story? Isabella of Angouleme She attributed Isabella’s lack of power under John to his knowledge of her “haughty, tempestuous, wilful, and unscrupulous [nature]…whose chief character traits were greed, arrogance, and selfishness,” despite Weir herself saying these traits are only visible in her later charters after much time fighting with Hugh of Lusignan. John wasn’t exactly a leader known for his superb judgement anyway, and her relative youth and his mother’s prominent role in the rebellions and conflicts of the kingdoms seem like a more likely reasons for Isabella’s lack of power. There were other times where her description of Isabella seemed to take on the bias of many chroniclers who disliked her scheming to raise her second family’s position, yet this would never be the case for the constantly self-aggrandizing barons of France. Minor complaints: I wish the monetary figures were translated into numbers relative to the time because 5000 in modern money may not be too much, but if average wage were 1 it’d be enormous. I also wish there was a goddamn family tree, especially for the kids of Eleanor of Castile (it was in the teens) and the Lusignan and Savoyard families. It’s not like showing death years would really be spoilers considering it happened 800 years ago. She also asserted that Beatrice of Provence wanted to be a queen like her sisters, like where did she write that? Tl;dr: entertaining read with relatively accurate, if often exaggerated details A digital copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    The Crusades have fascinated the Western world since they began in 1096, when Pope Urban II called on the leaders of Europe to raise armies in support of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos as well as urging militant Christians to go on an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which was under Muslim control. Over the next 200 years, periodic battles would rage between the Christian and Muslim worlds as they vied for control of the Holy Land and altered the course of history. Most history books, doc The Crusades have fascinated the Western world since they began in 1096, when Pope Urban II called on the leaders of Europe to raise armies in support of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos as well as urging militant Christians to go on an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which was under Muslim control. Over the next 200 years, periodic battles would rage between the Christian and Muslim worlds as they vied for control of the Holy Land and altered the course of history. Most history books, documentaries, and films about the Crusades focus on such figures as Richard I (called the Lionheart), Saladin, Balian of Ibelin, and other leaders of these wars. They are exciting people with fascinating stories, to be sure, but these books and films often overlook the women who stood behind those men, treating them like damsels (sometimes in distress) who quietly waited in faraway castles until the menfolk finished their little wars and headed home. The women Alison Weir documents in her new book, Queens of the Crusades, were not damsels in distress, though. They were dynamic people who fought for power and wealth with as much fervor as their royal husbands, and whose names still ring through history. It opens with the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitane, who once signed a letter to the Pope as “Eleanor, by the wrath of God, Queen of England”, and who is known for having plotted against her husband, Henry II, and who also held England together while her son, Richard I, was away invading parts of the Holy Land during the Second Crusade. The narrative then discusses (at a glance) the life of Berengaria of Navarre, who had the misfortune to be the rightful queen of England while Eleanor of Aquitaine yet lived, and who holds the dubious distinction of being the only English queen to never set foot on English soil. Isabella of Angoulême, the scheming wife of the infamous King John follows Berengaria, and is succeeded in turn by Alienor of Provence, the venal queen of Henry III. The book’s final chapters deal with Eleanor of Castille, the beloved if avaricious wife of Edward I. If the old saying is true that ‘well-behaved women seldom make history’, then volumes upon volumes could be written about the women in Queens of the Crusades. There are already plenty of biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine, but her successors are often shrouded in mystery, their stories drowned out by dubious legends. As with her many other biographies of medieval women, Weir seeks to shed light on these half-forgotten women. She doesn’t paint them as saints, however. In the age of the Divine Right of Kings, that supposedly holy light also fell upon the queens, who lived it up as much as they could and did not shy away from extortion to get the money and other luxuries they wanted. Perhaps it was a good thing that some of them– such as Alienor of Provence– did not have the same sort of power as their husbands. If Alienor had had the same patience and force of will as her mother-in-law, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had, who knows what sort of disasters she would have led England into? This isn’t to say that Weir set out to tarnish the reputations of otherwise saintly women. She may be a ‘popular historian’, but Weir stays grounded in fact and relies on primary sources to separate truth from fiction. When dealing with the notion of Richard I’s supposed homosexuality, she states the source of the legends, what we know of the truth surrounding them, and points out that the first people to say that Richard I was gay actually lived in the nineteenth century. Modern popular culture might be interested in the tales of a gay king and his neglected wife, but if historical fact doesn’t support it, then we have to face facts and deal with the reality of it. And while revisionist history might want to paint the kings of the era as terrible men who had saintly wives, the historical reality doesn’t support that notion, either. Queens of the Crusades covers nearly 150 years of tumultuous English and French history, beginning with the reign of Henry II and ending with that of Edward I. In that time, there were Crusades, the fall of an empire, uprisings, territorial disputes, and religious turmoil. But through it all, the English crown passed from one generation to the next, crowning kings and their queens in succession. They were far from saintly people, but that’s what makes them so interesting, no matter how many centuries have passed. Weir’s skill at showing historical figures’ humanity is showcased in this outing, and while the women she discusses are rarely well-behaved, they are always fascinating. ------- Thank you to NetGalley and Ballentine Books for providing me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Alison Weir knows how to engage her readers, there’s no arguing with that. She writes with a style that keeps the reader interested in her subject. I have always enjoyed her writings and have even bought a few of her books for my own personal collection. I was so excited when this book was finally published. I read Queens of the Conquest when it came out and absolutely loved gaining a chance to learn about the Queens of the Norman era, particularly Adeliza (second wife of Henry I), whom I knew v Alison Weir knows how to engage her readers, there’s no arguing with that. She writes with a style that keeps the reader interested in her subject. I have always enjoyed her writings and have even bought a few of her books for my own personal collection. I was so excited when this book was finally published. I read Queens of the Conquest when it came out and absolutely loved gaining a chance to learn about the Queens of the Norman era, particularly Adeliza (second wife of Henry I), whom I knew very little about. So I’ve had this sequel on my to-read list pretty much from the moment it gained a page of its own on Goodreads. And just as has happened in my other encounters with Weir’s books, I was engaged, I was interested in what she had to say about these “Queens of the Crusades.” I was surprised she had so much to say about Eleanor of Aquitaine, given that Weir had already written a biography about her back in 1999. But, as Weir explains in the Introduction, a great deal of scholarship has been developed since then, and she felt it necessary to undertake Eleanor’s story again in order to revise her views of the woman. The end result of that was that Eleanor’s section of the book ended up the longest, with sixteen chapters. The only other queen who even came close to matching her was Eleanor of Castile, who received twelve chapters covering her life. One thing I really like about this book is that Weir attempts to display how these queens were thought of both within their own lifetimes and after. This individualist look at each women, to discern the kind of people they were behind the aura of their queenly title, made this a very interesting read. However, it also leads me to one of my biggest complaints – the decided lack of footnotes. This did not impress me. Weir provides footnotes whenever she directly quotes someone, but that’s pretty much it. This leaves her open to making various statements about how “some writers” said this or that, without citing just who these people were and leaving a reader unable to go back and trace the full context of what is being cited. While perhaps this wasn’t done because the book is for the general reader as opposed to someone with a more scholarly bent, I still feel it takes something away that I wasn’t able to look at the primary/secondary sources that Weir is utilizing in her writing. And then there are the myriad of errors sprinkled throughout the book, errors that ought to have been caught by editors before the book went to print. There were multiple misdates, for example. In the space of just a few pages (pgs. 234-237, hardcover edition), there are multiple references to something occurring in 2016 or 2019. While most people might not notice, to someone who was reading this carefully and thoughtfully, it was very jarring. Another error that caught my attention was during the section devoted to Eleanor of Provence (called Alienor in the book to help distinguish her from her future daughter-in-law). Two different scenarios are presented for how Henry III heard of his father-in-law’s death. First (p. 297), Weir states that Henry and Alienor are at the coast to see her mother off from a visit when they receive word of the man’s death. Then, second (p. 300), Weir claims that word reached Henry III of the man’s death when he was campaigning in Wales. So which is it? Some might call this nitpicky, but the fact that we have two markedly different accounts of this one incident just within a few pages of one another makes one wonder at the care being taken in writing the book, and in the editing. Overall, this is a great book for the general reader, though I would recommend that the reader not take this book as the end-all, be-all authority on these women. Seek out other biographies and scholarly works about these queens if you are interested, and if you’re able, seek out the primary sources yourselves.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Malagisi

    One of the most prominent royal families of English history was the Plantagenets, who reigned for over three hundred years. In the first one hundred years of this family’s infamous history, five kings ruled (the first two are considered kings of the Angevin dynasty): Henry II, Richard I, John, Henry III, and Edward I. These five kings saw England change drastically, but they also participated in the international political landscape of the day, which involved the series of wars that today we sim One of the most prominent royal families of English history was the Plantagenets, who reigned for over three hundred years. In the first one hundred years of this family’s infamous history, five kings ruled (the first two are considered kings of the Angevin dynasty): Henry II, Richard I, John, Henry III, and Edward I. These five kings saw England change drastically, but they also participated in the international political landscape of the day, which involved the series of wars that today we simply refer to as the Crusades. The early Plantagenet kings saw much bloodshed and war, but they were not alone in their struggle to keep the dynasty going. These men would not have gotten as far as they did without their wives who stood by their sides. In Alison Weir’s latest installment of England’s Medieval Queens series, “Queens of the Crusades”, she takes a deep dive into the lives of the first five Plantagenet queens to show how remarkable these women truly were to stand beside their husbands during the times of the Crusades in Europe. I would like to thank Ballantine Books, Random House, and Net Galley for sending me a copy of this book. I have been a massive fan of Alison Weir’s nonfiction books for years now. To have an opportunity to read this title and review it is simply astounding. As soon as Weir announced this new installment of England’s Medieval Queens series, I knew I wanted to read it because I had enjoyed Queens of the Conquest immensely. The five queens that Weir covers in this particular book are Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence, and Eleanor of Castile. Many are familiar with the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II and how it soured as their sons fought against their father, but it is worth noting that every queen in this book led a rather remarkable life. Eleanor of Aquitaine may have been alive during the time of Thomas Becket’s murder and Isabella of Angouleme witnessed her husband King John seal the Magna Carta, but some of these queens witnessed battles of the Crusades being fought as they traveled with their husbands to distant lands. There was also the matter of ruling two kingdoms, England and parts of France plus keeping the peace with Wales and Scotland, all while raising their children. There was never a dull moment for the lives of the early Plantagenet queens. I found each queen in this book fascinating to read about, even though I did not know much about their lives. I obviously knew about Eleanor of Aquitaine, but the other queens have been briefly mentioned in other books that it felt like I was discovering their stories for the first time. The way they governed England and the way that they showed their love for their husbands and their children were different, but they each made a significant impact on the story of the Plantagenet dynasty. If I did have a problem with this book it would be that I found myself confused on which Eleanor was which, especially when Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile were alive during the same time. Overall, I found this book extremely informative and meticulously researched. Alison Weir has yet again made the lives of these queens that time seemed to have forgotten come to life. I believe that this is an excellent introductory book for anyone who wants to learn about the early queens of the Plantagenet dynasty. It is engaging, thought-provoking, and masterfully written. If this sounds like you, check out the second book in the England’s Medieval Queens series by Alison Weir, “Queens of the Crusades”.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    Alison Weir has embarked on a project to write a series of collective biographies of England’s medieval queens, a wise idea since many of them do not have enough known about them for a full-length biography aimed at the interested layperson. Queens of the Crusades is the second volume, although she has noted that her biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France should also be included in the sequence. Although, as Weir acknowledges, these five queens did not all go on crusade themse Alison Weir has embarked on a project to write a series of collective biographies of England’s medieval queens, a wise idea since many of them do not have enough known about them for a full-length biography aimed at the interested layperson. Queens of the Crusades is the second volume, although she has noted that her biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France should also be included in the sequence. Although, as Weir acknowledges, these five queens did not all go on crusade themselves, this was the time when the idea of reconquering the Holy Land from Islam permeated the air, and it influenced the lives of all of them. The five women are Eleanor of Aquitaine (married to Henry II), Berengaria of Navarre (Richard I), Isabella of Angoulême (John), Eleanor of Provence (Henry III, and spelled Alienor to reduce the potential confusion at the plethora of Eleanors), and Eleanor of Castile (Edward I). Edward I also married Marguerite of France after his first wife’s death, so I hope that she hasn’t been left out and will be included in the next volume. Queens of the Crusades paints what is probably as full a picture as possible of the lives of these five women for the non-historian (apart from Eleanor of Aquitaine, about whom there is an abundant amount known): their upbringing, personalities, triumphs and tragedies, relationships with their husbands and children, political influence, and often details of their daily lives drawn from accounts and other records. The account of Berengaria of Navarre is disappointingly slim, mainly due to her her husband’s inexplicable neglect of her while she was queen, but there was more than I have seen before about her life after Richard’s death. (I was glad to see the idea that he was gay firmly squashed, and anyway, as Edward II and James I show, even if his chief attraction had been to men, this would have been no bar to the fathering of children.) The lives of these women often overlapped, so it was also interesting to see their interactions with one another, which mainly seem to have been positive - surprising, since all of them - even Berengaria in her widowhood - seem to have been strong-willed women with differing priorities and personalities. My main criticism of the book is something that probably won’t bother a lot of other people. Weir said in the introduction to the first book (Queens of the Conquest ) that she would be skipping Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France since she had written full-length biographies of both, but obviously, although she makes no reference to the factors behind it, she changed her mind, at least about Eleanor. I certainly don’t object to her inclusion in this book, since as noted, their lives do overlap, but I felt that her portion (probably a condensed version of the same information that is in the biography), took up too much of this book (I estimate almost 40% when the bibliography and other ending and beginning material weren’t included). She is such a towering figure that she overwhelms the others, and I feel that it would have been better to at least cut down her section somewhat - maybe to the time of her widowhood when her life overlaps with Berengaria’s. Although Weir has never been one of my favorites, I feel that she did a creditable job with this book. On the whole, however, while there is a lot of information I didn’t know and they are put into the context of their times, her view of them is fairly conventional and I didn’t gain any new insights. 3.5 stars. I received a copy of Queens of the Crusades for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This is the second installment of Alison Weir’s England’s Medieval Queen’s series. The first followed England’s queens from the Conquest through the Anarchy. This book picks up with Eleanor of Aquitaine and continues through Eleanor of Castille. The book is divided into the reigns of the queen’s husbands/kings, although in most instances that did not work. For some queens there is an abundance of known information, especially Eleanor of Aquitaine, and some there is very little, as with Berengari This is the second installment of Alison Weir’s England’s Medieval Queen’s series. The first followed England’s queens from the Conquest through the Anarchy. This book picks up with Eleanor of Aquitaine and continues through Eleanor of Castille. The book is divided into the reigns of the queen’s husbands/kings, although in most instances that did not work. For some queens there is an abundance of known information, especially Eleanor of Aquitaine, and some there is very little, as with Berengaria of Navarre. Because of that the reigns of the kings do not exactly add up. I loved so much about this book, and I learned so much I had not from Wier’s previous books. I have always been fascinated with Eleanor of Aquitaine, and as Weir admits, there has been so much more research since her book on her. She is really shown as the queen I think she thought she would be remembered as. The “whore” rumors are disproved with legitimate research and her relationships with both husbands as well as her children are detailed. You can really understand not only her point of view, but Henry II’s as well. Not much is known about Berengaria of Navarre and she is largely overshadowed by her husband and mother-in-law in history as well as this book. Richard I is well known as the Lionheart, but his queen barely gets a mention in material about him. Most overlook her completely and look to Eleanor of Aquitaine as Richard’s main influence, which was true, but Berengaria had true value and meaning in what happened during her husband’s reign. I got a real feel for her in this book, which is hard to do considering what is known about her. I was glad to finally learn more about her, and in many ways her plight. Berengaria was followed by Isabella of Angouleme. Much more is known about Isabella partially because of the controversial king she was married to, John I, and partially because of the queen she was herself and her actions after John died. History has not looked kindly on her and Weir shows evidence as to why. Weir does an excellent job of showing the constraints she was under as both a strong woman and queen, while showing how she was instrumental in the loss of so many English territories on mainland Europe. This book does an excellent job of showing that as a widow of an unpopular king with little support in England, including from her son Henry III, what she was forced to do to survive. I did find her story fascinating and want to learn more, and I hope Weir writes a biography of her. Alienor of Provence was one of four sisters that became queens, which made her somewhat controversial although there were definite benefits. She is another strong woman and Weir also does an excellent job giving her credit where its due while also explaining why she was hated during her time. Her family played an instrumental part in both her successes and almost all of her failures as queen. Weir explained her faults and strengths well and backed it up with sources of the time. Her love for her children was so very important during both her reign and that of her son, Edward I. Weir shows that love transcended everything until her death. The final queen in the book is Eleanor of Castille, queen of Edward I. She was just as complex as the two queens that came before her. She had huge faults as both a person and monarch and Weir lays them out with sources from the time. That she gave birth to 18 children was incredible in itself, but that only one of her sons survived tells the story of the time. I liked that in being so upfront about her faults Weir was able to show how Eleanor attempted to redeem herself on her death bed. This book is classic Alison Weir. It is an unbiased look at 5 queens, some that have been overlooked or mischaracterized by history, based on research, facts and primary sources of the time. I give it a solid 4 stars, close to 4.5 or 5. There are a couple reasons I could not give it 5 stars. It was heavy on the history of the kings, sometimes to the detriment of the queens. I think this is because there is so much more recorded about the kings, but it still somewhat took away from the subject matter. Along with this, I did not like the division of the parts by the kings rather than the queens’ scope of influence. I understand that this was probably easiest as most queens level of influence depended on their husband, but it did not work for me. There was very little about Berengaria of Navarre in her part and you really learned about her during the part about Isabella of Angouleme. 95 percent of Berengaria’s part was about Eleanor of Aquitaine. Isabella heavily dominated the beginning of Alienor of Provence’s part and it was not until Chapter 6 of Eleanor of Castille’s part that Alienor became the main subject. I understand that there is going to be overlap, but I really did not like this set up and wonder if it is because of the lack of information for Berengaria of Navarre. I think had there been as much information about her as the queens that followed her it would have been easy to set up the parts based on the queens rather than their husband’s reigns. Full disclosure, I had already pre-ordered this book when I received and email from Ballantine asking if I would review it in exchange for a digital ARC. Thank you to NetGalley, Random House/Ballantine Books and Alison Weir for an electronic ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review of this book. I am also very sorry I forgot to publish this review on publication date!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Louise

    Queens of the Crusades follows the lives of five of England's Queens: Eleanor of Aquitaine (Henry II), Berengaria of Navarre (Richard I), Isabella of Angoulême (John I), Eleanor (Alienor) of Provence (Richard III), and Eleanor of Castile (Edward I) -- Yes lots of Eleanors. The book uses primary sources and other research (mostly Mathew Paris) to tell the story of these five queens. The majority of the book focuses on two of them: the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine and the ambiguous Eleanor of C Queens of the Crusades follows the lives of five of England's Queens: Eleanor of Aquitaine (Henry II), Berengaria of Navarre (Richard I), Isabella of Angoulême (John I), Eleanor (Alienor) of Provence (Richard III), and Eleanor of Castile (Edward I) -- Yes lots of Eleanors. The book uses primary sources and other research (mostly Mathew Paris) to tell the story of these five queens. The majority of the book focuses on two of them: the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine and the ambiguous Eleanor of Castile. In fact, the first third of the book is devoted to Eleanor of Aquitaine which can be good or bad depending on your tastes. I personally would have liked a bit more time spent on the other queens... particularly Isabella, but that is me. The book is told in Weir's incredibly readable style. And it's easy for the armchair historian to pick up and follow along with. While there's a lot of very interesting information in this book, readers need to be aware that there is some unstated bias in the prose and some theories/facts which are in dispute. It's a good start for people looking for more information about these queens who have exhausted Wikipedia but it's really only a start. There were also some odd tangents at times that didn't seem to fit with the rest of the narrative and felt shoehorned in because they were interesting tidbits but didn't relate fully to the information at hand. In all, I am torn about what to rate this book. It's readable. It's approachable. But there's a lack of context provided to some of the sources and Weir's bias is present but it's not stated or acknowledged. There's also the potential for confusion regarding the names in this book. Maud is used instead of Mathilda for Henry II's mother. Alienor is used for Eleanor of Provence. At several points, I had to pause to check to make sure that the name in question was a viable one and that lessened my reading enjoyment. I'm not a fan of fact-checking my non-fiction, and I needed to fact check much of this book. Additionally, I also felt that the book was uneven. The section on Eleanor of Aquitaine was far and away the best and most in depth. However the section on Berengaria of Navarre felt lacking. If you're a fan of Weir's work, you're going to enjoy this. If you aren't, I'd give it a miss. If you're new to the subject, then this is a good starting point and something light and easy to read. In all, I liked and disliked parts of this book. And for that I give this: Three Stars I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    I won a free digital copy from Net Galley and the publisher in return for an honest review. “Queen of the Crusades” by the noted author and historian Alison Weir is a fine example of the author’s skill at bringing to vivid life personages of the distant past. In this book, she focuses on five notable medieval women who rose to become Queens of England . The period covered is during the Crusades were off to “ Outremer” , the Holy Land with the purpose of ridding sacred sites of the “ infidel” Sara I won a free digital copy from Net Galley and the publisher in return for an honest review. “Queen of the Crusades” by the noted author and historian Alison Weir is a fine example of the author’s skill at bringing to vivid life personages of the distant past. In this book, she focuses on five notable medieval women who rose to become Queens of England . The period covered is during the Crusades were off to “ Outremer” , the Holy Land with the purpose of ridding sacred sites of the “ infidel” Saracens. As queens, some, like Berengaria, wife of Richard I, were shadows of their powerful husbands. Their purpose in life was as pawns in monarchial marriage alliances, and , more importantly, to bear sons as heirs and daughters as further marriage bait. Others, like Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward II were powerful in their own right. Their stories, and that of the Royal spouses are related in convincing, but not stultifying, detail. One of the things I enjoyed was how history has a way of overturning folklore, e.g., that the tales of Robin Hood (with Errol Flynn as Robin) meeting the King in Sherwood forest as highly improbable , since they lived, if Robin lived at all, in different centuries. Also that King John was a better king than Richard. I was awed as I learned that buildings of nearly a thousand years ago are still standing in Britain and in use today. Astounding for a one who lives in a country who history began only a few hundred years ago. That is only a bit of learning available in the book. The amount of research done by Ms Weir shows on nearly every page as we read of their extravagances: jewels, gowns, lavish feasts , the founding and funding of monasteries and convents. The author makes it clear how much money was involve by giving current values of the cost of running a monarchy. One can only imagine her sitting, reading over gold illuminated ancient manuscripts and dusty court scrolls noting expenditures and emoluments ( bribes.) Fascinating stuff, showing the cold reality behind those Masterpiece Theater programs. It is easy for this new reader to Ms Weir’s histories to learn how she has earned her reputation and her following as a popular historian. Recommended for fans and new readers alike who enjoy well - written history

  24. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    This is a very in depth look at the wives of some of the greatest kings of medieval England. We start off with Eleanor of Aquitaine, who first becomes the wife of Louis VII of France. After being denied an annulment through the Church, Louis later gives in after she gives birth to their second daughter. After her marriage to Louis ends, she becomes engaged to the Duke of Normandy, later named Henry the II of England. Not all was well in her marriage to Henry either, with the pair eventually sepa This is a very in depth look at the wives of some of the greatest kings of medieval England. We start off with Eleanor of Aquitaine, who first becomes the wife of Louis VII of France. After being denied an annulment through the Church, Louis later gives in after she gives birth to their second daughter. After her marriage to Louis ends, she becomes engaged to the Duke of Normandy, later named Henry the II of England. Not all was well in her marriage to Henry either, with the pair eventually separating and living in different areas. When Eleanor backed her son Henry when he attempted a revolt, King Henry imprisoned her, holding her for a total of about 16 years before he died and their son Richard (The Lionheart) became king. Eleanor acted as Richard’s regent while he was away on the Third Crusade. But this book isn’t only about Eleanor, it's also about Richard’s wife Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme (wife of John), Alienor of Provence (wife of Henry III), and Eleanor of Castile (wife of Edward I). It is obvious from page one that Ms. Weir has done extensive research on all the people mentioned in this book, not just the five Queens discussed. I have walked away with more knowledge of some of the historical figures mentioned (especially Thomas Becket, and Richard the Lionheart). We are given a different view of historical events, such as the Magna Carta and the birth of the English Parliament. One cannot pick up this book and walk away without an appreciation for what the Queens went through during the time of the Crusades. These women were intelligent, hard-working, and determined during a time when women were thought to be less than a man and in no way able to run a country by themselves. Ms. Weir has taken a lot of time and patience to lay out a comprehensive history of these five women, their husbands, plus a lot of other side characters, and write the book in such a way that it doesn’t come across as a dry, boring, history book. It is chock full of facts, details, and intrigue. **I received an ARC of this book and this is my honest and voluntary review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir tells the stories five of England’s Queens who reigned during the early Plantagenet period from 1154-1291. In order they are: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence, and Eleanor of Castile. This, like all of Weir’s books be they fiction or non-fiction, are well researched and does not get bogged down with dry details. I admit I’d only heard of Eleanor of Aquitaine, or perhaps she’s the only one I remembered. As Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir tells the stories five of England’s Queens who reigned during the early Plantagenet period from 1154-1291. In order they are: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence, and Eleanor of Castile. This, like all of Weir’s books be they fiction or non-fiction, are well researched and does not get bogged down with dry details. I admit I’d only heard of Eleanor of Aquitaine, or perhaps she’s the only one I remembered. As an American, my education into medieval European history is not as thorough as some perhaps, but it interests me. What I loved about this book was that the Queens were the focal point, not the Kings. Of course I’d heard of these men, Richard the Lionhearted, King John, King Henry 1-3. This was a sad point that men have always taken the focal point of history, even if it was the women who brought the lands and monies to the marriage, or changed history, or birthed the future Kings and Queens of Europe-they’ve usually been footnotes to history. In this book, Weir shows how these women did as much for the crown of England as the King. Some acted as Regent while awaiting the majority of their son, one travelled with their King on Crusade and gave birth in the Holy land, they all helped arrange marriages and alliances with other ruling houses and families throughout Europe. They played just as big a roll as their husbands. Weir also shows the dark side of these women. Choosing one child over the other, at times, over taxing their subjects, their spend thrift practices, the anti-Jewish sentiments. It’s interesting seeing the beginnings of what will become of England during the War of the Roses and under Henry VIII. I’m a big fan of Ms. Weir’s books, fiction and non-fiction. This is a rather large tome, but as I said before, she doesn’t weigh us down with dry facts. I will admit to getting lost a couple of times because it seemed like everyone was named Henry and Eleanor. Hopefully the physical version has a family tree included. Thank you to NetGalley, the publishers, and Ms. Weir for an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    Thanks to Netgalley, I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I can't say exactly why but I've read a couple of books about the crusades during this pandemic and was pretty excited to get access to this one, since it focuses on the Queens of the crusades (and so many have focused on the Kings). But oh man was this book still really about the kings! I wish the author had spent more time going into why we had to hear so much about the kings' actions, when it was not always cl Thanks to Netgalley, I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I can't say exactly why but I've read a couple of books about the crusades during this pandemic and was pretty excited to get access to this one, since it focuses on the Queens of the crusades (and so many have focused on the Kings). But oh man was this book still really about the kings! I wish the author had spent more time going into why we had to hear so much about the kings' actions, when it was not always clear how they affect the queens' lives. I also wish the author had gone into more detail about why there are so few primary sources that focus on the queens and what they were doing. It felt like I was being promised one kind of book and got a different one. Putting those expecations aside, Weir's writing was easy to follow and I appreciated her discussion of the women and the norms around retiring to convents and how a queen's household was funded. That was all new information to me and the parts where the author focused on what the Queen was up to in order to pay her bills were very interesting. I also appreciated the descriptions of how the queens were honored after death. I didn't understand the organization of this book though. It would move into a new section because there was a new queen, and then the new queen wouldn't be discussed at any length for a chapter or two. Why even have these sections if they aren't going to change the narrative? Eleanor of Aquitane's story is long and details becasue of how long she lived and how she had her hands in so much, but it completely overshadows the story of her daughter-in-law and now explanation is given as to why she gets so little. Overall, I did enjoy the book. The stories are interesting and I appreciate that the author called out the anti-semetic acts of the British Royalty (though forgot to call them out for Louis IX) and brought some real life to these stories. I would definitely recommend this book for people looking into general history about the time of the Crusades, though this book does not focus on the actual Crusades (and is better for it).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maggie McVey

    This book could have simply been titled “Eleanor”, as much of its earlier content focuses on Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the later near half of the book focuses on “Alienor” of Provence and her daughter-in-law, Eleanor of Castile. Though truth be told, the queen who stood out most to me, in terms of overall characterization and redeemable qualities, was Richard I’s queen, Berengaria. Not the lightest or fastest paced book, I appreciate Weir’s attention to detail, though I must point out a heavy de This book could have simply been titled “Eleanor”, as much of its earlier content focuses on Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the later near half of the book focuses on “Alienor” of Provence and her daughter-in-law, Eleanor of Castile. Though truth be told, the queen who stood out most to me, in terms of overall characterization and redeemable qualities, was Richard I’s queen, Berengaria. Not the lightest or fastest paced book, I appreciate Weir’s attention to detail, though I must point out a heavy dependence on the records of Matthew Price. I also observed several instances where the year was inaccurately written as “20xx”, such as “2016,” and “2019,” although this can obviously be inferred to be meant as 1216 and 1219. This may have just been a typo in the electronic version of the manuscript. Overall, I have to disagree with some of the other reviews I’ve read on here and say that I actually quite preferred the later portion of the book, from Eleanor of Provence through Eleanor of Castile. It may be due to improvements in record-keeping that Weir was able to access, but I found the detail to be much more lush and full, and the description of The Second Barons’ War in particular pulled me in. It is hard to read a book like this nowadays without looking at it through a modern lens. Therefore, the absolute extravagance and violence executed by the Plantagenets is hard to stomach at times, especially when it is emphasized by the lengths the royals often went to in order to tax their citizens. I also wish Weir had gone into more detail into the treatment of the Jews in England, as the subject is broached several times throughout the book, and I don’t think it would have been an unnatural topic to flesh out in more detail. A hearty thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books/Penguin Random House for access to an electronic version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Beg and Borrow Books

    This book covers the reigns of five medieval Queens of England, starting with Eleanor of Aquitaine. I had read Alison Weir's "Eleanor of Aquitaine" many years ago, but it was good to have a refresher on her life, but I didn't know much about the other four queens: Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence, and Eleanor of Castile. Like most history books, this provides a list of major events in each woman's life, but it also provides a few more intimate details, like what t This book covers the reigns of five medieval Queens of England, starting with Eleanor of Aquitaine. I had read Alison Weir's "Eleanor of Aquitaine" many years ago, but it was good to have a refresher on her life, but I didn't know much about the other four queens: Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence, and Eleanor of Castile. Like most history books, this provides a list of major events in each woman's life, but it also provides a few more intimate details, like what types of mothers they were and how they gained their wealth, or not as the case may be. It's interesting to see what these queens had to do in order to survive and to make sure their children thrived, especially after their husband's died. It is also a little sad to see the way these women were treated as pawns in the political machinations of England, France, and Spain mostly, but the effects of their alliances are felt throughout most of Europe and even into the Middle East. If you read lots of historical fiction versus the history of this time period, you might be disappointed in the structure of the book. Weir is a historian, and she deals in facts, and there just isn't a lot of information about how these women FELT about their lives. In historical fiction, however, the author can fill in those blanks and the women become more nuanced. Still, I enjoyed learning more about these women's lives. I found the parts about Alienore of Provence and Eleanor of Castile to be the most interesting, but really, they were all remarkable women. This book is 560 pages, although the last 100 pages or so cover bibliography and notes, so it isn't too long, for a history book anyway, but it still took me longer than anticipated, so I missed posting this before the publication date of 2/23/2021. I want to thank Random House/Ballantine and NetGalley for the ARC. Still, I enjoyed this book

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Dahan

    Being an Allison Weir junkie I eagerly looked forward to reading Queens of the Crusades.. As usual Ms. Weir did not disappoint! True to her style she made history come alive. Although this is a book of nonfiction it portrays the lives of the Crusader Queens in a dynamic and fascinating way. It is difficult for an author to make the dry facts of history, come alive and wet the appetite of the reader.. Alison Weir seems to have mastered this art. Beginning with the well known Eleanor of Aquitaine a Being an Allison Weir junkie I eagerly looked forward to reading Queens of the Crusades.. As usual Ms. Weir did not disappoint! True to her style she made history come alive. Although this is a book of nonfiction it portrays the lives of the Crusader Queens in a dynamic and fascinating way. It is difficult for an author to make the dry facts of history, come alive and wet the appetite of the reader.. Alison Weir seems to have mastered this art. Beginning with the well known Eleanor of Aquitaine and ending with the lesser known Eleanor of Castile this book portrays the 5 English queens dominating this period in history. Although Eleanor of Aquitaine was by far the most dominant queen of this time, her two daughters-in- law are portrayed with strengths and personalities of their own. Berengaria of Navarre, wife of Richard, I and Isabella, wife of John, are brought to life through the skill of the author.. These two lesser queens deserve more than a footnote in history. Alienor of Provence, wife of Henry III, seems to have had a strong influence on her marriage. Elevating her family and patronizing them above others cost Henry much discontent with. his subjects. Seeking to forge alliances to strengthen his reign he arranged the marriage of his son Edward to Eleanor of Castile just 12 years old at the time. This marriage, although arranged when they were children, turned out to be rather successful.. Although Alison Weir portrays this book as the “Queens of the Crusades” it is impossible to write this history without including the influence of the kings. I found it to be more of the 150 year history of the early Plantagenets rather than an exploration of only the queens. Because of the repetition of similar names and the way the book was written it was difficult at times to follow the chronological sequence of events.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    I received this as an ARC from Netgalley.com. First line: On Sunday, 19 December 1154, Henry II, the first Plantagenet King of England, was crowned in Westminster Abbey, along with his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, amidst great splendor and rejoicing. Summary: In the second installment of Alison Weir’s histories of the queens of England is Queens of the Crusades. It covers Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile spanning their l I received this as an ARC from Netgalley.com. First line: On Sunday, 19 December 1154, Henry II, the first Plantagenet King of England, was crowned in Westminster Abbey, along with his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, amidst great splendor and rejoicing. Summary: In the second installment of Alison Weir’s histories of the queens of England is Queens of the Crusades. It covers Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile spanning their lives over several centuries. These women lived in an age when they were expected to be humble and pious. But the queens of this time held power over their lands and income that drew the ire of their male subjects giving several of them tarnished reputations that Weir tries to dissolve. My Thoughts: I enjoyed learning about these remarkable women. I love Eleanor of Aquitaine. She is one of my favorite queens of England. She lived for such a long time and was queen of France and England as well as duchess of Aquitaine. I was very excited to learn more about her daughter-in-law, Berengaria. She is glossed over so much in fiction since she was queen for such a short time and did not do much to gain prominence in England. I like that Weir takes into account how often names are reused for different people that she tries to vary the spellings in order to keep them straight for the reader. I knew nothing about the queens after Eleanor. The amount of wealth these women had and spent is astounding. I love to see what the conversions are because it is so shocking. Having visited England several times I have been to some of the places listed such as Westminster Abbey. I knew many of the tombs there but now I will need to find the ones for these medieval queens on my next visit. FYI: Second installment of a four part series.

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