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Blood Royal: Dynastic Politics in Medieval Europe

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Throughout medieval Europe, for hundreds of years, monarchy was the way that politics worked in most countries. This meant power was in the hands of a family - a dynasty; that politics was family politics; and political life was shaped by the births, marriages and deaths of the ruling family. How did the dynastic system cope with female rule, or pretenders to the throne? H Throughout medieval Europe, for hundreds of years, monarchy was the way that politics worked in most countries. This meant power was in the hands of a family - a dynasty; that politics was family politics; and political life was shaped by the births, marriages and deaths of the ruling family. How did the dynastic system cope with female rule, or pretenders to the throne? How did dynasties use names, the numbering of rulers and the visual display of heraldry to express their identity? And why did some royal families survive and thrive, while others did not? Drawing on a rich and memorable body of sources, this engaging and original history of dynastic power in Latin Christendom and Byzantium explores the role played by family dynamics and family consciousness in the politics of the royal and imperial dynasties of Europe. From royal marriages and the birth of sons, to female sovereigns, mistresses and wicked uncles, Robert Bartlett makes enthralling sense of the complex web of internal rivalries and loyalties of the ruling dynasties and casts fresh light on an essential feature of the medieval world.


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Throughout medieval Europe, for hundreds of years, monarchy was the way that politics worked in most countries. This meant power was in the hands of a family - a dynasty; that politics was family politics; and political life was shaped by the births, marriages and deaths of the ruling family. How did the dynastic system cope with female rule, or pretenders to the throne? H Throughout medieval Europe, for hundreds of years, monarchy was the way that politics worked in most countries. This meant power was in the hands of a family - a dynasty; that politics was family politics; and political life was shaped by the births, marriages and deaths of the ruling family. How did the dynastic system cope with female rule, or pretenders to the throne? How did dynasties use names, the numbering of rulers and the visual display of heraldry to express their identity? And why did some royal families survive and thrive, while others did not? Drawing on a rich and memorable body of sources, this engaging and original history of dynastic power in Latin Christendom and Byzantium explores the role played by family dynamics and family consciousness in the politics of the royal and imperial dynasties of Europe. From royal marriages and the birth of sons, to female sovereigns, mistresses and wicked uncles, Robert Bartlett makes enthralling sense of the complex web of internal rivalries and loyalties of the ruling dynasties and casts fresh light on an essential feature of the medieval world.

30 review for Blood Royal: Dynastic Politics in Medieval Europe

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Even a glance at the big moments in British history will reveal the significance of royal blood not only to the dynastic politics of inheritance and succession but for the state as a whole. The most obvious being the religious, cultural, and economic effects of Henry VIII's desperation for a son. Never mind the number of women and men who died for his choices. What Robert Bartlett does here is write this story on the grandest of scales, illustrating the interconnectivity of royal houses througho Even a glance at the big moments in British history will reveal the significance of royal blood not only to the dynastic politics of inheritance and succession but for the state as a whole. The most obvious being the religious, cultural, and economic effects of Henry VIII's desperation for a son. Never mind the number of women and men who died for his choices. What Robert Bartlett does here is write this story on the grandest of scales, illustrating the interconnectivity of royal houses throughout Europe during the medieval period. The amount of research that must have been needed for this is impressive. The inclusion of stories from the whole of Christian Europe and Byzantium as evidence for Bartlett's arguments can be considered the book's strength and its weakness, giving it a somewhat overwhelming and list-like feel at times. I'd say it's perhaps not one for the general reader, though this might be more reflective of my own lack of subject knowledge than any issue with readability. It's incredibly detailed, comprehensive, and offers an intriguing way into the variety of female experience during the period. While it's certainly not an east read, it is engaging in its own way and I'm glad that I'll have it as a reference for future studies. ARC via Netgalley

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    636 pages 4 stars Don't worry, the book is nearly half extensive citations and a copious bibliography. The author does a remarkable job researching his subject. Frankly, I was surprised to see just how much intensive studying he must have done to put this book together. The focus of this book is what we call the “Middle Ages.” The reader learns about the importance of making the “right” marriage and having the all important sons to inherit the throne. Certainly a woman could not effectively rule. 636 pages 4 stars Don't worry, the book is nearly half extensive citations and a copious bibliography. The author does a remarkable job researching his subject. Frankly, I was surprised to see just how much intensive studying he must have done to put this book together. The focus of this book is what we call the “Middle Ages.” The reader learns about the importance of making the “right” marriage and having the all important sons to inherit the throne. Certainly a woman could not effectively rule. The debate about marrying within the realm or taking a bride from another kingdom was very interesting. I did not realize that it was such an important factor in choosing a bride. There are other subjects covered as well, speaking of many aspects of kingship. However, the only drawback I can comment on is that the text is so dry I could hear the rustling as I turned the pages on my Kindle. I recommend this book not for the casual reader, but for the serious student of this period in time. Very well done, Professor Bartlett. I want to thank NetGalley and Cambridge University Press for forwarding to me a copy of this fascinating book for me to read, enjoy and review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caidyn (he/him/his)

    I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review! I think that the title of this book is pretty obvious. It takes you through history from roughly 500-1500's marriage ties in basically any country you can think of. The first part of the book covers the life cycle, so birth, marriage, having kids (or not having kids), and death. The second part looks at other topics like lineages, family trees, becoming a saint, etc. I found it to be a very informative book with areas that were I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review! I think that the title of this book is pretty obvious. It takes you through history from roughly 500-1500's marriage ties in basically any country you can think of. The first part of the book covers the life cycle, so birth, marriage, having kids (or not having kids), and death. The second part looks at other topics like lineages, family trees, becoming a saint, etc. I found it to be a very informative book with areas that were very new to me and areas that were very familiar. This is a book I definitely want on my shelf!

  4. 5 out of 5

    St Jerome

    ‘Glory, hatred, envy. Many other things shaped the politics of medieval Europe - religious beliefs, personalities, class hatred, class pride, love of liberty, nationalism, xenophobia, economic interests - but, almost everywhere and almost always, a major part in the story was payed by dynasticism, that is, the birth, marriages, and deaths of the rulers and the dynamics of their families - and their passion. In 1900 every European state except France and Switzerland was a monarchy. In 2000 only se ‘Glory, hatred, envy. Many other things shaped the politics of medieval Europe - religious beliefs, personalities, class hatred, class pride, love of liberty, nationalism, xenophobia, economic interests - but, almost everywhere and almost always, a major part in the story was payed by dynasticism, that is, the birth, marriages, and deaths of the rulers and the dynamics of their families - and their passion. In 1900 every European state except France and Switzerland was a monarchy. In 2000 only seven were left (excluding mini-states) and in all of them the sovereign’s power was purely ceremonial. In medieval Europe, however, dynastic politics were the rule not the exception. It was a time when destinies of nations were tied to bloodlines. This is a well researched book (about a third of the book’s pages are for the many, many sources, and there are also 3 Appendix that are very interesting). Robert Bartlett makes enthralling sense of the complex web of internal rivalries and loyalties of the ruling dynasties and casts fresh light on an essential feature of the medieval world. Thoroughly enjoyed it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melisende

    This will make a must have resource / reference for those with a penchant for medieval history. It is extremely well researched - so all the hard work is done for you - and is extensively noted with a comprehensive bibliography. There are many unique examples peppered throughout to support the information - so not just the standard, more familiar dynasties - which is easy to both read and understand. Definitely one for my own personal library. see fuller review here @ Melisende's Library This will make a must have resource / reference for those with a penchant for medieval history. It is extremely well researched - so all the hard work is done for you - and is extensively noted with a comprehensive bibliography. There are many unique examples peppered throughout to support the information - so not just the standard, more familiar dynasties - which is easy to both read and understand. Definitely one for my own personal library. see fuller review here @ Melisende's Library

  6. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Robert Bartlett writes books that are thoroughly researched and well written. This book "Blood Royal" is everything you ever wanted to know about European royalty. Not just Britain but the continent too. What I love about this book is it has a lot of material about women. Women as in marriage, childbirth, mistresses, illegitimate children, legitimate children, death in childbirth, and most interesting women sovereigns. It even addressed the homesickness of a teenaged bride leaving everything she Robert Bartlett writes books that are thoroughly researched and well written. This book "Blood Royal" is everything you ever wanted to know about European royalty. Not just Britain but the continent too. What I love about this book is it has a lot of material about women. Women as in marriage, childbirth, mistresses, illegitimate children, legitimate children, death in childbirth, and most interesting women sovereigns. It even addressed the homesickness of a teenaged bride leaving everything she knows and going to a strange land with strange customs and a language she does not speak to marry a man she does not know. Also, she was expected to put a brave face on it and make the best of it. Not for me or my daughters, thank you. There is so much information I did get bogged down and it took me a while to read this book but it was worth it. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in exchange for a review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kate Anthony

    Blood Royal By Robert Bartlett Rating: 4 / 5 Stars Publication Date: 8/25/2020 ** Thank you to Netgalley, Cambridge University Press, and of course, Robert Bartlett, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Medieval Europe has always fascinated me. Since my early ages of being passionate about history, I always went back to the time period where monarchy was the basis of politics, the Pope exercised the power of Europe, beautiful nobility danced around courts, and titles meant everything. Robert Blood Royal By Robert Bartlett Rating: 4 / 5 Stars Publication Date: 8/25/2020 ** Thank you to Netgalley, Cambridge University Press, and of course, Robert Bartlett, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Medieval Europe has always fascinated me. Since my early ages of being passionate about history, I always went back to the time period where monarchy was the basis of politics, the Pope exercised the power of Europe, beautiful nobility danced around courts, and titles meant everything. Robert Bartlett’s Blood Royal investigates all of the above. At the core is the history of bloodline and monarchy in the middle ages. Family politics intertwined with politics, specifically, who is given the role of king or queen. Christian kingdoms as well as Byzantium family dynasties are explored in this fascinating and comprehensive book. A perfect example of the complex family dynasties in charge of Europe would be that of the Plantagenets (and the battle for power between cousins, known as the Wars of The Roses, and the infamous Henry VIII of the Tudors. We can never forget the quest for a son which lead to two beheadings, a new country-wide religion, and countless exiles (and, one of the most infamous Queens of English history!) Family issues are always at the core of any dynasty, but what happens when they rule a land? Great book!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Esther

    Blood Royal is a complete and detailed work, written by an obviously very enthusiastic and passionate historian and researcher. The last third of this book consists of a detailed overview of notes, a few family trees and an extensive bibliography. This will more than please history students and history enthusiasts alike. From the first chapter onwards I felt like being slapped around my face with anecdote after anecdote after anecdote about a multitude of royals, from Ireland to Byzanthium and f Blood Royal is a complete and detailed work, written by an obviously very enthusiastic and passionate historian and researcher. The last third of this book consists of a detailed overview of notes, a few family trees and an extensive bibliography. This will more than please history students and history enthusiasts alike. From the first chapter onwards I felt like being slapped around my face with anecdote after anecdote after anecdote about a multitude of royals, from Ireland to Byzanthium and from Norway to Sicily, all between the years approx. 500 to 1480. Overall the strongest focus is on the period between the 9th and the 13th centuries. I understand why Bartlett decided to divide his work up in different topics, and consequently didn't follow a chronological pattern. The idea is sensible. However, due to the amount of detail and the great quantity of the royals discussed, and all their background stories, it felt a bit chaotic and a bit much sometimes to keep track of everything. Perhaps another reason for this perceived 'chaos' is the writing style: who is the audience Bartlett had in mind when writing this book? Sometimes it feels like a work by a serious historian writing for a generation of students. At other times in the book he tries to be a bit funny and light and he gives the impression of having a popular audience in mind. The cover doesn't give much of a clue either. It's so dull...you just don't expect such a wonderful and interesting work in there. I'm so happy that between all the detail and anecdotes there is a fair share of analysis to be found. This enriches the work, gives it a deeper layer and makes it a valuable reference work for students and for the more serious history enthusiasts. This was my first experience with Netgalley and with getting the opportunity to read an ARC. Such a cool experience!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jolly P.

    Blood Royal speaks about the importance of monarchies in Medieval Europe, and the relationships between royal families. As an aid history reader, most books that I read on royal family history is about Henry the VIII, Mary of Tudor, or Queen Victoria. I haven't read very many books focusing on the earlier pieces of the middle ages. It was great to get some more information on Europe's history, and the amount of research done for this single book was exceptional! The book touched on many topics s Blood Royal speaks about the importance of monarchies in Medieval Europe, and the relationships between royal families. As an aid history reader, most books that I read on royal family history is about Henry the VIII, Mary of Tudor, or Queen Victoria. I haven't read very many books focusing on the earlier pieces of the middle ages. It was great to get some more information on Europe's history, and the amount of research done for this single book was exceptional! The book touched on many topics surrounding royal blood, and the explanations were splendid. I hope this author writes more on other royal families around the world, I think they would do a great job on both the research, and the execution! 4.5 stars, rounded down. Thank you to NetGalley and the Cambridge University Press for the egalley of this book!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    A very detailed look into the practicalities of blood succession and monarchies. While most people commonly understand that monarchs were usually male, and usually preferred sons, this book delves into the nitty gritty of what made monarchies function. While the approach is scholarly, a casual reader should be able navigate the text pretty easily, though it is a bit dry. The focus of the book is broken up by subject and any ruler that fits the subject is discussed within that chapter. This will A very detailed look into the practicalities of blood succession and monarchies. While most people commonly understand that monarchs were usually male, and usually preferred sons, this book delves into the nitty gritty of what made monarchies function. While the approach is scholarly, a casual reader should be able navigate the text pretty easily, though it is a bit dry. The focus of the book is broken up by subject and any ruler that fits the subject is discussed within that chapter. This will make it easy for a student to turn to the relevant chapter and read the examples of say a king co-ruling with a crowned son during his lifetime, but makes for a somewhat confusing and distracting approach for someone reading it cover to cover. Monarchs come up and then the focus skips ahead a century, then the next chapter that previously discussed monarch reappears again without much introduction. With so many similarly named monarchs, jumping from country to country and century to century can be frustrating to read and keep track of. This is really my only complaint about this well researched and interesting book. It adds a lot of insight into how biology contributed to the state of nations, and how each monarch and their respective monarchy differed from others in subtle ways. Definitely a great read for those interested in how ancient monarchies functioned, and how they have shaped both past events and the basis for surviving modern monarchies.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I received Blood Royal as part of a NetGalley giveaway. A sweeping look the dynastic politics of (mostly) medieval (mostly) Europe, covering a wide range of issues--from (il)legitimacy, lines of inheritance, familiar rivalries, the role of women, the relationship between the Church and rulers/territories, and much more. I love this period and subject, so I found this an enjoyable read despite its breadth and depth. It's organized by subject rather than time, so in a single section you may hear ane I received Blood Royal as part of a NetGalley giveaway. A sweeping look the dynastic politics of (mostly) medieval (mostly) Europe, covering a wide range of issues--from (il)legitimacy, lines of inheritance, familiar rivalries, the role of women, the relationship between the Church and rulers/territories, and much more. I love this period and subject, so I found this an enjoyable read despite its breadth and depth. It's organized by subject rather than time, so in a single section you may hear anecdotes from 10th century Byzantium, 12th century France, and 14th century Bohemia. I was fine with this setup, but it can feel a little frenetic. It's definitely one of those books where I had to find a quiet place and really focus without a lot of distractions. I could see where some people used to a rolling narrative might find it dry, but as a fan I found it fascinating, particularly the coverage of less-well-known territories and rulers from Central and Southern Europe, the Byzantine Empire, and the holy lands.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Moniek Bloks

    With a focus on medieval Europe, Blood Royal by Robert Bartlett takes on the system of monarchies and how families were shapes by births, marriages and deaths. Monarchies were the essence of medieval Europe. It is an in-depth look at the way monarchy works, and I was delighted to find that the book did not solely focus on the United Kingdom. The research can only be described as meticulous as about a third of the book's pages are for the many, many sources. This book would have worked well, but I With a focus on medieval Europe, Blood Royal by Robert Bartlett takes on the system of monarchies and how families were shapes by births, marriages and deaths. Monarchies were the essence of medieval Europe. It is an in-depth look at the way monarchy works, and I was delighted to find that the book did not solely focus on the United Kingdom. The research can only be described as meticulous as about a third of the book's pages are for the many, many sources. This book would have worked well, but I found it quite dry, and after a while, I was flipping through to the next chapter hoping it would be a little bit more enticing.  Overall, it is an excellent reference work but not quite suitable for the casual reader.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eugenia

    What a pleasure for a history nerd! This was such a well researched and immersive read, I am no real student of history but more of a casual learner and this exceeded my expectations by with the level of depth of coverage to each section, the notion of how royalty became royalty, was always a rather vague one for me and this book not only put it in perspective but organized it’s logic in an easily followed pattern. Very much of a good read,

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brittney

    Overall this book was very well written and the reader really gets to appreciate all of the research. The book was organized beautifully. I would strongly recommend any potential reader to already be familiar with Byzantium, French, Iberian, and English medieval history.

  15. 5 out of 5

    James

    An interesting book with a lot of amusing anecdotes, though a lot of it reads as a series of examples rather than necessarily as a cohesive narrative or structure. Still decent though.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    It is an interesting look at both men and women in the medieval world and not just about one or the other. Talks of heirs, queens away from home, alliances, burials, use of astrology and more. An introduction to different people and situations. Good for those who like this time period.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ami

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ben Wand

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lashonda Slaughter Wilson

  20. 4 out of 5

    Levi Roach

  21. 4 out of 5

    Edmund

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Pierce

  23. 5 out of 5

    C A

  24. 5 out of 5

    Avril

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sanguinius

  26. 5 out of 5

    Monika

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brent

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mimi Hunter

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Graham

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