Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe

Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe

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by Nancy Goldstone
     
 

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For fans of Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser,acclaimed author Nancy Goldstone’s thrilling history of the royal daughters who succeeded in ruling—and shaping—thirteenth-century Europe

Set against the backdrop of the thirteenth century, a time of chivalry and crusades, troubadors, knights and monarchs, Four Queens is the story of

Overview

For fans of Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser,acclaimed author Nancy Goldstone’s thrilling history of the royal daughters who succeeded in ruling—and shaping—thirteenth-century Europe

Set against the backdrop of the thirteenth century, a time of chivalry and crusades, troubadors, knights and monarchs, Four Queens is the story of four provocative sisters—Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia, and Beatrice of Provence—who rose from near obscurity to become the most coveted and powerful women in Europe.  Each sister in this extraordinary family was beautiful, cultured, and accomplished but what made these women so remarkable was that each became queen of a principal European power—France, England, Germany and Sicily. During their reigns, they exercised considerable political authority, raised armies, intervened diplomatically and helped redraw the map of Europe.  Theirs is a drama of courage, sagacity and ambition that re-examines the concept of leadership in the Middle Ages.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The four beautiful, cultured and clever daughters of the Count and Countess of Provence made illustrious marriages and lived at the epicenter of political power and intrigue in 13th-century Europe. Marguerite accompanied her husband, King Louis IX of France, on his disastrous first crusade to the Holy Land, where straight from childbirth she ransomed him from the Mamluks. And with her sister Eleanor, queen of England, Marguerite engineered a sturdy peace between France and England. Ambitious Eleanor walked a narrow line while she struggled to build her own power base without alienating her cowardly husband, Henry III. Beatrice's coronation as queen of Sicily was the culmination of her long, hard-fought campaign to earn respect from her world-famous, mightily accomplished older siblings. Sanchia wed one of the richest men in Europe, but her reign as queen of Germany, brought her only misery. On Goldstone's (coauthor of The Friar and the Cipher) rich, beautifully woven tapestry, medieval Europe springs to vivid life, from the lavish menus of the royal banquets and the sweet songs of the troubadours to the complex machinations of the pope against the Holy Roman Emperor. This is a fresh, eminently enjoyable history that gives women their due as movers and shakers in tumultuous times. Illus., 4 maps. (Apr. 23) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

Bibliophile and novelist Goldstone (coauthor, The Friar and the Cipher) has spent much of the last decade writing books with her husband, Lawrence Goldstone. Their shared output revolves mainly around their experiences as collectors of rare books and manuscripts. Goldstone has chosen a new direction for her first solo title in almost ten years. She takes us back to the 13th century with an interesting and entertaining treatment of the four daughters of the count and countess of Provence—Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia, and Beatrice—whose marriages resulted in their becoming queens of France, England, Germany, and Sicily, respectively. There are not many modern biographies of the sisters; Beatrice and Sanchia in particular have received very short shrift, which makes a title that presents their stories intertwined all the more absorbing. While this work is more riveting narrative than scholarly history, Goldstone does draw heavily on modern publications of primary sources, including period correspondence and the work of well-known chroniclers of the age, such as Matthew Paris and Jean de Joinville. Recommended for academic and public libraries wishing to expand their women's history holdings.
—Tessa L.H. Minchew

Kirkus Reviews
Goldstone's latest recondite foray (The Friar and the Cipher, 2005, etc., co-authored with husband Lawrence Goldstone) tracks the spectacular rise of four well-positioned sisters in 13th-century Provence. The daughters of Raymond Berenger V and Beatrice of Savoy, Count and Countess of Provence, were neither terrifically rich nor highly well born, but they were comely, cultured and the right age just as Provence was growing more strategically important for both the French and English crowns. Blanche of Castile, the formidable mother of young Louis IX, hoped to neutralize Provence's bellicose neighbor of Toulouse with the arranged marriage in 1234 of her son to eldest sister Marguerite, then 13. The scheming White Queen wasn't wrong: The marriage lasted until Louis's death in 1270, having produced ten children and endured two disastrous crusades and consolidated French power. Meanwhile, England's 28-year-old Henry III thought a match with a fiefdom of the Holy Roman Empire-namely, Provence-might work to his advantage in the nation's decades-long civil war and keep the White Queen in check as well. He chose Marguerite's sister Eleanor, in 1236 a bright, literate young lady of 13; theirs, too, was a strong, fruitful alliance that ultimately prevailed through the uprising of Simon de Montfort in the 1260s. Third sister Sanchia, the most beautiful and timid, was married off to Henry's gruff younger brother, Richard of Cornwall, and endured an unhappy, short life as queen of Germany before dying at age 35. Last came Beatrice, who at 13 became the sole heir of her father's fortune; besieged by suitors, she was finally forced to wed King Louis's youngest brother, Charles of Anjou. Husband and wifelustily raised an army and seized the kingship of Sicily, though Beatrice's hope of ruling it over her sisters ended with her early death. The author's synthesis of much research is impressive, though her jam-packed history requires relentless attention to chronology and lineage.
From the Publisher
"Narrator Josephine Bailey adds a note of refined elegance with her clear and clipped British accent while expertly pronouncing the often complicated and obscure names." —AudioFile

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101202173
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/19/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
251,986
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Entertainment Weekly
Goldstone weaves a vivid tapestry worthy of her subjects.
Ross King
Remarkable . . . told with all the verve and aplomb and richness of detail that four such extraordinary women deserve. (Ross King, author of Brunelleschi's Dome)
From the Publisher
"Narrator Josephine Bailey adds a note of refined elegance with her clear and clipped British accent while expertly pronouncing the often complicated and obscure names." —-AudioFile
Alison Weir
A wonderful book about four remarkable women . . . An utterly compelling read. (Alison Weir, author of Eleanor of Aquitaine)
Amanda Foreman
A densely woven narrative of sibling rivalry, simmering resentments, and thwarted ambitions. . . . Times change but not, it seems, sisterly love. (Dr. Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire)

Meet the Author

Nancy Goldstone (www.nancygoldstone.com) is the author of Four Queens, The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc, The Lady Queen, and Trading Up: Surviving Success as a Woman Trader on Wall Street. She has also written a number of books with her husband Lawrence, including The Friar and the Cipher, Out of the Flames, and three memoirs: Used and Rare, Slightly Chipped, and Warmly Inscribed. Additionally, Ms. Goldstone has written and reviewed for a number of publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe Magazine, and the Miami Herald. She graduated with honors in history from Cornell University in 1979 and received her MA in international affairs from Columbia University in 1981.

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Four Queens 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Beverly_D More than 1 year ago
If you're curious about history, but hate dry scholarly tomes, this would work well for you. Goldstone's style is chatty, almost tabloid-like, but she works in dates and important events (wars, births of heirs, deaths, etc). If Kate Middleton had three younger sisters, one of whom married Prince Harry, and the other two married other European royalty, people would be scratching their heads, going, huh? Like Middleton, these girls (they became women later, but marrying at 13 or so, counts as being girls, IMO)were not themselves royalty; unlike the Middletons, their county, while beautiful, was vastly in debt. Except for the youngest daughter, they had NO dowry; Mama Dearest was charming but also manipulative and a bit controlling. She Also had eight ambitious brothers who managed to work the royal connections with their nieces to do quite well for themselves. While others may focus on the revolts, Crusades (FYI: Crusades, jihads, Inquisitions, and other religious wars are not happy or safe places to be, regardless of whether you believe the Divine is on your side) and continual tax and financing problems, I found it interesting how the family ties did seem to smooth conflicts between France and England, although the countries themselves had different agendas. Happy family Christmas parties, even. All in all, a fun and interesting read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great read - a fabulous story. I loved every bit of it. Goldstone is very witty and writes in such a clear, approachable style. I would recommend this very highly to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
katieadele1894 More than 1 year ago
It's a biography, but reads like a novel. I love that everything in it is factual, but not tedious to read about like biographies often can be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding read for anyone interested in European history or in the crazy antics of the monarchy and their breath takingly disfunctional families. Nancy Goldstone brings this entire period of history to life, and what interesting lives these women led. Since each sister married a man who eventually becomes a king, the book covers the history of France, England, The Holy Roman empire and other power players on the European scene. We even get to follow the protagonists on a couple of fascinating and heart wrenching crusades. The story is exciting and engaging and so much better than anything written by Philippa Gregory.
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
This is a fairly engaging history of four sisters (and their mother) who had great influence in the shaping of Europe during the 13th century. Written in a style similiar to Alison Weir, the book depicts well the historical time and personalities placing these four women firmly in their familial, political, and historical times. Especially recommneded for the history nut.
pcflamingo More than 1 year ago
This was a can't-put-it-down book for me. The stories of the 4 queens were compelling, sad, and not at all dry history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's the most anazing book you will ever read.
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