She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

( 95 )

Overview

With the death of Edward VI in 1553, England, for the first time, would have a reigning queen. The question was: Who?

Four women stood upon the crest of history: Katherine of Aragon?s daughter, Mary; Anne Boleyn?s daughter, Elizabeth; Mary, Queen of Scots; and Lady Jane Grey. But over the centuries, other exceptional women had struggled to push the boundaries of their authority and influence?and been vilified as ?she-wolves? for their ambitions. Revealed in vivid detail, ...

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She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

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Overview

With the death of Edward VI in 1553, England, for the first time, would have a reigning queen. The question was: Who?

Four women stood upon the crest of history: Katherine of Aragon’s daughter, Mary; Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth; Mary, Queen of Scots; and Lady Jane Grey. But over the centuries, other exceptional women had struggled to push the boundaries of their authority and influence—and been vilified as “she-wolves” for their ambitions. Revealed in vivid detail, the stories of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Margaret of Anjou, and the Empress Matilda expose the paradox that England’s next female leaders would confront as the Tudor throne lay before them—man ruled woman, but these women sought to rule a nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Miranda Seymour
“[Helen Castor is] an accomplished and elegant historian.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore
“A gripping book . . . She-Wolves is a superb history of the powerful women who have surrounded England’s throne, combining blood-drenched drama, politics, sex and swordplay with scholarly analysis, symptahy for the plight of women and elegant writing.”
Jenny Uglow
“Castor skillfully combines this analysis with driving narratives, using vivd details from contemporary chronicles to bring those distant days alive. She-Wolves makes one gasp at the brutality of medieval power struggles—and at the strength and vitality of the women who sought to wield royal power.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Helen Castor’s very readable She-Wolves is . . . full of beautiful, imperiled ladies; fearless knights; and remarkable, often unbelievable turns of fortune. . . . Castor is a fine scholar and an equally fine storyteller.”
BookPage
“Exceptional, even inspirational reading.”
Evening Standard
“Beautifully narrated . . . learned and exciting. This is medieval history at its best.”
Publishers Weekly
Without these ancestral "she-wolves" (as Shakespeare dubbed Margaret of Anjou), says Castor, England's legendary Queen Elizabeth I may have been cast off, overlooked in the search for a male monarch. Spanning nearly 400 years, four notable foreign-born queens demonstrated strength and political savvy as they sought to establish their claims to English rule while their kings (whether husband or son) were absent, weak, or deceased. Castor (Blood and Roses), a fellow at Cambridge University, ably explains the dilemma of appearing unnaturally masculine while maintaining an aura of leadership. Castor's clear dissection of medieval expectations and restrictions make these queens' painfully won advances even more impressive. Early rulers Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine indirectly prevented a French-style Salic Law from hindering female-claim succession, paving the way for the reigns of Mary Tudor and of Elizabeth I, whose question of succession bookends the stories of the earlier queens. Castor's deep research will please European, military, and women's historians, while the detailed maps, lucid family charts, and tight storytelling make this unusually fine royal history enjoyable reading for casual readers. 8 pages of color photos; 5 maps. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Castor (fellow in history, Univ. of Cambridge; Blood and Roses: One Family's Struggle and Triumph During the Tumultuous Wars of the Roses) readably recounts the lives of six women who exercised—or tried to exercise—political power in England prior to Elizabeth I: Matilda, granddaughter of William the Conqueror; Eleanor of Aquitaine; Isabella of France; Margaret of Anjou; Jane Grey; and Mary Tudor. The story of Elizabeth I's ultimate accession can be fully appreciated only when viewed in the context of these women's earlier struggles to hold power in a society where female rule was seen as grotesque and an immoral aberration. In light of source limitations and the bias of contemporary chroniclers, Castor has done a masterful job of outlining the burdens these women faced—public scrutiny and ridicule, imprisonment, incorrigible husbands, political manipulation—as they attempted to secure the political prizes that should have fallen to them had not their gender been an impediment to rulership. VERDICT Genealogical charts and maps will help general readers follow a narrative lacking scholarly apparatus or historiographical debates, which will be thus of less interest to specialists. Readers of popular history of British royals will enjoy their immensely human stories and applaud the indomitable will of these strong protofeminists.—Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ
Kirkus Reviews

Cambridge research fellow Castor follows up her history of the 15th-century Paston family (Blood and Roses: One Family's Struggle and Triumph During the Tumultuous Wars of the Roses, 2006) with a fascinating biography of four powerful English queens who attempted without success to rule England before the coronation of Elizabeth I.

Taking as a point of departure the unexpected death of young king Edward VI, in 1553, and the accession to the throne of Elizabeth I five years later, the author examines a 400-hundred year sweep of history when females were barred from ruling in their own name. During this period, England was in constant turmoil, and the monarchy had limited power over the feudal lords, who frequently contested his rule with military force. While Henry VIII could successfully determine his successors, Henry I failed in his effort to place his daughter Matilda on the throne after his death. Outraged at the notion of a woman as "king," the nobility rebelled. A woman might take over the reigns of government temporarily in the name of her husband or as regent for an underage son, but she could not assume power in her own name. In the following centuries, similar circumstances confronted Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen Isabella and Margaret of Anjou, whom Shakespeare described as the "She-wolf of France." Quoting Shakespeare, Castor writes, "[t]he visceral force of this image drew on a characterisation of female power as grotesque and immoral." Nevertheless, as the author ably demonstrates, these women managed to succeed in wielding significant power and, in doing so, laid the groundwork for Elizabeth's successful rule as a monarch who, in her own words, had "the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too."

An insightful look at issues still relevant today, related by an accomplished historian and storyteller.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061430770
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/31/2012
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 122,386
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Helen Castor is a historian, writer, and broadcaster. She is the author of Blood and Roses, winner of the English Association’s Beatrice White Prize, and presents BBC Radio 4’s Making History. She is a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University, and lives in London.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Preface xiii

Part I Beginnings

1 July 6, 1553: The King Is Dead 5

2 Long Live the Queen? 25

Part II Matilda: Lady of England

3 This Land Grew Dark 39

4 Mathilda Imperatrix 51

5 Lady of England 73

6 Greatest in Her Offspring 100

Part III Eleanor: an Incomparable Woman

7 An Incomparable Woman 133

8 The War Without Love 164

9 By the Wrath of God, Queen of England 184

10 Surpassing Almost All the Queens of This World 194

Part IV Isabella: Iron Lady

11 One Man So Loved Another 231

12 Dearest and Most Powerful 256

13 "Someone Has Come Between My Husband and Myself" 283

14 Iron Lady 303

Part V Margaret: A Great and Strong Laboured Woman

15 Our Lady Sovereign 329

16 A Great and Strong Laboured Woman 347

17 Might and Power 362

18 The Queen Sustains Us 388

Part VI New Beginnings

19 July 6, 1553: Long Live the Queen 415

20 Not of Ladies' Capacity 430

21 A Queen and by the Same Title a King Also 451

Note on Sources and Further Reading 461

Index 469

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 95 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(62)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 95 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Riveting! History that reads better than fiction !

    I had eagerly awaited the release of this book and waited until I could take my time and read it slowly- taking notes if I wished. I wasn't disappointed! The book begins with a genealogy of the Tudor Succession and as Edward VI is dying. The book is an utterly fascinating, eminently readable, treatise about the tradition of female rulers prior to the time of Elizabeth I.

    Included are:

    Matilda: Lady of England 1102-1167
    Eleanor: An Incomparable Woman 1124-1204 (long lived indeed!)
    Isabella: Iron Lady 1295-1358
    Margaret: A Great and Strong Laboured Woman 1430-1482

    and, as the books returns to the time of the Tudors and the death of Edward VI, in "New Beginnings"
    Mary and her disastrous marriage with Philip of Spain. The book ends as Elizabeth I is handed the reins of of government and becomes both the King and Queen of her kingdom.

    Each section is preceded by a both a genealogy as well as a map of the Kingdom as it existed at that point in history. Very helpful while you are reading about the constantly changing boundaries of the various countries. The genealogies really made me realize how small the pool of available spouses for royal marriages really was at the time. Papal dispensations for consanguinity matters must have been a steady source of revenue for the Church! Ms. Castor has an uncanny ability to write non-fiction that reads as enjoyably as fiction. I was sorry when the book ended - wanting more of this truly riveting history. The struggle of female rulers really was the the beginning of the fight for women's rights and the fact that these amazing, talented, strong women managed to rule as they did is a wonder. I wonder how many modern women would have the tenacity and determination to breach the boundaries of proper 'etiquette' as these female rulers did. It boggles my mind at how strong and focused they must have been. No doubt they would be the sort of successful women who would, to this day, be called She Wolves, baracuddas, or another word that begins with the letter b----.

    I wished that the book had more illustrations - but then I always wish that. I always want more images to pair with the words in a book. The included 8 pages of color images are well done - but more would have been better (of course!) This book will, I think, hold wide appeal to history buffs - especially those who are Anglophiles as I am, as well as for people who study women's rights and societal issues.

    I will be on the pre-order list as soon as I hear about Helen Castor's next book !

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2013

    Well researched

    Very detailed to the extent that one can not skim through the pages lest an important but far-reaching fact be missed. Top marks for clarity among the historical blizzards of places, people, prevailing politics, and bloodlines. Reading this made me happy I live on Earth now, not then, and that I am not in a royal court in any capacity no matter how small. Not even as a mouse.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    If you love history this is a great book to read!

    Helen Castor is able to draw you in to an era where women were regarded to be only responsible for producing a heir. Here are 4 women that went beyond the traditional role of "queen" and did what they can to better their country.

    I would not recommend this book to anyone that didn't have an interest in history (or had the tendency of falling asleep in class). There is a lot of names, dates and plots for each of the eras in English history and one may not be able to get beyond those facts to see the bigger picture.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 23, 2011

    Strong

    Its awesome to read and visualize women, who had it harder then present day women, look at the face of adversity. To fight in what they believed in, something we should all do. Wish there were mire boiks like this.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An important and fascinating work of English history

    In She-Wolves, Helen Castor does not merely explore the lives of four powerful women-Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and Margaret of Anjou-she examines their experiences and challenges in the context of how feminine authority evolved in England. She also examines the succession crisis after Edward the Sixth died, and how Lady Jane Grey and Mary I each took steps to establish and maintain their autonomy as monarchs. The section on Matilda is especially enlightening, challenging the myths about Matilda's lack of people skills.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Very Informative

    I liked this book because it dealt with powerful women that we don't often hear about unless we've been knocking around in the histories before Elizabeth I for some time. It's a careful history, and I respect it because (among other things) Castor doesn't bring a post-modern "Feminist" approach to a topic that doesn't warrant it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    Tenderpaw

    She pads in. Her jet blue eyes practically staring into the souls of all the cats. "She has just come from a battle" whispers many of the cats. The she-cat pads to her den and curls up. Resting for the next battle to come.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2014

    To anyone needing a new pack member

    My name is Demonwolf im the best of the best im a fantasic fitgher im a girl i need a pack to live with i have been searching and searching for a new pack to join when it comes to a hard fight im the one u need to tack down any wolf that threatens the pack so if u need some one strong enough to take out a lot of wolves u can count on me.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2014

    Wa Good read

    Highly recomended to anyone interedtef in the process that brought female rule to England in a male dominated world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    Interesting and readable

    Interesting and readable

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2013

    Gentlepaw

    "I want to go back to my camp!"

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2013

    Nyra

    You shall be with her soon. She gently picked the cage up. A train stopped in front of them. Nyra climbed in and set the cage down. Heep, watch this one. Is heather there yet? Heep shook his head not yet. U comeing nyra. No. The train started to speed away. To train result 4.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2013

    Lily

    She stops to rest.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2013

    Kiba

    "Ahh. Finally returned"

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2013

    Is gray here

    Glow sent me im feather

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2013

    Mystery and Secret

    Doesnt mean we cant make it active again.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2013

    Link and Lakita                                                

    Link and Lakita                                                                                                                                                                                                      Both: YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2013

    Link and Lakita                                                

    Link and Lakita                                                                                                                                                                                                    Both:-they rolled around, bored- Lakita: Anyone want to play with us?

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2013

    Link and Lakita                                                

    Link and Lakita                                                                                                                                                                                                    ((Sorry i haven't been on lately! xP)) Lakita:-goes over to Light and nuzzeled Light softly- Light.....what's wrong..? Link: Faolan..? You ok as well?

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    Link and Lakita                                                

    Link and Lakita                                                                                                                                                                                                 Both:-they looked a Faolan and Burro with wide eyes.-

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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