The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc

The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc

3.6 8
by Nancy Goldstone

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“Attention, ‘Game of Thrones’ fans: The most enjoyably sensational aspects of medieval politicsdouble-crosses, ambushes, bizarre personal obsessions, lunacy and naked self-interestare in abundant evidence in Nancy Goldstone's The Maid and the Queen.” (Laura Miller,

Politically astute,

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“Attention, ‘Game of Thrones’ fans: The most enjoyably sensational aspects of medieval politicsdouble-crosses, ambushes, bizarre personal obsessions, lunacy and naked self-interestare in abundant evidence in Nancy Goldstone's The Maid and the Queen.” (Laura Miller,

Politically astute, ambitious, and beautiful, Yolande of Aragon, queen of Sicily, was one of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages. Caught in the complex dynastic battle of the Hundred Years War, Yolande championed the dauphin's cause against the forces of England and Burgundy, drawing on her savvy, her statecraft, and her intimate network of spies. But the enemy seemed invincible. Just as French hopes dimmed, an astonishingly courageous young woman named Joan of Arc arrived from the farthest recesses of the kingdom, claiming she carried a divine message-a message that would change the course of history and ultimately lead to the coronation of Charles VII and the triumph of France.

Now, on the six hundredth anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc, this fascinating book explores the relationship between these two remarkable women, and deepens our understanding of this dramatic period in history. How did an illiterate peasant girl gain access to the future king of France, earn his trust, and ultimately lead his forces into battle? Was it only the hand of God that moved Joan of Arc-or was it also Yolande of Aragon?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Joan of Arc’s visionary leadership and legendary courage exemplify the medieval belief in the power of divine revelations and miraculous events that alter human history. At the height of the English siege of Orléans in 1428, a young woman mysteriously appeared in the court of Charles VII, urging him to march against the English troops and reclaim the crown of France. Yet, as Goldstone so forcefully reminds us in this tale of madness, mysticism, intrigue, and courage, we might never have heard of Joan of Arc if Yolande of Aragon, Charles’s mother-in-law and powerful queen of Sicily, hadn’t needed to convince him of his legitimate claim to the throne and bolster his courage in battle. Influenced by her reading of the popular Romance of Melusine—which featured a half-human, half-fairy heroine who helped a king achieve political success—Yolande chose Joan and her visions from God to help Charles triumph. With compelling storytelling, Goldstone (Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe) colorfully weaves together the tales of these two women—one rich, one poor; one educated, one illiterate; one worldly, one simple—whose powerful personalities and deep allegiance to France helped shape the country’s future. Illus., maps. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This fascinating dual biography weaves together the stories of two late medieval women—one highly familiar, the other virtually hidden from history. Goldstone (Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe) presents a new interpretation of events surrounding the life and legend of Joan of Arc, seeking to uncover how and why this illiterate peasant mystic came to influence political and military policy. The backstory involves Yolande of Aragon (1381–1442), queen of Sicily, duchess of Maine and Anjou, countess of Provence, and mother-in-law to the dauphin and future King Charles VII. She had personal and political motives for bringing Joan to the attention of the French court. Relying heavily on medieval French sources as well as the wildly popular medieval Romance of Melusine, Goldstone identifies the powerful Yolande as a woman who used her skill in diplomacy, her wealth, and her love for her family to ensure that the throne of France would be preserved for her daughter Marie and son-in-law Charles. VERDICT The lack of scholarly citations may cause specialists to question Goldstone's "overwhelming evidence" of Yolande's power and influence, but her entertaining narrative will intrigue general readers interested in the Middle Ages, Joan of Arc (whose 600th birthday is this year), or biographies of royal figures or women in history.—Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ
Kirkus Reviews
A French noblewoman arranged Joan of Arc's miraculous career. So argues popular historian Goldstone (The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily, 2009, etc.), who contends that Yolande of Aragon was deeply influenced by The Romance of Melusine, the story of a fairy aiding a young nobleman that she took as a blueprint for what needed to be done to goad France's indecisive Charles VII into battle against English invaders. The author presents no hard evidence that Yolande even read the book, but Joan of Arc's short life is nicely contextualized within the story of Yolande's astute maneuvers among the shifting political currents of the Hundred Years War. It's particularly valuable since there is no biography in English of this remarkable woman, thrown into the thick of European politics by her marriage to Louis II, a member of the French royal family who was also King of Sicily. Yolande administered her husband's French possessions while he was consolidating his claim to Sicily, and she saw that her family's security and prosperity depended on bolstering the resolve of Charles VII. Goldstone strongly suggests that Yolande was responsible for the prophecy that began to circulate around this time--"France, ruined by a woman, would be restored by a virgin from the marches of Lorraine"--though she's too conscientious a historian to state outright that the prophecy prompted Joan's hearing divine voices. It's possible that Yolande smoothed Joan's path to Charles and encouraged his acceptance of her as literally heaven-sent, though again there's no hard proof. Nonetheless, Goldstone's vivid retelling of Joan's astounding victories and her capture and martyrdom by the English is as gripping as ever, and she brings Yolande back into the narrative following Joan's death in 1431 to spur Charles to a truce with the powerful duke of Burgundy, which ultimately led to the French victory. Readers don't have to buy the shaky premise to enjoy this knowledgeable and accessible account of a turning point in French history.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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File size:
5 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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