"A wonderful book about four remarkable women . . . An utterly compelling read."
-Alison Weir, author of Eleanor of Aquitaine
"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
"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
"Goldstone weaves a vivid tapestry worthy of her subjects."
"On Goldstone's rich, beautifully woven tapestry, medieval Europe springs to vivid life. . . . This is a fresh, eminently enjoyable history that gives women their due as movers and shakers in tumultuous times."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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.
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
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.