The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily

The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily

by Nancy Goldstone

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Overview

The riveting history of a beautiful queen, a shocking murder, a papal trial — and a reign as triumphant as any in the Middle Ages.

On March 15, 1348, twenty-two-year-old Joanna I, Queen of Naples, stood trial for the murder of her husband before the Pope and his court in Avignon. Determined to defend herself, Joanna won her acquittal against overwhelming odds. Victorious, she returned to Naples and ruled over one of Europe's most prestigious courts for the next three decades — until she herself was killed.

Courageous and determined, Joanna was the only female monarch in her time to rule in her own name. She was widely admired: dedicated to the welfare of her subjects, she reduced crime, built hospitals and churches, and encouraged the licensing of female physicians. A procession of the most important artists and writers of the time frequented her glittering court. But she never quite escaped the stain of her husband's death, and the turmoil of the times surrounded her — war, plague, and treachery would ultimately be her undoing.

With skill, passion, and impeccable research and detail, Nancy Goldstone brings to life one of history's most remarkable women. The Lady Queen is a captivating portrait of medieval royalty in all its incandescent complexity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316524001
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 09/25/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 310,260
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Nancy Goldstone is the author of six books including Daughters of the Winter Queen: Four Remarkable Sisters, the Crown of Bohemia, and the Enduring Legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots; The Rival Queens: Catherine de' Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal that Ignited a Kingdom; and Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe. She has also coauthored five books with her husband, Lawrence Goldstone. She lives in Sagaponack, New York.

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The Lady Queen

The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily
By NANCY GOLDSTONE

WALKER & COMPANY

Copyright © 2009 Nancy Goldstone
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1670-5


Chapter One

The Kingdom of Naples

This city [Naples] ... is joyful, peaceful, rich, magnificent, and under a single ruler; and these are qualities (if I know you at all well) which are very pleasing to you. Giovanni Boccaccio The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta, 1344

Joanna I was born in 1326, eldest child of the heir to the Angevin kingdom of Naples, the largest and most prestigious sovereign entity in Italy. At its northernmost point, the realm jutted up past the great forests of Abruzzi and into the central mountain range of the Appenines. Its long eastern shore boasted an enviable number of ports, including Vieste and Brindisi, from which fast boats ran cargo, passengers, and armies across the Adriatic as a first stop toward such distant destinations as Hungary and wealthy, exotic Byzantium. At its western toe the important duchy of Calabria, on the Mediterranean, offered quick access to the lucrative trading posts on the island of Sicily. The kingdom took its name from its capital city of Naples, which housed the royal court, but this was a relatively recent designation. In 1266, when Joanna's great-great-grandfather Charles of Anjou (from whence the name Angevin derived) first established the family's claim to sovereignty by wresting the realm away from its former ruler, the domain had included the island of Sicily, and for this reason had originally been called the kingdom of Sicily. But in 1282, in an incident famously known as "The Sicilian Vespers" for having occurred at Easter, the people of Sicily rebelled against Charles's harshly autocratic rule and instead invited the king of Aragon to reign in his place. Charles of Anjou's descendants never accepted this diminution of their authority, however, and strove mightily to retake the island through both military and diplomatic means. As a result, during Joanna's lifetime, the kingdom of Naples was still known, variously and confusingly, as the kingdom of Sicily, or, sometimes, as the kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Charles of Anjou, a man of little scruple and great ambition, was venerated as the founding patriarch of Joanna's family, and his legacy and vision informed its every movement in the century after his death in 1285. He was the youngest brother of Louis IX, king of France, later Saint Louis. As a member of the French royal family, Charles had the opportunity to make an extremely fortuitous marriage. Joanna's great-great-grandmother was Beatrice, countess of Provence, the youngest of a family of four sisters famous in their day for having all become queens. Charles then used his wife's aid and resources to conquer his Italian realm so that thereafter the kingdom of Naples and the county of Provence were inextricably linked. Joanna was therefore destined at birth to inherit the prestigious title "countess of Provence" and to rule over this strategically important region as well.

Most men would have been content with administering these two domains, but Charles was fueled by the need to become more respected and powerful than his older brother Louis IX, in whose shadow he had lived the majority of his life. Supremely confident of his abilities, Charles dreamed of an empire that would rival that of the kingdom of France. Conveniently, one seemed to be available—the Byzantine Empire to the east, which incorporated the storied city of Constantinople, had been weakened by a series of incompetent rulers. Charles moved quickly to transform aspiration into reality. In May of 1267 he contracted to acquire the legal right to the principia of Achaia, on the western coast of Greece, as a stepping-stone toward invasion. Although he did not realize this ambition during his lifetime, he never relinquished his goal, and the scale of his desire may be measured by his subsequent purchase, on March 18, 1277, of the title to the kingdom of Jerusalem, an honor for which he paid a thousand pounds of gold outright and an additional stipend of four thousand livres tournois annually. Charles was not a man to pay good money for an empty title; he believed himself or his descendants capable of capitalizing on this opportunity. Henceforth, all the Angevin sovereigns of Naples, including Joanna, were therefore also styled king (or queen) of Jerusalem, a durable reminder of their benefactor's expectations.

Dreams of empire aside, the southern Italian kingdom conquered by Joanna's great-great-grandfather was a place of profound physical beauty. A land of spectacular white cliffs and mysterious sea caves, of inviting beaches, fertile plains, and ancient forests, Naples was universally acclaimed for its scenery. A sixteenth-century notary referred to it as "an earthly paradise" in an official government report. The kingdom was also famous as the home of the baths of Baia, the most fashionable spa on the continent, a vacation spot that traced its celebrity back to the giddy days of Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire. "My lady, as you know, just the other side of Mount Falerno ... lies the rocky coast of Baia high above the seashore, and no sight under the sun is more beautiful or more pleasant than this," wrote Giovanni Boccaccio, a brilliant author and haunting storyteller from the period who knew Naples well. "It is surrounded by the most lovely mountains thick with trees and vineyards; in the valleys any game that can be hunted is available; ... andforamusements, not far away ... are the oracles of the Cumaean Sibyl ... and the amphitheater where the ancient games convened." Even Francesco Petrarch, the most important scholar of the fourteenth century, and a man who ordinarily scorned the pursuit of frivolous pleasure, was impressed by Baia. "I saw Baia ... and do not recall a happier day in my life," he wrote to his friend Cardinal Giovanni Colonna in a letter dated November 23, 1345. "I saw ... everywhere mountains full of perforations and suspended on marble vaults gleaming with brilliant whiteness, and sculpted figures indicating with pointing hands what water is most appropriate for each part of the body. The appearance of the place and the labor devoted to its development caused me to marvel."

But for all its natural beauty, the chief allure of Naples was the royal court, which supported a thriving metropolis. The many and varied personages traditionally drawn by the glow of princely wealth—s olicitors and supplicants, ambassadors and architects, financiers, silk merchants, poets and pickpockets—gravitated to the capital city, swelling the number of its inhabitants to capacity. In 1326, the year of Joanna's birth, only four cities in Eu rope could claim a population of one hundred thousand: Paris, Venice, Milan— and Naples. London, by contrast, was home to only about sixty thousand people.

Although Venice and Milan, and even Florence, with a population of eighty thousand, might rival Naples in terms of size, they could not match it in distinction, for Naples was the only kingdom in Italy. This meant that, among the various heads of state, only Joanna's family hailed from royalty, and in the lineage-conscious fourteenth century, this made a very great difference indeed. Venice, with its monopoly on shipping lanes, was stronger eco nomically, but it was administered by a large council, some of whose members were not even noble. Florence might be the acknowledged seat of Europe an banking, but it was governed by an ever-changing group of middle-class burghers. The self-styled lords of Milan, the Visconti family, were members of the minor provincial nobility, ruthless parvenus who tried to buy their way to social and political legitimacy. Milan wouldn't even become a duchy until the very end of the century.

Joanna's ancestral credentials, on the other hand, were impeccable. Her father was Charles, duke of Calabria, only son and heir of her grandfather, Robert, king of Naples, by his first wife, Violante. Violante had been a princess of the house of Aragon before her marriage. Joanna's mother was the exceedingly lovely Marie of Valois, daughter of the powerful Charles III of Valois, a younger son of the crown of France. On her father's side, Joanna's French ancestry was even more impressive: she was directly related, through Charles of Anjou, to Louis IX, the most revered king in living memory. Louis had been canonized in 1298, but he was not the only saint in the family. Joanna's great uncle Louis of Toulouse had also been beatified, and she was distantly related to the famous thirteenth-century Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Even her father's tutor, Elzear, count of Ariano, would eventually be sainted. The blood of great men and women flowed through Joanna's veins, of kings and queens crowned by representatives of the pope and thereby invested with the heavy authority of the church. Hers was a legacy of stirring deeds, courage in battle, wisdom in ruling, piety, chivalry, and honor, the very best that the medieval world had to offer.

* * *

Almost from the moment she drew breath, Joanna was fated to be the victim, through her father and grandfather, of the unremitting capriciousness that constituted the politics of Europe, and especially of Italy, in the fourteenth century.

Italy existed only as a geographic designation, not as a political entity, in the Middle Ages. What we recognize today as the country of Italy was simply a string of in de pen dent, warring cities, anchored to the south by the Papal States and the kingdom of Naples. As a result, an individual living during Joanna's lifetime would not have considered himself or herself to be an Italian, but, rather, a Florentine or a Venetian, a Pisan or a Roman.

The exception to this rule was a small intellectual circle of which Francesco Petrarch was the undoubted focal point. Petrarch, who devoted his life to recapturing the lost knowledge of the ancients, was enamored of the idea of a united Italy under the rule of a wise, benevolent emperor as a first step toward reinstituting the greatness of the Roman Empire. Actually, there was an emperor in Eu rope, the Holy Roman Emperor, but he lived in Germany, which was all that remained of Julius Caesar's vast dominions by the fourteenth century. The German emperor did have a great number of supporters among the people of Italy, who saw his influence as a counterweight to that of the church. This did not mean that those who upheld the emperor's authority were not religious, only that they did not want their particular town or city to become a fief of the papacy, which required conforming to whatever the pope mandated, like paying more money to the church or allowing one of his legates to adjudicate litigation. It was a secular, political issue, not a spiritual one. Members of the faction who favored the emperor were called Ghibellines. For the most part, the Holy Roman Emperor was so well-occupied by German affairs that he had neither the time nor the inclination to raise an army and venture into Italy in order to unify it benevolently or otherwise (although occasionally this did occur). In his absence, the Ghibellines functioned as the medieval equivalent of a modern-day political party, concerned with all the aspects of governing, from potholes to tax statutes.

Challenging the Ghibellines for local control of the major cities and towns in Italy was the other national political party, the Guelph, or papal party. Like the Ghibellines, Guelph supporters were in every part of Italy, although they were stronger in the south (closer to Rome) just as the Ghibellines were stronger in the north (closer to Germany). Assigning too much ideological emphasis to these designations would be a mistake, however. Party loyalties were often corrupted by petty personal concerns. If a Guelph businessman cheated his partner, then the aggrieved party might take his revenge by transferring his loyalty to the Ghibellines. Similarly, if a young Ghibelline woman chose one lover over another, the spurned suitor and his family might become Guelphs. The concept of sharing local political authority between factions did not exist in the fourteenth century. When a division of the Guelph party, known as the "Black" Guelphs, seized control of Florence in 1301, for example, its members secured their victory by exiling all their political opponents (known as the "White" Guelphs) and appropriating their property. This, naturally enough, infuriated the Whites, who went over to the side of the emperor, and from their new homes in cities with sympathetic Ghibelline governments, they plotted the overthrow of the Black Guelphs.

As though conditions were not volatile enough, the power struggle for control of Italy was further exacerbated by the removal of the papal court to Avignon in 1305. This abandonment was unprecedented in church history. Except for the east- west schism created by Constantine a millennium before, and some temporary absences, a pope had resided in Italy since the days of Saint Peter. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, however, the papal court, which had heretofore withstood the fall of Rome, the invasion of Attila the Hun, the alien barbarity of the Goths, the advent of Charlemagne, and the abject humiliation of several of its pontiffs at the hands of the powerful German emperors, took fright at the hostility evidenced by its own unruly subjects and fled. The last pope to try to live in Italy had been Boniface VIII, who had run afoul of both the French king and the powerful Colonna family of Rome. Boniface was very nearly murdered in his own castle at Anagni. Although saved by supporters at the last minute, Boniface never again acted independently and died a broken man in 1303. This treatment had rather discouraged Boniface's successors, who were all closely allied with the French anyway, from taking the risk of setting up residence in the city of which they were, at least nominally, the bishop. Avignon, conveniently situated on the Rhône, with its pleasant climate, docile population, and excellent wines, seemed a much more attractive option.

However, just because the pope was no longer in Rome did not mean that he did not wish to control Italy. In the Middle Ages, popes did not limit their activities to matters of religion and the spirit. They considered themselves princes in the fullest sense of the term, and aspired to own and administer a large domain, maintain fiefdoms, acquire new provinces to increase their secular power, and raise the armies necessary to achieve these goals, exactly as would a king of France or England. Managing Guelph affairs from faraway Provence was unwieldy but not unworkable; the pope simply used surrogates. Often he sent ambassadors or papal legates to coax or bully local legislators into carrying out his instructions. But he also relied heavily on his most important vassal to shepherd Guelph interests in the region: the king of Naples.

Naples had been a fief of the church ever since Charles of Anjou had conquered the kingdom using papal funds and encouragement. By a contract dated November 1265, Charles had agreed to pay the pope eight thousand ounces of gold annually (later reduced to seven thousand) plus one white horse every three years in exchange for the privilege of ruling the realm. Moreover, also by virtue of this remarkable document, Charles had maintained the right to pass on the kingdom to his heirs, provided that they, too, kept to the terms of the agreement and did homage to the pope. As a result of this arrangement, unique in Christendom, over time cooperation between Naples and the papacy had deepened to the point where it approached the status of a partnership. The rest of Italy was of course aware of the Angevins' special relationship with the pope, and that was why, when Guelph Florence was threatened by Ghibelline interests in 1326, the Florentines turned for help to the son of the king of Naples, Joanna's father, Charles, duke of Calabria.

* * *

Charles of Calabria was twenty-eight years old and already a seasoned warrior when he accepted the Florentines' offer of two hundred thousand gold florins and unilateral control of their government in exchange for defending the city against the hostile advances of Castruccio Castracani, the Ghibelline lord of neighboring Lucca. Charles was the obvious choice; his father, King Robert, was aging and Charles seemed well suited to the military. As a teenager he had demonstrated such high spirits that his father had felt the need to employ a tutor, the saintly Elzear, to moderate his son's behavior, but by his early twenties Charles was sufficiently responsible to come into his inheritance and be named duke of Calabria. In 1322 his father entrusted him with the difficult task of dislodging the entrenched Aragonese ruler of Sicily and returning the island to Neapolitan rule, an undertaking King Robert himself had tried and failed many times during his long career. Charles was no more successful than the king at achieving this goal, but he evidently acquitted himself with honor on the battlefield, and his reputation as an able military commander was firmly established.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Lady Queen by NANCY GOLDSTONE Copyright © 2009 by Nancy Goldstone. Excerpted by permission of WALKER & COMPANY. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Genealogical Charts and Maps....................ix-xv The Trial....................1
Chapter I The Kingdom of Naples....................7
Chapter II The Court of Robert the Wise....................19
CHAPTER III The Kingdom of Hungary....................35
CHAPTER IV A Royal Apprenticeship....................48
CHAPTER V The Foolish Legacy of Robert the Wise....................67
CHAPTER VI Papal Politics....................81
CHAPTER VII Nest of Vipers....................94
CHAPTER VIII Under Siege....................111
CHAPTER IX The World at War....................130
CHAPTER X The Scales of Justice....................145
CHAPTER XI The Return of the Queen....................162
CHAPTER XII Foreign and Domestic Relations....................181
CHAPTER XIII Queen of Sicily....................193
CHAPTER XIV The Queen and Her Court....................207
CHAPTER XV The Quest for an Heir....................222
CHAPTER XVI Queen and Pope....................241
CHAPTER XVII Six Funerals and a Wedding....................254
CHAPTER XVIII The Great Schism....................273
CHAPTER XIX The Fall of the Queen....................287
Epilogue....................307
Acknowledgments....................311
A Brief Explanation of Fourteenth-Century Money....................315
A Note on the Sources Cited and Used to Research The Lady Queen....................319
Notes....................325
Selected Bibliography....................341
Illustration Credits....................351
Index....................353

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Lady Queen 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While this was an interesting book the editing was awful. If that sort of thing bothers you then this book will drive you crazy. Still I thought the subject was well worth reading about. Unfortunately the illustrations were not included in the ebook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm very interestedin the topic but the typos are too much. I gave up on page 47.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very, very thorough look at the life of a queen in the 1300's. Lavish spending and borrowing, land acquisitions thru battles and marriages (marriages in some cases of children as young as 6 years old) are just the tip of the iceberg. Did I mention several Popes' involvement? There are a lot of family members to keep track of - unfortunately the graph of the family tree is not NOOK friendly. Overall this is very good. History buffs will enjoy this read as will people who enjoy intrigue.
gaele More than 1 year ago
AudioBook Review Stars: Overall 2 Narration 1 Story 2 Please don’t misunderstand, I am aware that a non-fiction and fictional historic accounts will read and feel differently, and while both should serve to provide a sense of ‘what was’, it is the historic non-fiction that should also leave me with more answers than questions about the person or time. Unfortunately, despite the raves I’ve heard about Goldstone’s books, this particular volume was far more erratic and uneven both in terms of information shared and interest generated in that information. And while I am convinced that much of the primary source material here was either difficult or impossible to access (perhaps owing to the fact that this maker of history was female, and long have we been discounted as players in the ‘big games) I was disappointed at the frequent use of quotes about Joanna – from those much later in time, or the ‘she may have” repeated refrains. Sure I understood that the primary sources on which she might have relied were destroyed during World War II, her obvious fascination with her own subject is conveyed more adeptly in the introduction and author's notes than in the book proper, leaving me with far more questions than answers and little information on the whole that I couldn’t have found in another text. To say I was disappointed, or wish that the author would have reversed the style and created a story about Joanna that took FROM history and actual facts, allowing her obvious flair and fascination for this woman lost to history to take front stage and been far more readable and feel less like I’ve had a class put together from post-it notes. Narration for this book is provided by Christine Lakin and I quite frankly wish that I had read the 300 plus pages rather than listened to fifteen hours of poorly presented accents and a rather dry recitation of words – as the book was challenged in many ways with repetitive phrasing due to the lack of actual evidentiary documentation, and a fascination with using quotes as people from other eras looked back on Joanna’s reign, the narration did not serve to ignite any further understanding in the story, merely muddled waters that were already feeling very clouded and unsure from the start. I was disappointed and find that my interest in both this author and narrator has taken a direct hit. I received an AudioBook copy of the title from Hachette Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Joanna I, queen of Sicily, Naples, and Jerusalem, is the subject of this highly interesting biography. She ruled one of the most powerful kingdoms in the late 14th century, surviving the numerous calamities that plagued (pun intended) Europe at that time. She was also implicated in the death of her first husband, Andrew of Hungary, and eventually married four times.Joanna emerges in this highly informative book as one of the most fascinating women of medieval Europe that I¿ve ever read about. Goldstone admits that she doesn¿t have much information to go on, but she puts Joanna¿s story together very well. She¿s one of those people who were much maligned in life; but in reality, Joanna did a number of wonderful things for her kingdom¿even as her enemies tried to bring her down. Goldstone goes into a lot of detail about the papal politics of the time; Joanna had a close relationship with Clement and was very deeply involved in the great schism. From the schism to the plague, to 14th century scholarship, to even the Hundred Years¿ War (of which Joanna was more of a spectator), Goldstone covers everything in a way that makes it easy for the reader to understand.The jumping off point of the book is Joanna¿s trial (described somewhat dramatically as being ¿on trial for her life¿), but really the murder and trial are only a small part of this story. By no means is this a bad thing, though. Instead, the author focuses on Joanna, a courageous woman who faced much adversity in her life.
KC9333 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story has all the elements of a supermarket paperback -including murder, deception and adultery. This fascinating account by Nancy Goldstone follows the life of Joanna, the queen of Naples who ruled the southern third of Italy and portions of France for much of the 14th century. At a young age, Joanna, defends herself in Papal Court, against charges of murdering her first husband. She goes on to remarry and rule over one of Europe's most prestigious courts for more than 30 years, until she, herself, is murdered. However, be warned, this is not a novel for light reading. Nancy Goldstone's research is exhaustive and this complicated history covers many years of detailed infighting. There is a huge cast of characters, often with confusing names and titles. But for those willing to work for it, the reward is a complex, satisfying tale and knowledge of an amazing and little known queen.
OldRoses on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I came of age in the 1970s at the height of the Women¿s Movement. It was a heady time full of marches and protests and petitions. Women¿s Studies departments were formed at colleges and universities. The study of history, full of dead white men, was expanded to include herstory, bringing to light the lives and achievements of women in the past. Women have come a long way since then, now full partners at home, in the workplace and in the history books. But I still find myself, when confronted with a choice of books, always reaching for the one by or about women. It was with great anticipation that I began reading ¿The Lady Queen¿. Imagine, a woman ruler in medieval Italy, surrounded by ¿chauvinist¿ aristocracy and popes who shamelessly exploited women. How did she come to rule? How was her rule different from the men who preceded her and then followed her? How did her subjects feel about being ruled by a woman? What, if any, changes did she make to Italian culture?Sadly, only my first question was answered. The rest of the 300+ pages were filled with the usual battles, funerals, coronations, plots and counter-plots found in most history books. This book was written for a popular audience, yet it is all the things that everyone hates about history. Just a dry recitation of dates and historical figures.Ms. Goldstone tries to excuse the paucity of material concerning the actual life and rule of Joanna on records that were lost during WWII. What I found most frustrating were the tantalizing hints of her life. Her concern with and improvement of healthcare, the arts, and religious orders are mentioned again and again but never expanded upon. I kept hoping for more details on them which would, directly or indirectly, tell me more about Joanna as a person and as a queen. Joanna¿s life was ended by assassination. There was a problem with what to do with her body because she had been excommunicated and couldn¿t be buried in hallowed ground. A religious order, of whom she had been a benefactor, came up with a solution. I just wanted to scream. What had she done for them they were willing to put aside their religious convictions and provide her with a resting place?Alas, this book does not live up to its title. I know very little more about Joanna and her ¿notorious reign¿ than I did before I read this superficial biography.
kirbyowns on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While the author's research is amazing, there are too many facts and details in this book. It tends to drag down interestingness of the book. Had I not promised to review this book it would have ended up in my abandonded pile before chapter 3.
juliayoung on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although some of the narrative showed promise, I think the book is maybe too detailed. It lost my devoted interest early. For someone really interested in studying the 1300s in Naples (and Europe, more broadly), it's good, but for a casual reader it may be too dense.
scofer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Obviously well researched but, for me at least, The Lady Queen was unbelievably dry and read like a text book. Try as I may, I lost interest early on and struggled through this book. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and thought this one would be right up my alley, but I am afraid it kept putting me to sleep rather than being the page turner that I had hoped for. High marks for the research effort involved, though.[This book was reviewed as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers group]
oldman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Sicily and Jerusalem, was a lady and a queen. The book by Nancy Goldstone, The Lady Queen, pictures her Middle Ages reign well. Joanna was the great-great granddaughter of the man who contracted with the Pope for sovereignty over the kingdom of Naples, (for an annual price to be paid to the Pope). This area of Italy was rich, both economically and militarily, and influenced the whole of Italy with that power. Italy then was a series of city-states, sometimes cooperative, sometimes enemies. In addition, a few families amassed huge fortunes and functioned across and between the city-states leveraging their own political power. Everyone has a boss and this environment was controlled by the popes, then in Avignon. From Avignon the popes approved, disapproved and manipulated the various states and countries to maintain what they considered peace. To maintain political stability marriage connected states to enhance and protect those in power. Quite a setting for intrigue. Joanna did not fall into this political environment, but was born and educated to function as a queen. She became consummate at aligning powers to protect her kingdom and even enlarge it when she became queen. Being woman at that time, her achievements become all the more remarkable. She left no son and heir, though married four times and accused of being an accomplice in the murder of her first husband. Economic depression and plague were events occurring during her reign, yet she kept her kingdom together. After many years of governing her reign ended tragically.This book, which I received through LibraryThing Early Reviewers, never made it to my ¿Currently Reading List.¿ Once it came in the mail I started reading it and was captivated by this person, in her time, was the queen she was. I was stunned with the power, both secular and religious, wielded by the Church. The ultimate punishment was excommunication and interdiction for both secular and religious infractions of papal dictates. Goldstone¿s chapters are concise, follow Joanna¿s life chronologically and describe the obstacles she encountered and overcame each time. I am not a fan of Middle Ages history generally, but this book was worth the time. This book has five stars for telling me of a lady I had never known and for telling her story so well.
NeverStopTrying on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Lady Queen opens dramatically and moves next to setting the local and European context for Joanna¿s life and reign. The author uses an engaging , direct, storytelling voice. There are amusing descriptions of court and financial politics of the time and an occasional tongue in cheek tone.The work, despite its title, is not a personal biography but a popular history of Europe centered on the events and consequences of Joanna¿s life and reign. The history told is primarily political and does not include much in the way of economic, religious or cultural analysis. That work would have been huge. Most of my previous history reading has focused on the British Isles and their relationships with France and Spain. This work significantly broadened my view of medieval European history and improved my understanding of the relationships between and among the great dramas of the period: the Hundred Years War, the Plague, the Great Schism (Who¿s the Pope? Where¿s the Pope?), and the first stirrings of the humanism of the Renaissance. I had not previously realized the spread of Angevin holdings, power and influence throughout Europe, beyond France and England.While not new information for me, I was still taken aback at the extent to which royal women functioned primarily as political capital, like money in the bank almost, but more disposable and dispensable. Even while Joanna herself served as Queen, and for many years sole ruler, of one of the most prestigious kingdoms in Europe, she treated her female kin as political pawns and the spoils of wars lost and won. She had to in order to survive.Joanna¿s life was never easy and ended harshly, but the author is unapologetically an advocate for further research into and a more positive light put on Joanna¿s reign and her role in history. In the Epilogue, Nancy Goldstone wrote:¿During her long and eventful reign, Joanna held together a large and far-flung dominion. ¿ For more than thirty years, this queen fed the poor and cared for the sick; built churches and hospitals; reduced crime and promoted peace; protected trade and introduced new industry within her borders. She guided her subjects to recovery from the many instances of plague, war, famine, and depression endemic to the second half of the fourteenth century. ¿ She has earned the right to be remembered for what she was: the last great sovereign in the Angevin tradition.I enjoyed reading this work and value what I learned. I fully intend to find and read Goldstone¿s earlier work, Four Queens.
jeanie1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was very excited to receive this book. As I knew nothing of this Queen, I thought the book would open up a whole new world for me. Well, that sort of happened, but I became so bogged down in details that I my enthusiam soon waned. I have yet to complete the book, mostly brecause I have to take a break and read something that is not so brain-draining.The author did exhaustive research and compiled a massive amount of information. Unfortunately she was unable to turn that research into a tome that keeps the reader interested.
kylljoi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At first I was intimidated by trying to tackle a historical biography, but Nancy Goldstone writes in a way that makes reading history easy and imaginative. Her research is impeccable and composed in a way that can keep a reader engaged. I was disappointed in myself for not knowing about Joanna I sooner! As a Literature student I should have known about the queen who supported both Petrarch and Boccaccio. Which brings me to believe that Goldman is selecting her topics wisely as an author. By providing detailed information on the people readers "should not about but don't" and writing about history in a way that makes it accessible to readers that are not history buffs... Goladman has really found a needed niche in the literary community.
pru-lennon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i just couldn't read this any more. i tried but it is too dry. it's full of details, which are great because it means the author did her research, but on the flip side, it means you're trying to keep straight so much information, some of it which doesn't seem entirely pertinent to the story, that you are bored. i wanted to like this and wanted to be able to finish it (i hate not finishing a book and it has to take a lot of tries for me to given in) but at this rate i'll be reading this until i'm 50 (i'm 31 now). i was a history minor in college so it's not that the topic bores me, it was just too much info not told in a gripping enough way.
Nojiskma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was very excited to get into this book. Unfortunately, it has been hard to finish. The book is a very detailed history of Joanna I and was very dry at times. I was expecting it to be more along the lines of "The Other Boleyn Girl" etc. and was sadly disappointed it was more like reading a history book for my college course. If you are into the history, you will love this book.
TomVeal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Joanna of Naples (reg. 1343-1382) was not the only medieval queen who ruled in her own right, but she definitely led one of the most colorful and eventful lives of any female monarch. Married four times, she possibly murdered her first husband, fought a war against her second, discovered shortly after the wedding that her third was insane, and finally found a loyal protector in her fourth, but not one who was strong enough to save her from the consequences of the disastrous misjudgment that cost her throne and life.Nancy Goldstone thinks that Queen Joanna has been unfairly neglected, and she is surely right. The last substantial English biography dates from the late 19th Century - a long time ago for someone who reigned for almost 40 years, brought her kingdom successfully through foreign invasion, civil wars, conflicts with the Church and the catastrophe of the Black Death, was praised by Petrarch and Boccaccio, and attracted other Renaissance luminaries to serve in her court. Moreover, she made a heavy imprint on later history: Her decision to support the deposition of Pope Urban VI was arguably the proximate cause of the Great Schism.The Lady Queen falls squarely within the genre of popular history. The author is much more interested in people and events than in institutions. She has almost nothing to say about the economic, social, cultural or constitutional history of Joanna's realms (which included Provence and, for a few years, Sicily, as well as the core territories in southern Italy), and her political history is occasionally oversimplified. She engages in guesswork about her characters' attitudes, motives and thoughts. Now and then one encounters an odd factual slip.Characteristics like these made many histories for the lay reader indistinguishable from historical fiction. That criticism cannot be leveled against this one. The author's research has been meticulous. She appears to have consulted all of the primary sources that are available in print (the vast majority, since Nazi vandals destroyed the major manuscript records during the last days of World War II). Where her linguistic skills were not up to the challenges of medieval Latin, French and Italian, she consulted experts. Her narrative thus has a high degree of credibility, though there are, naturally, many points about which, owing to contradictions and deficiencies in the evidence, widely differing views are possible.The most serious lacuna is the superficial treatment of religious issues. We are told that Joanna was pious: benefactress of the order of Poor Clares, correspondent of St. Catherine of Siena, admirer of St. Bridget of Sweden. Left out of the picture are weightier matters, such as her possible sympathies the Spiritual Franciscans, instilled by her grandmother Queen Sancia, nor is there more than cursory analysis of her reasons for siding with the Avignon anti-Popes against Urban VI, a step that put her at odds with most of her subjects. In general, the author views dissensions within the Church as comparable to secular political struggles, with nothing at stake except power, money and prestige. That may have been true of some of the contestants, but certainly not of Joanna, and even the most venal churchmen could not entirely scant spiritual concerns.There is little other ground for complaint. Fluently written, with no dull pages and hardly any confusing ones, The Lady Queen is a well-crafted story of a life that deserves to be better known. One can hope that it will soon attract deeper scholarly interest.
zibilee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Destined from birth for greatness, Joanna I begins her early life with her younger sister Maria as an orphan raised in the opulent court of her grandfather, Robert the Wise. When her grandfather dies in her early teens, Joanna is crowned queen of Naples and begins a reign fraught with treachery and difficulty. Not only does Joanna deal with the political upheavals that were so common during the middle ages, she must also contend with the meddling papacy, financial disasters and challenges to the legitimacy of her reign by the King of Hungary. To make matters worse, Joanna is wed to Andrew of Hungary, a union that is strained and unpopular with her subjects from the very start. When Andrew is viciously murdered, Joanna's reign takes a a frightening trajectory into the realm of revenge and savagery. But as the Queen fights for her life and her kingdom, she maintains an attitude of nobility and graciousness showing the world that she is truly fit to lead her nation and leaving a lasting legacy for future generations.I am not usually a reader of history or historical biography, so when I received this book I was a little concerned that it wouldn't be engaging enough to hold my attention. As I cracked the spine on the book and sat down to read, I found that it did take a little bit of time to orient myself into the medieval world that the author was documenting and for the first few chapters I struggled a bit. I think this was due to the fact that there was a huge section of exposition on the history of the area that was necessary to set the stage for the main story to be told. As I waded in further, I found that the tale of Joanna's reign was not only very engrossing, but exciting to read about and ponder over. I think that Goldstone has an incredible gift for bringing history to life and a way of telling her tale that absorbs the reader and places them squarely into the grist of the drama. The writing was not showy or flashy but it managed to capture me and keep me involved until the very last page.I marveled at the strength of Joanna, for it seemed that her reign was plagued with every sort of trial that could possibly come along. During her time as Queen, not only was there the regular pressure of running the kingdom but also challenges to her sovereignty coming from every side and faction. It was incredible to me that she was able to withstand so much disaster and never even think of abdicating her throne. It was also amazing to me how many threats came from her immediate family. Some of the most grievous situations came from her sister Maria, but other relatives didn't bat an eye at creating dangerous situations for her or committing treason as well. It is said in many instances in the book that Joanna had the demeanor and staunchness that the ruler of a nation needs, and that her tenacity to hold on to her kingdom, and even add to it, was extremely impressive, not only for her time, but for ours as well.On of the things that surprised me about this time in history was how many schemes and machinations were going on within the realm. It seemed that most of the troubles started over attempts to increase domains and kingdoms, or the possibility of generating revenue. It was almost comic the way people switched alliances at that time. One minute they were the Queen's trusted advisors and the next moment they had switched sides and were attempting to overthrow her. These schemes were most obvious from courtiers and family members, but I was flabbergasted to see that many of the Popes played this game as well. It was almost as if everyone was operating for themselves and their fortunes alone and that loyalty was a foreign concept to them. It must have been devastating for Joanna to have everyone turn on her at one time or another, and I can imagine it made it very hard for her to truly trust anyone.There were some really exceptional qualities about Joanna's rule that are worth mentioning in this review. First of all, during Joanna
Beverly_D More than 1 year ago
This is a very "fat" book full of details and many historical personages. It starts with a bang - a powerful young queen appearing before the Pope to defend herself of charges that she arranged her husband's death. But that is something of a teaser, and it quickly reverts to giving important by dry backstory about Joanna's grandfather and the various claims to the throne. There was so much going on - rival Popes, four husbands, intriguing heirs... but I found it a bit hard to follow though I love historical biographies in general. The depth of research is evident, but the writing style doesn't enchant.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will reread this book - once is not enough to digest the story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Lady Queen is fascinating biography. Before I read this book I was oblivious to whom Joanna was, this book was easy to follow and kept you wanting more. It was full of detail and would appeal to anyone that has a passion for the middle ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable, very readable approach to a complicated time in history. The author expertly guides you through the complexities & turbulence of warring kingdoms, the battle between the papacy & royalty, and the difficulties Queen Joanna faced in holding on to her realm. For anyone who's eyes blur over dates & names, this was an easy-to-follow & entertaining read about the life of a woman defending her right and ability to rule
Anonymous More than 1 year ago