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The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

by Shelley Puhak
The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

by Shelley Puhak


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“A well-researched and well-told epic history. The Dark Queens brings these courageous, flawed, and ruthless rulers and their distant times back to life.”—Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times-bestselling author of Hidden Figures

The remarkable, little-known story of two trailblazing women in the Early Middle Ages who wielded immense power, only to be vilified for daring to rule.

Brunhild was a foreign princess, raised to be married off for the sake of alliance-building. Her sister-in-law Fredegund started out as a lowly palace slave. And yet-in sixth-century Merovingian France, where women were excluded from noble succession and royal politics was a blood sport-these two iron-willed strategists reigned over vast realms, changing the face of Europe.

The two queens commanded armies and negotiated with kings and popes. They formed coalitions and broke them, mothered children and lost them. They fought a decades-long civil war-against each other. With ingenuity and skill, they battled to stay alive in the game of statecraft, and in the process laid the foundations of what would one day be Charlemagne's empire. Yet after the queens' deaths-one gentle, the other horrific-their stories were rewritten, their names consigned to slander and legend.

In The Dark Queens, award-winning writer Shelley Puhak sets the record straight. She resurrects two very real women in all their complexity, painting a richly detailed portrait of an unfamiliar time and striking at the roots of some of our culture's stubbornest myths about female power. The Dark Queens offers proof that the relationships between women can transform the world.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781635574913
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 02/22/2022
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 46,539
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Shelley Puhak is a critically acclaimed poet and writer whose work has appeared in the Atlantic, Smithsonian, Time, Lapham’s Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other publications. She is the author of three books of poetry, including the Anthony Hecht Prize-winning Guinevere in Baltimore and Harbinger, a National Poetry Series selection. The Dark Queens is her nonfiction debut. She lives in Maryland.

Table of Contents

Author's Note: Shadow Queens xi

Dramatis Personae 5

Prologue 9

Chapter 1 A Wedding in Metz 10

Chapter 2 Meeting the Franks 17

Chapter 3 The Fall of Charibert 23

Chapter 4 New Alliances 31

Chapter 5 A Missive to Byzantium 38

Chapter 6 The Slave Queen 47

Chapter 7 All the King's Men 54

Chapter 8 The Siege 62

Chapter 9 The Witch and the Nun 71

Chapter 10 Back Channels 78

Chapter 11 Uprising 85

Chapter 12 The Laws of Sanctuary 93

Chapter 13 Crime and Punishment 99

Chapter 14 "Wise in Counsel" 105

Chapter 15 Fredegund's Grief 111

Chapter 16 Brunhild in the Breach 117

Chapter 17 The Regency 125

Chapter 18 Set Ablaze 130

Chapter 19 Brunichildis Regina 139

Chapter 20 The King Is Dead 146

Chapter 21 The Vexations of King Guntram 155

Chapter 22 The Gundovald Affair 164

Chapter 23 The Diplomatic Arts 176

Chapter 24 The Dukes' Revolt 186

Chapter 25 A Royal Engagement 197

Chapter 26 The Defiant Nuns 205

Chapter 27 Allies and Assassins 212

Chapter 28 Forlorn Little Boys 217

Chapter 29 The Fading of the Kings 224

Chapter 30 The Dual Rule 233

Chapter 31 Brunhild's Battles 240

Chapter 32 The Fall 250

Epilogue: Backlash 259

A Note on Sources and Methods 271

Acknowledgments 275

Bibliography 277

Notes 297

Image Credits 347

Index 349

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