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September 18, 2013

Book Review - Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone

I'm a huge history fan, as you know. The only thing better than a good SF book in my hand is a really fascinating history book or historical biography.

Nancy Goldstone is an interesting author because she covers some aspects of history that many people don't really think about much, at least not in the general public. I'm sure there have been scholarly articles about them, but I haven't seen any major publications about them.

Four Queens is a great example of that.

Yes, books have been written about the French and English kings in the 13th century, both Louis IX and his disastrous crusade from France as well as the cowardly Henry III. But we haven't seen anything about their wives, and the family that married its daughters very well. The kings of England and France, Sicily and Germany, all had wives from this family that ruled Provence, a family that was vassal to the Holy Roman Empire.

Goldstone writes a very readable history, a narrative form of history that does not use footnotes (though she does provide an extensive bibliography at the end). Thus, some historians may dismiss the book. I don't know for a fact, but I get the feeling that there is probably some tension between those who approve of narrative histories and those who want something heavily documented. I like them both, though it would depend what I'm using it for on whether I found the book useful or not. As a general primer to learn something? I think narrative history is fine for that. I would not use it if I were writing my own history book, though.

Anyway, that's beside the point of this post, which is that Four Queens is a great book.

A full review of the book can be found on Curled Up With a Good Book.

From the review:
"Goldstone does a great job laying out the book, with chapters alternating between the four sisters as circumstances warrant. We travel from England to France, down through Italy and into the Holy Land, where King Louis IX is determined to lead a Crusade against the Moslems and almost meets his death. We see the details of all the royal courts, such as the relationship between Marguerite and her mother-in-law, who had ruled France well while Louis was coming of age and who was reluctant to give up her son once he got married. Goldstone brings these historical characters to life through primary source writings of bards and other historians of the day, as well as letters exchanged between the sisters, many of which still exist. Goldstone’s writing style brings you into the book and will make you want to read more when you really should be putting it down."
And how can you go wrong with a book like that?


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