Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Case of White Washing

Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England by Alison Weir

Summary: In this vibrant biography, acclaimed author Alison Weir reexamines the life of Isabella of England, one of history’s most notorious and charismatic queens. Isabella arrived in London in 1308, the spirited twelve-year-old daughter of King Philip IV of France. Her marriage to the heir to England’s throne was designed to heal old political wounds between the two countries, and in the years that followed she became an important figure, a determined and clever woman whose influence would come to last centuries. Many myths and legends have been woven around Isabella’s story, but in this first full biography in more than 150 years, Alison Weir gives a groundbreaking new perspective.

Review: A biography of Queen Isabella that attempts to rehabilitate her image.

I had never heard of Queen Isabella before and this is the first book I have read about her. According to Weir, Isabella has been regarded as an adulteress and a she-wolf. I know that people are quick to relate rumors and tell downright lies about people to make them look bad or out of spite or a variety of reasons. I know that social mores were much different in the medieval period than they are today. From what Weir says about Queen Isabella's reputation, I expected to feel sympathy for her and believe that she was a strong woman.

After reading this book, I still feel ambivalent about Queen Isabella and while I did feel some sympathy for her, I didn't like her too much. What I found most useful about this book was what I learned about English history in the early to mid 14th century. I certainly plan on reading more about this time period since there are so many interesting topics: the war with Scotland, the supposed homosexuality of Edward II, and England's relation to France.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in medieval English history or biographies of queens and/or much maligned people.

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