Wives of the Kings of England: From Normans to Stuarts by Mark Hichens

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Wives of the Kings of England: From Normans to Stuarts by Mark Hichens

Category: History
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Fascinating digest of the 34 Queens of England from the Normans to the Stuarts. It's well-researched, always readable and provides a springboard for more detailed reading.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Book Guild Publishing
ISBN: 1846243009

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The twenty-three Norman and Stuart kings counted thirty-four queens consort between them. Six, famously, were married to Henry VIII. But these are the stories of them all and they were unsung heroines for the most part, offering a rather more moral lifestyle than their spouses, a tempering influence on the bloodthirstiness of the times, or endowing religious houses, schools and hospitals. Some were less benign - Margaret of Anjou incited civil war, Isabella led an invasion and was dubbed "the she-wolf of France". Two, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, paid the ultimate price for queenship.

Some faced great dangers and few enjoyed lasting and happy lives. Several were married to homosexual or bisexual kings - slightly gratingly referred to by Hichens as homoerotic - and many survived some, most, or even all of their children. Few found true love.

It's a fascinating book, a digest of bite-sized history, as it were, and since we tend to know a great deal about monarchs but very little about their consorts, there's a great deal of new information to take in. I'd always thought Berengaria, queen to Richard the Lionheart, had never set foot in England, but she did make fleeting visits. Anne of Denmark married James I three times - once by proxy, once in Copenhagen and once in Oslo, where, bizarrely, naked negroes danced in the snow as entertainment and died of cold soon after. Charming.

Hichens' research is meticulous. He succeeds admirably in placing his queens within their environment and I came away, I think, with a very accurate picture of their personalities and the extent to which they influenced the times in which they lived. Each chapter is a flavour, rather than a mini-biography and chapters lengthen a little as extant sources become more and more plentiful over time. Occasionally, husbands with crowns come a little too much to the fore, but it's not often.

It's well-written, accessible, interesting, and absorbing and it will provide an excellent springboard for anyone wanting to read in more depth about these thirty-four English queens.

My thanks to the nice people at Book Guild for sending the book.

You might also enjoy Katherine Swynford by Alison Weir.

Buy Wives of the Kings of England: From Normans to Stuarts by Mark Hichens at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wives of the Kings of England: From Normans to Stuarts by Mark Hichens at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Wives of the Kings of England: From Normans to Stuarts by Mark Hichens at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wives of the Kings of England: From Normans to Stuarts by Mark Hichens at Amazon.com.


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