Book Review: Les rois maudits by Maurice Druon

By Louise Gay

A member of the French Academy, a veteran, and a resistance fighter against Nazi Germany, Maurice Druon (1918-2009) was one of the co-authors of the mythical Chant des partisans – the anthem of French Resistance. But among his many nationally acclaimed works, the Accursed Kings series of historical novels (Les Rois Maudits) crossed borders to become an international success. This seven-volume story is the result of  a collaborative team effort, and the names of his many collaborators can  be found in each preface. The first six books were published between 1955 and 1960, with a final seventh – more independent from the others – released in 1977.

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Marie-Louise d’Orléans, Queen of Spain (1662-1689)

By Elisabetta Lurgo

Cover Image: Portrait of Marie Louise d’Orléans (1662-1689), c. 1679, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marie-Louise_d%27Orl%C3%A9ans,_reine_d%27Espagne.jpg

If, according to the contemporary view, the reign of Marie-Louise d’Orléans, wife of King Carlos II of Habsburg, ended with the fleeting victory of the Austrian faction at the court of Spain, her sudden death, which gave rise to tenacious suspicions of poisoning, has something to feed the romantic imagination.

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Book Review: Queenship in Medieval France, 1300-1500 by Murielle Gaude-Ferragu

By Louise Gay

Translated from French to English by Angela Krieger, this book by Murielle Gaude-Ferragu (original publication in 2014) sheds a welcome light on the last medieval queens of France from the early fourteenth to the end of the fifteenth centuries. It focuses mainly on Valois queenship, exploring through nine thematic chapters (grouped in three distinctive parts) the power held by these women at a time when the French monarchy excluded the possibility of crowning a regnant queen. Whereas previous historiography overlooked Valois queens for being “simple” consorts, Gaude-Ferragu argues they played an essential role in the monarchy throughout the nearly two centuries of crises it faced. Her aim is to define late medieval queenship in France, outlining the queen’s functions and expectations.

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Katherine Parr, religious reform, and the battle for the throne

By June Woolerton

Twitter: @mrsrjgiven

On a summer’s day in 1546, the Queen of England was walking with her husband when guards arrived to arrest her. King Henry VIII had already had two of his previous wives detained and later executed and for a moment there was every indication that his sixth consort was about to follow the same path. However, Henry stepped in and dismissed his wife’s enemies, who left, embarrassed and bewildered. Katherine Parr had survived. But if she said a prayer of thanks later, she kept it discreet. For it was religion that had placed her in peril of the block.

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Book Review: Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference Held at King’s College London, April 1995 by Anne J. Duggan

By Catherine Capel

This volume, edited by Anne J. Duggan, celebrates the diverse aspects which make up the foundations of queenship in the Middle Ages. It analyses them through thematic lenses identifying core aspects affecting the execution of power by queens and the construction of queenship. The essays in this collection come from the conference ‘Queens and Queenship in the Middle Ages’ in 1995, which aimed to draw comparisons between the constructions of monarchy in Europe and the Latin East from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries. The study of queenship is deeply complex, but Duggan’s volume highlights many of the arguments which have perpetuated the study of queens as agents of the monarchy.  

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Book Review: She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor

By Catherine Capel

Helen Castor’s She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth (2010) is perhaps one of the most well recognised popular biographies on English queens for both academic and public history lovers. Adapted into a popular BBCFOUR miniseries in 2018, Castor’s exploration of some of the women who ruled as queen consort or regnant before Elizabeth I presents a mixture of perceptions of female rule from the medieval to the early modern period in England. England’s first crowned regnant queen was Mary I, who reigned from 1553-1558, but before her there were consort queens who wielded power, and some who became well-known for their involvement in major historical events. Castor’s exploration of a selection of these consorts, and a would-be queen regnant, outlines how their lives were deeply affected by their political and social context.

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Book Review: Game of Queens. The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe by Sarah Gristwood

By Gabrielle Storey

The women who feature in Game of Queens, its moniker to most contemporary readers appearing to play on the epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, undoubtedly draws parallels with the ruling women of G.R.R. Martin’s series. However, Gristwood’s intention is akin to the game of chess rather than the fantasy epic, demonstrating how sixteen ruling women, often viewed as political pawns for dynastic allegiance, were in fact far worthier of the title of queen, in reality and as a playing piece. The women of Gristwood’s book lived during a time of significant religious and cultural change and political upheaval: although political upheaval is often a backdrop to most ruling lives, the Reformation and the Renaissance both impacted the abilities and the exercise of power by women. 

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“Like an Anvil”: The Language of the Kartlis Tskhovreba and Tamar the Great

By Irene Carstairs

Twitter: @CarstairsIrene

Tamar of Georgia presided over a period of unprecedented expansion, as well as an era of peace and prosperity that would never be seen in the nation again. Under her reign, Georgian historical writing began to resemble something recognisable as history, not a collection of biblical stories, folktales, and kings. Consequently, Tamar receives more space in the Kartlis Tskhovreba—the Georgian chroniclesthan any other monarch. Despite this, Tamar is one of the most difficult monarchs to get to know on a personal level, because of the way she is written about. She was a fierce woman who ordered massacres, conquered enemies, and freed the subjugated, but she was also a kind and compassionate woman who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and helped to raise orphans. She was, as all humans are, a complex, multi-faceted person.

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The Great Loves of John Hervey, 2nd Baron Hervey (1696-1743)

By Amy-Jane Humphries 

For our last #Pride posts, we have a two-parter on the courtier John Hervey, his relationship with Caroline of Ansbach, queen of Great Britain and Ireland, and his role in LGBTQIA+ history!

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