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Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  2,431 ratings  ·  221 reviews
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, an...more
Paperback, 490 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Ballantine Books (first published 2005)
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Queen Isabella by Alison WeirNicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. MassieThe Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia FraserCatherine the Great by Robert K. MassieEleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
Oh, Royalty...
1st out of 234 books — 60 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankEleanor of Aquitaine by Alison WeirThe Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison WeirThe Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia FraserCatherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
Female Biographies
10th out of 522 books — 191 voters


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Kathryn
Isabella of France, queen of England (c.1295-1358), has been unjustly vilified down the centuries as ‘the She-Wolf of France’ and condemned as wicked and unnatural by writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries incensed that a woman could rebel against her lawfully wedded spouse. Nowadays, however, she is almost always portrayed as a long-suffering, put-upon victim of her neglectful husband who is miraculously transformed into an empowered feminist icon, striking a courageous blow fo...more
Chris
I’m really not sure what to think of this book. Alison Weir attempts to tackle the subject of Isabella of France, Edward II’s French wife, and one of the more unusual queens in English history. Historically portrayed as an evil, grasping, adulterous woman who becomes a corrupt tyrant, Weir turns her subject into a feminist hero who saves England from Edward II. Weir admits early on she approached this not liking Isabella and wanted to portray her in a more sympathetic light, but by the end, she...more
Jamie
This is a very readable account of Isabella's life, although Weir struggles to extrapolate Isabella's motives from meager evidence. It's necessarily very detached, as are all biographies of people who lived such a long time ago, particularly women. For me, historical fiction usually makes for a more satisfying read, but I enjoyed this book.

Isabella is quite pitiable when she arrives in England as a 12-yr-old bride to find that her husband is homosexual and is dominated by his lover, Piers Gavest...more
bkwurm
Isabella, the she-wolf of France, is so named because she, together with her lover led a rebellion against her husband, Edward II of England, deposed him, imprisoned him and is believed to have had him murdered. She had her son crowned as Edward III and ruled badly in his name, surrendering Scotland to Robert the Bruce. Eventually, Edward III seized power back from her and executed her lover.

The aim of this book is to rehabilitate Queen Isabella’s reputation.

Well researched, the author largely s...more
Rachel72
Weir's premise, that Isabella has been demonised throughout history and therefore merits a more objective analysis, was what interested me in this. Unfortunately, in trying to "rehabilitate" the subject, it goes way too far in the other direction. This was a terribly biased biography, in fact I would describe it as hagiography, completely with purple prose describing Isabella and Mortimer's relationship (which Weir posits as having been sexual - while this is widely assumed to be the case, there...more
Maria
Oct 14, 2012 Maria rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested in 13th and 14th century England
Recommended to Maria by: Found it through Montgomery Country Public Library
I’m grateful I had the opportunity to read this book. I found it through the Montgomery County Public Library e-book consortium. I search for what books are available, and open myself to the possibilities. It’s like a treasure hunt.

The first 30% of the book was a list of travels and expenditures. Her movements were recreated as a result of where she spent money, and what was listed in accounting sheets. Once major male players of late 13th century and early 14th century England and France starte...more
Tim
I had to plough through this. It was just about worth the effort, but I found it really hard work.

On the upside, it was a well-researched, well-structured description of a period of history I knew very little about, and now know much better. Alison Weir writes with the intention of rehabilitating Isabella's reputation, and backup up her arguments with evidence. She presents a broad picture of a complex queen, whose intelligence and passion were counterbalanced by greed and by slavish devotion t...more
Karen
I found this an interesting read rather than a gripping one, although it was educational before listening to this all I knew about Isabella was that she had had her husband murdered by means of a red hot poker up his bum.
She appears to have been a very good diplomat and in reality probably played no part in her husbands death.I find it strange that one of the acts that made her really unpopular with the English was negotiating peace with Scotland. Isabella believed that the war with Scotland cou...more
Boogenhagen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laurie Boltin
Let me preface this review by saying that I absolutely adore Alison Weir. I came across her books two summers ago when I was reading everything I could get my hands on about Henry VIII. I think she is an outstanding writer and I will continue to read her books.

I like my biographies to read like fiction - and while this one tried its best, it didn't do a great job of that. I really wanted to learn more about Queen Isabella and her contemporaries - really delve into her psyche, her loves, her hate...more
Steven Peterson
Remember the movie "Braveheart" and its rendering of the relationships among William Wallace, Edward I, his son (later to become Edward II), and Isabella? Forget about it! This and other works make rubbish of some of the themes raised in that very entertaining and rousing movie.

This is the story of the daughter of Philip IV of France, betrothed to Edward, son of Edward I of England (to later become Edward II), to cement peace between the two countries. Wed young, their marriage was probably not...more
Alice
This book was a hard slog. Early on in the book, I knew I was going to disagree with Alison Weir.

It was presented as the hapless King Edward II that ruled wisely when he listened to the counsel of Queen Isabella. He was a tyrant when listening to the counsels of his Rasputins, Piers Gaveston or the Despensers Ms. Weir does like Edward II more than Richard III. This is not saying much.

From other accounts Edward II was effective at delegation. He sent Piers Gaveston to be Governor If Ireland. By a...more
Ray Campbell
Alison Weir really does this well. If you are not familiar with her work, she is a historian whose specialty is Tutor England, though her one offs and historical fiction from the centuries just prior are amazing. This book is non-fiction though as always, it reads like fiction. Once again, Weirs ability to incorporate quotes from documents, the work of other scholars and publications, makes the dialog flow in a natural easy to follow manner. It occurred to me reading Queen Isabella, that by focu...more
Louise
This is the best of the Alison Weir books I have read, and the others are 5 star books as well. The beginning part develops the characters, the later part is more reportorial. Weir concludes with a summary of Isabella's role as a revolutionary.

Isabella clearly defied the narrow female role of her times, but her revolutionary role, in my view, was accidental. It was not the confiscation of land of the nobles, nor the suspension of habeas corpus that motivated her, it was the suspension of her rev...more
Liza Lawler
Okay, so during the 14th century, this 12-year-old French queen from the most royal house in Europe marries King Edward II, a suspected homosexual and weak-willed English monarch, only to be mistreated, ignored and eventually deprived of her status, children, lands, and inheritance. What is a woman to do? Well, this bad-ass dame sneakily returns to France, begins a scandalous affair with her King's mortal enemy, and then invades England and easily deposes her husband and makes her son king.

You c...more
Donna
When I read for pleasure, I rarely pick up non-fiction, but this one was worth my time. This is painstakingly researched and I am sure there is no more that can be written about Queen Isabella. Weir has documented even the smallest details - like how much she spent on her household and how many times she traveled to the shrine of St. Thomas a'Becket (22). Along with Isabella, there is more information on her husband, Edward II, renowned not only for his bad reign, but for his ignominious death....more
lia
May 09, 2013 lia rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
The story of Queen Isabella a medieval queen who deposed and (presumably)murdered her husband Edward II. She ruled together with her lover Roger Mortimer before her son Edward III managed to overthrow both of them.

It is clear that Weir wrote this to clear Isabella's name but i think the evidence that she gave to disassociate Isabella with Edward II's death are ,most of them, her own assumption. There are no clear historical proof that can exonerate Isabella.

In my opinion Edward II deserved to...more
Lauren
So not a page-turner, but it wasn't written with the casual reader in mind. If you're looking for an in-depth biography with lots of history, and critical evaluations of myth vs documented fact, this is a great book. It dragged a little around the middle, but picked back up near the end, and was certainly interesting. I like how Alison Weir explores the possible motivations for the actions of Edward II, Isabella and Edward III. One thing that struck me was how easy it was for people to lose ever...more
Nathan
Unlike her book on Eleanor of Aquitaine, Weir has here chosen a subject for which there is more evidence. This makes it a better read, although parts of it have been cribbed entirely from administration documents ("27 July she was here, 1 August she was there, 3 August she paid 10s to a man who fixed her window" etc etc). But the heart of the book is the political shenanigans in early 14th C England. And these are quite rollicking. I like her theory about the fate of Edward II, in particular - i...more
Carol
This is when I wish there were subcategories for ratings. The actual story is a 5 star. The research shows.

Unfortunately, the research also hurts. Instead of footnoting, the writer clogs the works by constantly making an interesting statement and then detailing the evidence to support it. For example, she writes something like this - "Queen Isabella traveled to x on y date (interesting so far) as proven by the receipt for a meal submitted by y for z amount (really not necessary). It makes a slo...more
Mom
The individuals in this book are very interesting. Isabella, Edward II and III, and Roger Mortimer all led fascinating lives. Sometimes you marvel at their political astuteness and sometimes at their amazingly idiotic decisions. The reading did bog down at spots. Sometimes it seemed they were just continually moving around England with another batch of nobles, and who was loyal to whom today? All in all, Alison Weir is a tireless researcher and draws rational conclusions from the information she...more
Slmcmahon
Alison Weir has a commanding knowledge and understanding of English history, focusing on that country's kings and queens and notable nobles and the scoundrels ever present in the lives of those in or craving power.

Isabella,daughter of Phlip IV of France, was known as the "she-wolf of France". She was married, at the tender age of twelve, to Edward, Prince of Wales in an effort to link the two dynasties politically, ending the never-ending threat of war.

Upon the death of Edward I, the Price of W...more
Sbuchler
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anna DunLany
I'm only giving this book two stars because I decided halfway through to pretend it was a fictional account of Queen Isabella's life--as Alison Weir did when she threw all scholarship out the window. I think it is a good thing that she switched to writing historical fiction. Also, her biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of the best examples of recent medieval scholarship which made Queen Isabella all the more unpalatable.
Nola
Like so many of the recent Weir biographies I've read, the story of Queen Isabella is filled with details, a paper trail that maps out her life. Between letters and parliamentary proceedings, Weir attempts to tell the story of a queen married to a homosexual and tyrannical king. With no previous knowledge of the history, I was biased only by a Goodreads review that criticized the author's bias toward the queen, which, as I read, did seem present.

I am quick to confess to my failure to know much o...more
Nicole Marble
This Queen Isabella is not the Spanish queen who sent Columbus off across the ocean. This Isabella was a 14th cent. English queen, sister of the French king, wife of Edward II, mother of Edward III. She had a tumultuous life and this book examines it quite thoroughly - quite. As an aside, this books time period was during what is now called he 'Little Ice Age' in Europe and, curiously, no mention was made of it at all.
Antony Fitzpatrick
This wasnt the exact book on Isabella I read from Alison Weir but couldnt find the version I had read so used this one instead. The copy I read was entitled Isabella: She wolf of France, Queen of England.

The book was well written, giving a thorough account of Isabella's life alongside the reigns of Edward II and Edward III and the unfolding political scene in Europe. Won't go into much detail for those who havnt read either book. Isabella hasnt been dealt a good hand by historians over the years...more
Nick
This was a great read about a powerful, often misjudged woman. The nonsense she had to endure was incredible. Very well written and researched.
Jaclynn
All I knew about Isabella of England/France, long suffering wife of Edward II, was what I had seen in the movie Braveheart, in middle school! She isn't as famous as Elizabeth I or Eleanor of Aquitaine, but what a woman! She was a woman who displayed a genius for survival and reinvention and even after her enforced retirement from public life, she remained an influential figure in royal circles.

I have read all of Weir's books, and I think this is her least interesting. It took a lot of focus to g...more
Elena
Queen Isabella, daughter of Philip IV of France, is known as the "She-wolf of France" because she led a rebellion against her husband, Edward II of England; and, even more shocking, she did it with the help of her lover, Roger Mortimer. Because of this, she has been one of the most slandered queens of England, and has earned the reputation of a femme fatale.

Alison Weir, instead, presents Isabella in a very sympathetic way. She focuses on her many talents, like diplomatic and peacemaking skills,...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Alison Weir (born 1951) is a British writer of history books for the general public, mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and queens. She currently lives in Surrey, England, with her two children.

Before becoming an author, Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs. She received her...more
More about Alison Weir...
The Six Wives of Henry VIII Innocent Traitor The Lady Elizabeth The Life of Elizabeth I Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life

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