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

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,412 Ratings  ·  261 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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Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. MassieThe Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia FraserQueen Isabella by Alison WeirEleanor of Aquitaine by Alison WeirCatherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
Oh, Royalty...
3rd out of 253 books — 92 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankEleanor of Aquitaine by Alison WeirThe Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia FraserThe Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison WeirCatherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
Female Biographies
11th out of 658 books — 231 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Orsolya
I have a soft spot for historical females figures whom receive negative attention. Perhaps it is my feminist qualities coming out to play. Whatever the nature of my interest, I have read several books on Queen Isabella. Being that Alison Weir is one of my favorite authors, this was a double whammy for me.

With names running through my head (Piers Gaveston, the Despensers, Roger Mortimer), I began reading to a much detailed beginning of the book. In fact, at times it was too detailed and lost my a
...more
Chris
Apr 28, 2014 Chris rated it it was ok
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
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
Jamie Collins
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
Feb 10, 2008 bkwurm rated it liked it
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
Elena
Sep 29, 2015 Elena rated it it was amazing
It has been some years since Queen Isabella by Alison Weir was published; I am only now getting around to reading and reviewing it. I enjoy Weir's popular histories in that she usually sifts through the household accounts to find out how many bolts of cloth were ordered, and other such details, which can tell us a lot about a person. As for Isabella of France, Queen of England, the bolts of cloth were many, since Isabella always placed a high priority on clothes, as well as on jewelry and books. ...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
Louise
Jul 25, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing
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
Boogenhagen
Sep 22, 2014 Boogenhagen rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeanette
Dec 01, 2014 Jeanette rated it liked it
Comprehensive history of Queen Isabella, wife to Edward II of England.

Having read several fiction tomes on this woman and her role in the developing English monarchy, I already knew much of the facts of her life. But this one set it far more securely within the male and serf sensibilities of that particular century, which gave it my 3 star enjoyment. It was written as a history and quite dry. There are pages of detail about dress items or ship's contents or legal documents which did add to seein
...more
Lisa
When it comes to my historical education, I’m finding myself drawn again and again to Alison Weir, who has a real talent for making lives led long ago pulse with real vitality. In this outing she sets out to not only tell us about the life and times of Isabella, one of our most notorious queens, but to rehabilitate her image. She’s not entirely successful – while she succeeds in imparting a lot of information on this deeply interesting woman, I didn’t feel that the rehabilitation part went so we ...more
Frrobins
Jan 04, 2015 Frrobins rated it really liked it
First, let me discuss what this book is not. It is not a whitewashing of history or Isabella's role in it, despite what some of the previous reviewers maintain.

Claims that Ms. Weir did not make clear that Isabella and Mortimer's reign was just as bad as Edwards II's are speared by this, "To most people, it seemed that the chief result of the revolution of 1326-27 had been the replacing of one tyrannical regime with another. Their rapacity equaled or exceeded even that of the Despensers, and the
...more
Laurie Boltin
Feb 21, 2011 Laurie Boltin rated it liked it
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
Jan 12, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
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
Maria
Oct 14, 2012 Maria rated it liked it
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
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
Jun 21, 2013 Ray Campbell rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013
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
Tim
Jul 07, 2012 Tim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Maria Riegger
Jul 05, 2015 Maria Riegger rated it it was amazing
Another great biography from Alison Weir. I had read about Queen Isabella before, and the story of her life really has everything. One of the most interesting things, as Weir discusses, is that Isabella's Household book is still in existence, and so sheds a great deal on what her life was like. It's always a plus for historians that contemporaneous records exist.

While non-fiction, the book is easy to read and fast-paced. Excellent.
Liza Martin
Apr 05, 2011 Liza Martin rated it really liked it
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
Jun 10, 2010 Donna rated it liked it
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 liked it
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
Jun 05, 2009 Lauren rated it really liked it
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
Heather
This was definitely not one of my favorite Weir books. This book extremely heavy on details I cared nothing about, such as lists of the castles they stayed at and when. At times it seemed more like notes than a book, but then all of a sudden the author would make a fairly grand claim that did not seem to have backing. Overall a decent book to learn some of the history of the period, but ultimately not all that captivating.
Nathan
Jan 19, 2012 Nathan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 03, 2013 Carol rated it liked it
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
Gail
Feb 08, 2014 Gail rated it did not like it
I listened to this as an audio book- "Isabella: She Wolf of France, Queen of England" I presume it's the same book. Longest audio book ever! Holy crap! While I always respect the amount of research that goes into writing a history, I'm not the scholar. I just wanted to learn about Isabella. I found the day by day movements of each nobleman and courtesan distracting and I'd loose track of who the hell we were talking about. What I did come away with was interesting, but there are lots of people a ...more
Mom
May 03, 2008 Mom rated it liked it
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
Mar 01, 2014 Slmcmahon rated it really liked it
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
Mar 10, 2014 Sbuchler rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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...

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