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The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  688 Ratings  ·  138 Reviews
“Attention, ‘Game of Thrones’ fans: The most enjoyably sensational aspects of medieval politicsdouble-crosses, ambushes, bizarre personal obsessions, lunacy and naked self-interestare in abundant evidence in Nancy Goldstone's The Maid and the Queen.” (Laura Miller,

Politically astute, ambitious, and beautiful, Yolande of Aragon, queen of Sicily, was one of the
320 pages
Published March 29th 2012 by Viking (first published December 2011)
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This book reads a bit like a history book, which is appropriate for the subject matter. Lucky for me, I quite enjoyed the prose. I found the majority of the book compelling and very interesting. I learned a lot more than I thought I would about the life of Joan of Arc. I thought I had a pretty firm grasp on the majority of her story but much to my delight, there was a lot that I did not know.

There are a handful of artwork and early depictions of the subjects included in the book which I found
Jul 03, 2015 Marita rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History lovers
Dense with detail, this non-fiction book showcases the lives of two powerful women who played very prominent roles in the Hundred Years' War. They were the legendary Joan of Arc and Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Sicily (known as the Queen of Four Kingdoms). If you thought that women were powerless in the middle ages, this book might change your view.

It was Yolande who finalised the terms for a betrothal between Charles, the third son of the King of France, and Yolande's daughter Marie when they we
Jan 08, 2013 Nikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I'm not sure why people are tagging this as historical fiction, because it's being marketed as non-fiction and was certainly in the library and bookshop as non-fiction. Nor is it written as though it were fiction, and it has a wealth of footnotes and a bibliography which suggests a great deal of research. Certainly I can understand being a little dubious about some of the claims made -- it's really hard to figure out what exactly people thought and said to each other back during the Hundred Year ...more
Geoff Sebesta
Jun 25, 2015 Geoff Sebesta rated it it was amazing
If you read one book about Joan of Arc, it should not be this one. If you read three, though, this should be the third.

First read Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror" to get the best possible picture of the Maid and her times. Then read "Joan of Arc: Her Story" by Pernoud to appreciate the depth of her achievement. Then you should read this book and find out what REALLY happened.

This is the story of Yolande of Aragon, Joan's secret patron and maybe the one who set the whole thing up. This is political r
Joan of Arc will most likely be the reigning superhero of women to come for many generations. Displaying courage equal or even surpassing that of her male counterparts; Joan is a role model, inspiration, and compelling historical figure. Nancy Goldstone attempts to look at her hidden motives and connection to Yolande of Aragon in “The Maid and the Queen”.

The first notable characteristic displayed by Nancy Goldstone is “The Maid and the Queen” is an eloquent language/writing style. Goldstone seam
Mercedes Rochelle
Finally! For years I've been waiting for a book about Joan of Arc that tells the history without relapsing into religious ecstasy. Goldstone delivers this and so much more in this historical account of France's turning point during the 100 Years War. I bought this book not knowing who the Queen was, her important role in Charles VII's life, or her association with Joan. I was surprised to learn that the story of Yolande of Aragon puts this formidable woman on a par with Eleanor of Aquitaine, yet ...more
May 06, 2012 Amanda rated it really liked it
WOW! I thought I had a half way decent understanding about the French monarchy, but I was wrong! When it comes to Joan of Arc, most of the history books focus on her, but this book really puts her into the larger picture. As much as Joan's story is tragic, her accomplishments and her downfall, were partly politically allowed to happen, as it suited those with power in their hands. She was a catalyst for change in France. And I really like the way the author finished off the stories of some of th ...more
Margaret Sankey
Apr 21, 2012 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
Having enjoyed Goldstone's previous work on the Provencal family and Joanna of Sicily, I was wary about this new "secret history" aspect. While we will never be able to ascertain the extent to which Joan of Arc might have been groomed and sponsored by insiders at court, Goldstone presents the case for Yolande of Aragon taking advantage of Charles VII's insecurities, the existence of prophecies and some slick PR moves to leverage things in favor of the Armagnacs and the king. Although the middle ...more
Jul 01, 2015 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Excellent non-fiction historical detailing of all the interplay surrounding the French monarchy during the years bridging the French Civil War & the 100 Years War. It is the detailed history of Yolande's (Queen of Sicily)support and pivotal role in the eventual outcomes. Not just in battle support but in the safe haven for Charles, the Dauphin. Joan of Arc's mission was to crown this very Dauphin and reunite the French under his monarchy. The voices told her this.

The research is amazing in i
Ellen Ekstrom
Sep 30, 2012 Ellen Ekstrom rated it liked it
This was not so much a biography or history of Joan of Arc, as a chronicle of the role Yolande of Aragon played during this part of the Hundred Years War between England and France, and her determination to have her son-in-law, Charles, crowned King of France. The research was excellent but alas, I didn't learn anything new, anything I already didn't know. Joan's mockery of a trial and her execution didn't change the war or its outcome; they had no effect save that the English and Burgundians go ...more
Aug 16, 2015 Melanie rated it liked it
Great, well-researched theory on how Joan of Arc came to play her role in history. Heavy on well researched details, this read as a history book (not my favorite form of learning!) but compelled me to the end. What an era of bought and paid for soldiers, nobles positioning for their status and possessions, skewed (at least by today's standards) intersections between church and law. No wonder the peasants revolted! Joan of Arc must have been a remarkable woman, unfairly treated by the laws of man ...more
Jenni Wiltz
Jan 31, 2016 Jenni Wiltz rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, but found the title and premise misleading. The book focuses way more on Yolande of Aragon than Joan, which is fine - I knew nothing about Yolande, who turned out to be an amazing woman I'm glad I learned about.


There is so little evidence to support the author's "secret history" theory that I'm surprised the publishers let her go through with it. It's tenuous at best, and one of the pieces of supporting evidence left me scratching my head. During Joan's trial, her exa
Jan 24, 2015 Nicole rated it really liked it
Fascinating read! I don't feel I can write a review to do it justice, though, because I had too many interruptions (life, darn it!) while reading through. It covers a lot of complicated history (so many battles and characters to keep straight!) so you have to have your A game focus while reading this one. The tongue-in-cheek humor (reminiscent of Monty Python's "The Holy Grail") Ms. Goldstone employs, while laying out the facts, makes for an enjoyable read:

"...finally she arrived at the king's a
Mar 25, 2013 Cheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I am familiar with the story of Joan of Arc but not the back story of how she received a strong push from a woman named Yolande of Aragon. Yolande is a mystery to me. She was strong, smart, convincing, and a great chessmaster. I call her a chessmaster because in order to play the game of chess you have to be strategic, patient, have a good game plan and anticpate your opponent's moves. Also as the saying goes "Behind every great man is a great woman".

However as much as I liked learning about Yo
Aug 12, 2012 Louise rated it really liked it
Queen Yolanda illustrates how women in the middle ages wielded power. Coming from a childhood of privilege, she married into an even more wealthy and powerful family. In her husband's absence she managed estates, collected rents and resolved disputes among other nobles all the while raising children to assume thrones and leadership roles. When her husband died she took a larger diplomatic role, advising the would be king (even when he ignored the advice) negotiated marriages and worked to free a ...more
Claire McAlpine
May 12, 2012 Claire McAlpine rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, france
It was interesting to learn of the role of Yolande of Aragon, her mother in law Marie of Blois and how women were used as pawns in the negotiation of peace between those detined to inherit these lands of Europe, so women were the peacemakers in more ways than one and Joan of Arc's way quite different from that of the nobility.

However, in between the things that interested me and stood out in terms of learning was some drudgery in trying to get through it. Actually, I ended up wishing that the st
May 17, 2012 Carolann rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a bit dry at the beginning.
Once I got started though I became engrossed in it.

I could feel myself getting angry when I learned what a sham the "trial" was. I almost had to put the book down.

Some part of me thinks that Joan of Arc was persecuted simply because she was a woman. Like it was she thought she did not know her place.
It seems like there was just so many other forces at work here.
Like how important it was to please the English.
It didn't seem as much about Joan as it wa
Jun 02, 2012 Naomi rated it liked it
I read this book because I thought it would be interesting to find out how Joan of Arc was helped greatly by a Queen. Yolanda of Aragon was the queen of Sicily and mother-in-law of Charles VII, the dauphin of France which we have always heard about. In her efforts to get the dauphin crowned, Joan was politically aided by Yolanda. Both women were strong in character and Yolanda was said to have the soul of a man in the body of a woman. Her life was one of great influence and she used her riches t ...more
The Maid and the Queen is not an ordinary biography of Joan of Arc. Instead, it goes behind the scenes of why she became such a powerful figure (something highly unusual for a medieval French woman). The short answer is Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Sicily. This book delves into the lives of both women, why they made such an impact, and analyzes the legacy they left behind on our world then and today. This book is an interesting and quick read (well, quick if life doesn't get in the way anyway). A ...more
Clare Cannon
Mar 11, 2012 Clare Cannon rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, adults
A highly detailed and seemingly objective account of the historical and political events surrounding the life and death of Joan of Arc. Some content requires a mature reader – not for graphic detail but for the complex moral questions on politics and the spiritual nature of Joan’s mission – and overall it is probably too detailed to hold younger readers’ interest anyway. It is not written as an inspirational biography and does not consider the saintliness of Joan, but what is written of her spir ...more
Jul 09, 2015 Steve added it
Shelves: bookreporter
The legend of Joan of Arc has always been well known: The Maid of Orléans, poor and uneducated, touched with divine guidance, led the armies of France to key victories over the English, and was burned at the stake by her captors at the tender age of 19. Twenty-five years after her death, she was labeled a martyr and canonized in 1920. That's the story. Simple. Majestic. Powerful. Yet as we recognize the 600th anniversary of her birth this year (the date is unknown as the practice of recording th ...more
Liz Cole
Mar 18, 2015 Liz Cole rated it really liked it
If you're picking this up for a bit of "light reading," be warned: it's a page-turner! This might not appeal as much to people who were looking to read about just Joan of Arc, because this is the in-depth backstory of how she came to be. Readers fascinated by the dynastic conflicts of the middle ages and the names and figures that made events happen will savor this rich narrative of power and politics in fifteenth-century france. Goldstone's portrait of Yolande of Aragon--the other subject of th ...more
Clarice Stasz
Nov 13, 2014 Clarice Stasz rated it really liked it
Joan of Arc was my childhood hero, and I still remember Jean Seaberg burning at the stake in the movie. Yet so much remained mysterious. How could peasant Joan reach the Dauphin? Who was really behind her execution? Goldstone's exemplary research carefully leads readers through the complex historical context. She uses five chapters to reveal the political morass of the day, and the significance of Yolande of Aragon, a new hero with regards to sheer manipulative skill. During the middle ages many ...more
Oct 03, 2015 Mia rated it really liked it
Wow very fantastic. I agree with others that this reads like a history book, but it does make sense given the persuasive argument formatting of the writing. Do not go into this looking for a light read, for you will be disappointed. Instead you will be able to marvel at the factually jam-packed, but still very action-filled tale of two women who bring Charles VII to his throne in France. I was grateful for all the background information on family and politics of the main figures in the story as ...more
Ashley Catt
Oct 10, 2015 Ashley Catt rated it it was ok
Obviously, when one is writing a biography of a historical figure, one of the main things to keep aware of is the crucial need to remain balanced and as impartial as is possible; don't get too attached to who you're writing about, and certainly don't get swept up in some kind of reverent hysteria comparable to which Joan of Arc inspired in those who followed her into battle.

One thing I can say, is that if Nancy Goldstone (the author) was in the midst of the Hundred Years War in France, is that s
Feb 03, 2014 Kerenmcc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating history of two women in the 14-15th centuries caught up in the European political unrest. This story helps explain the Joan of Arc myth by introducing us to another powerful woman, Yolande of Aragon. It's an uncomfortable mix of religion and politics but here we find women have agency and they are not just bargaining chips in alliances they do not choose.
Regina Beard
The Maid and the Queen... is a non-fiction historical narrative about the role that Yolande of Aragon played in the eventual end of the Hundred Years War. The title of the book is misleading because the book revolves mainly around Yolande and her achievements while Joan of Arc plays a minor role in the narrative. In my opinion, the accounts of the sacrifices and intrigues Yolande was involved in and her role in ending the war between France and England are truly more fascinating than Joan of Arc ...more
Mar 30, 2015 Alyssa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: already-own
The Maid and the Queen does as its title promises: provides the framework for not only the appearance of Joan of Arc, but explains her very image in the context of her relationship with Yolande of Aragon, a woman who "so cleverly hid her tracks" that history continuously fails to hold her story to the light alongside Joan's.

I came to this book a hugely emotive fan of Joan of Arc (and this greater historical time period in general.) The prose in this book is very well done; something that has pus
May 07, 2012 Terryann rated it it was amazing
utterly fascinating. i really loved this book. it speeds along like fiction and almost reads like a narrative. i really enjoyed learning something about medieval france as well as learning about old timey girl power:) joan is in the middle of what is really a quite remarkable story of yolande. i recommend highly to teens!
Ernest Solar
Jun 16, 2015 Ernest Solar rated it liked it
I “read” The Maid and the Queen as an audiobook. In short it is the story of Joan of Arc and the Queen that helped her liberate France. There is no doubt that this book was written with an academic slant. Overall, I enjoyed the book. A large part of the book did not directly talk about Joan of Arc; however, in some ways the entire book was linked to her life either before her arrival or after her sad death. The book is a great study of French history, especially during the Hundred Years War. I w ...more
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“How had the Maid, a lowly commoner, gained an audience at the royal court? How had she, an illiterate young woman from a tiny village at the very edge of the kingdom, come to know so much about the complex political situation in France, and indeed, to see into the deepest recesses of her sovereign's heart?...The answers to these questions have remained hidden, not because the mystery surrounding Joan cannot be penetrated, but because their solution is inextricably tied to the life of another woman entirely, that of Yolande of Aragon, queen of Sicily...For those who wonder after reading these pages how it is possible that the evidence of Yolande's involvement in the story of Joan of Arc has never before been adequately explored, I can only respond that there is no more effective camouflage in history than to have been born a woman.” 0 likes
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