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

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  3,781 Ratings  ·  284 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
Audio CD, 22 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Recorded Books (first published 2005)
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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
Apr 28, 2014 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 18, 2008 bkwurm rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Liza Martin
Mar 25, 2011 Liza Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This was my beach read, and it took up the entire vacation to get through it. I enjoyed it a lot. The story is fascinating and the writing is good. The downsides are the slow start and the dense historian minutiae, which makes it tedious on occasion.

Isabella's story is worthy of an action and sex-packed HBO series. The daughter of the powerful French king marries Edward II, king of England. He should be so lucky having the best bred, most beautiful, richest, most diplomatically astute bride in C
Sep 29, 2015 Elena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 25, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 06, 2016 Liene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A cautionary tale of what happens to monarchs who put too much trust/power/wealth into the hands of their friends and lovers. The moral of the story – don’t share.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
May 24, 2011 Frrobins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Steven Peterson
Jan 12, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 14, 2012 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ray Campbell
Apr 14, 2013 Ray Campbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 17, 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
Apr 27, 2009 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 09, 2013 lia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 10, 2010 Donna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 03, 2008 Mom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 03, 2013 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 10, 2014 Gail rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 09, 2012 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nicole Marble
Dec 15, 2010 Nicole Marble rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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 about Alison Weir...

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