Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe
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Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,948 ratings  ·  287 reviews
For fans of Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser,acclaimed author Nancy Goldstone’s thrilling history of the royal daughters who succeeded in ruling—and shaping—thirteenth-century Europe

Set against the backdrop of the thirteenth century, a time of chivalry and crusades, troubadors, knights and monarchs, Four Queens is the story of four provocative sisters—Marguerite, Eleanor, S...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 26th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published April 19th 2007)
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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
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Chris
My mother told me this joke, one of those internet jokes that might be true. It goes like this: Diane Sawyer was ing Afghanstien reporting on the changes in the treatment of women. SHe oticed that some women still walked five feet behind thier husbands. She asked one woman why this was so. The woman replied, "Landmines". Punchline: Behind every man, there is a smart woman.

This book is somewhat like the joke, but without the landmines.

Man, these women wore the pants that their husband's couldn't....more
Rebecca
A particularly weak pair of kings (of England and France) and their particularly strong younger brothers marry all four daughters of one very ambitious Provencal family, leaving room for their queens to have far more influence than stereotypes suggest for women of the middle ages. (Of course, there have been queens throughout history who have wielded far more power than one would think from sweeping generalizations of the time.)

This book follows one queen at a time, bouncing to one of her sister...more
Andrea
What an exciting life these women lived! These women never had a dull moment and they didn't get everything they wanted in life either despite being a queen. I was fascinated by their financial troubles, their interactions with each other, their difficulties in marriage (which did not result in divorce) and the fall of the dice as it were where sometimes they won and sometimes they lost. This book is long but not because the author is verbose, the plot has a lot of twists and turns. I really lik...more
Judith
when i first picked up this book, i didn't realize that it was non fiction. when i realized, i was slightly nervous that it would become tedious and textbook like. i was relieved to find out that it is ANYTHING but tedious. the story of the four provencal sisters and the author's style of writing is so riveting that i could not put this book down.
Beth
The beginning of this book is engagingly written, but, as it goes on, it becomes a grind to read. By the middle of the book, the engaging, personal style is left behind; it's replaced by a dull recitation of events with scattered speculation thrown in. Yawn.

The factual errors are too numerous to list, so I'll just mention that the author's comments on her research methodology explain how she made such errors. She says, for example, that she relies on Giovanni Villani's chronicle--despite its lat...more
Andrew
Feb 08, 2012 Andrew rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History geeks.
Recommended to Andrew by: I think Amazon or Borders or something.
This book is about the four daughters of the Count of Provence (Raymond Berenger V, 1195-1245), all of whom became queens of various kingdoms throughout Europe. It's my first foray into the thirteenth century, making this book a good follow-up to Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life, which ends a few years before this book begins, and also centers on the kingdoms of England and France and the conflicts between them.

Despite the fact that the book is historical non-fiction, there is some element of surpri...more
Fuschia
Aug 31, 2008 Fuschia rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kimber
Recommended to Fuschia by: B&N browsing
I liked the general idea of this book but found it really hard to follow due to SO MANY characters. It also lacked any sort of suspense or climax; momentum stayed an even keel throughout. The last half felt like I was reading the same story over and over again (raise funds, fight war, watch men make bad decisions, bury people, marry off the next generation, repeat). This description of Simon de Montfort on p. 236 really cracked me up for some reason, "...the earl of Leicester had spent a lifetim...more
Claire
Very well done and a good use of primary sources, but I think it suffers from the same problem a lot of books about female rulers do, namely that the author refuses to admit that the subject (in this case, Eleanor/wife of Henry III of England) was a bad ruler. Eleanor was smart, powerful, and commanding, but she also made a lot of really bad decisions, bankrupted her country, and corrupted its government. Goldstone's inability to acknowledge Eleanor's faults (along with her sister Marguerite's,...more
Robin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Denis
Fast paced, illuminating, intelligently written and constructed, this historical non-fiction book is many, many stories in one - with, at its center and matrix, four fascinating sisters who, born in a world of privilege during the Middle Ages, all became queens. Wars, rivalries, betrayals, love, tragic deaths, royal splendor, it's all there, and it's all true. This is a wonderful painting of Europe at a turning point of its history - which not only makes the world of the Middle Ages accessible t...more
Judy
An enduring historical myth is that women through the ages have played a minor role and have had a limited impact on historical evnts. In Europe during the 13th Century, four beautiful sisters, the daughters of the Count and Countess of Provence, Raymond Berenger V and Beatrice of Savoy, came out of the minor nobility to become queens. Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia, and Beatrice became the queens of France, England, the Holy Roman Empire, and Sicily, respectively. At age 13, Marguerite became the...more
Mary
I'll start this by saying that it's a history, and I like history, so it's fine. My quibble with this book is that the author worked backward from a saleable concept--- that these women wielded real power and influence in the 13th century, ushering in a golden era of peace and prosperity--- and told the story to make it so. Sometimes, she flat made things up ("Santia must have prayed for x, because x happened the very next year.") But the truth is that one of the sisters had little or no influen...more
Renee
An engaging historical glimpse into the lives of four sisters from Provence. Even if you aren't given to reading loads of non-fiction, this might capture your interest. The author researched all aspects of their lives so well you leave the book with a definite sense of the historical characters as people (even to the point of thinking you'd hate so-and-so given the chance to meet them in person). It was very well-written and engaging, and only lost out on five stars for me because I felt by the...more
Nancy
I am not sure whether there was simply insufficient material to really reveal something about these women besides a recitation of historical events or whether the author didn't maximize the use of her source material. It is hard to tell with a book with no footnotes or references whatsoever.

The author uses few direct quotes (although her usage increases towards the end) by chroniclers, and that is about the total of references. She refers to letters between the sisters and then does not use any...more
Sarah
This book looks at the lives of Eleanor, Marguerite, Sanchia and Beatrice of Provence; all daughters of the count of Provence who became queens of England, France, Germany and Sicily respectively.

The book wasn't a bad read, to be fair. It's written in an accessible way and narrates the period clearly and without confusion. Personally though, I had a few problems with the narrative. Firstly, the author seemed to be in the habit of telling us what each of the women thought, felt, dreamed, what her...more
Janet
I started this a week previously. This was a very good book, in spite of the proliferation of people with the same names, which the author tried to differentiate-even so, it was sometimes confusing. I admire the sheer amount of research that must have gone into this book. I found it very readable, and the author does inject a little wit into the otherwise dry chronicling of the queens. I wish the family trees were at the beginning of the book, and that there were more maps, or at least more deta...more
Aradia
This was a broad sweep of time and people; at times it was difficult to keep track of characters (the fact that many of them shared the same name didn't help). It's supposed to be about the Provencal Sisters, Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia and Beatrice; however it’s about their entire generation of European Royalty and those closest to them, including the sisters' extended families. There is a lot of warfare and descriptions of how the military functioned, where it went and all the troubles that t...more
Cindy
Themes: royalty, family, ambition, religion, commerce, politics, love
Setting: 13th century Europe

Great story about four wealthy and powerful sisters who changed the fate of Europe. They were the beautiful and charming daughters of the Count of Provence, Raymond Berengar V, and each one of them became a queen: Marguerite, the eldest, became Queen of France and married Louis IX, Eleanor married Henry III, Sanchia, the saddest story of them all, married brother to King Henry, Richard, who became Ki...more
Lily
When I came across this book, the subject matter intrigued me. How does one family manage to have four sisters being queens in Europe? Nancy Goldstone did a wonderful job in keeping the narrative pace quick, lively and with humor. I enjoyed the research details she provided. Nancy provided some insight in the concerns of what each woman would face within the marriage as well as the broad political landscape.

The book provided many facets that it allowed the reader to understand the inner workings...more
Alaine
The four beautiful, cultured and clever daughters of the Count and Countess of Provence where used at very young ages to advance their family. Marguerite accompanied her husband, King Louis IX of France, on his disastrous first crusade to the Holy Land, where straight from childbirth she ransomed him from the Mamluks. With her sister Eleanor, Queen of England, Marguerite engineered a sturdy peace between France and England.
Ambitious Eleanor walked a narrow line while she struggled to build her o...more
Heyrebekah Alm
Four Queens explores the lives of four sisters from 13th century Provence who all made brilliant marriages and became queens. Two of them were "major" queens (Marguerite and Eleanor who ruled France and England, respectively) and two (Sanchia and Beatrice) unexpectedly became queens through conquest and political intrigue but did not really live long enough to enjoy their queenship.

If you enjoy history but don't necessarily want to get bogged down in more academic sorts of history books, this bo...more
Emily
This is a group biography of four medieval women by a non-professor historian a la Barbara Tuchman. The four sisters were the children of the count of Provence; the two eldest married Saint Louis IX and Henry III of England and the two younger married younger sons of those houses who managed to wrangle less important kingdoms for themselves. Some readers of the book think it's too boring and serious, while others think Goldstone isn't a legitimate historian and makes mistakes. Since I was not re...more
Angie
Mar 09, 2009 Angie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Medieval European History
Recommended to Angie by: saw it in the bookstore
I just completed this book, and I can say that I have never read a history book with such eagerness before. Goldstone's writing style is very informal, almost gossipy, making the story of the four sisters who would be queens very narrative. Goldstone does a great job of tying many diverse & complicated events together in an easily understandable way. The sisters and other characters are looked at from many sides giving us a thorough and human examination of them and their place in history. I...more
Pragati
I loved reading this book about the intertwined lives of four sisters. Each sister married a man destined to be a king--and each had their own influence over their husband--and ultimately the destiny of each kingdom. LOVE history! Loved reading this book--it was slightly dense but the author did a great job making it quick reading. Nancy Goldstone injects a sense of humor and perspective into every chapter. She has done an incredible job putting this time in history into a very coherent and inte...more
Donna
A great read. The lives of the sisters are given in relation to one another and the demands of the time period with selections from extant documents to give the reader an idea of the real people involved. The historical figures become real and the author isn't afraid to write her opinon of them or their actions. An engaging, well written story...Louis IX is a ruler you love to hate for his foolishness and self indulgence. Marguerite and Eleanor work so hard to succeed that you can't but admire t...more
Rachelle
Four sisters in the 1200's, all queens navigating the political and religious intrigues of their time. There was no peace, no time for resting in the latest achievement....it was constant maneuvering to conquer new land, protect their children's inheritances, secure steady funds and going on an occasional crusade to ensure their place in heaven. Really it was exhausting, but a fascinating ride through a period of history rarely discussed or known. It's Game of Thrones...without the magic!
Silverdrake
If you enjoy the political machinations of Game of Thrones, you might appreciate reading about the real historical figures whose ambitions and interrelationships played out over Europe and the Near East like a game of chess. Four sisters, daughters of the Count of Provence, became the four queens of France,England,Sicily and the Germans. Though GoT seems to be based primarily on the War of the Roses, this earlier period in the 1200s contains just as many twisted rivalries, plots, and disastrous...more
Luciana Betenson
Adorei este livro! História real de quatro irmãs nascidas em uma família provençal no séc. XIII. As irmãs se casam com dois pares de irmãos (entre eles o Rei da França e o Rei da Inglaterra) e se tornam rainhas. Muito bacana ver as estratégias, movimentos de guerra, diplomacia e acordos num mundo parecido com um tabuleiro de War e onde as mulheres claramente participam e influenciam a política e o jogo de poderes. Recomendo!
Jeni
Only diehard medieval history buffs will get into this. Biography enthusiasts may enjoy it, too. I loved it but it was a difficult read--switched between sisters, countries, and it is sometimes difficult to keep people straight because of noble titles and Christian names being used for the same person throughout.

Very interesting, though!
Sara
I've decided Marguerite is the queen of spades, Eleanor is the queen of hearts, Sanchia is the queen of diamonds, and Beatrice is the queen of clubs.
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