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Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  741 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Occupying a unique position in the mercurial, often violent world of medieval state-craft, England’s medieval queens were elemental in shaping the history of the monarchy and the nation. Lisa Hilton’s meticulously researched new work explores the lives of the 20 women crowned between 1066 and 1503. She reconsiders the fictions surrounding well-known figures like Eleanor of ...more
Hardcover, 482 pages
Published 2008 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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Madeline
"In the period between the Norman Conquest and the accession of Mary Tudor in the sixteenth century, no woman ruled England as queen in her own right. The role and status of king were constantly in the process of redefinition, an ongoing negotiation between royal, ecclesiastical and aristocratic powers, but they remained throughout essentially constitutional, their authority enshrined in and upheld by law. No equivalent constitutional role existed for the king's consort. Yet between the eleventh ...more
Jen
I'm trying to clear out some bookshelves (and the space beside my bed) by getting rid of (reading) books that I've had for years. This is one that I picked up for some fun reading (yes, biographies of medieval queens counts in my world as "light reading").

This book starts with Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror, and ends with Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII. Not to spoil things, but by the end of the book, they are all dead.

The author does a good job within the confines of t
...more
Nikki
I picked up Queens Consort because it looked like it'd be useful to me in understanding the portrayal of queens in literature in the medieval period. It turned out to be interesting in general, covering the lives of queens who are little remembered now as well as the notorious ones, and trying to portray them fairly, rather than as their detractors would have liked them to be remembered (or, similarly, with reference to their flaws as well as the propaganda intended to make them into heroines: L ...more
Eileen
I'm back on the history reading kick and picked this book up at B&N while visiting my son in Connecticut. This is really my kind of book! I loved all 482 pages and would have gladly read more. But don't pick this one up if you are looking for wild interpretation or speculation.

This book is serious history and Ms. Hilton uses lots of primary and secondary sources for her profiles. If you want romantic stories, made up dialog, or other flights of fancy you won't find it here. The author gives
...more
LeslieVA
so, after waiting 8 weeks to get this from the library, I really wanted to enjoy this book. Let's face it, this book should have been heaven for me. I totally geek out on medieval history, women studies and religious history. It should have been a fabulous read. I was very excited to get a different perspective on Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France, but I was particularly to read more about English Queen consorts I have only read about on the fringes of other histories or biographies. B ...more
Conor Byrne
Lisa Hilton is the latest writer to explore the reigns of queens consort in England between 1066 and 1503. Beginning with the Victorian historian Agnes Strickland in the nineteenth century, several historians have documented the lives of English medieval queens. Helen Castor in a much praised book concerned herself with "she wolves", scandalous English queens including Margaret of Anjou and Isabella of France, while Elizabeth Norton was also fascinated with England's notorious queens. Academic h ...more
Athena Ninlil
This is an excellent book if anyone wants to learn more of the medieval queens of England. The books excels in many parts and I learned a lot from it about the Anarchy period and the civil war between Matilda and Stephen and the important role Stephen's wife (also named Matilda) played in her husband's rule and repelling her rival once she was in England. I did not know a lot about William the Conqueror's wife before reading this, only the basics or her successors (Henry I's wives), Edith of Sco ...more
Carolyn
Fascinating history!

The title is a bit misleading. The book begins before the conquest, more than 150 years before Eleanor. The book is also as much about the political climates and the kings as it is the queens.

The first section should have been about Emma of Normandy. A fair bit of it is devoted to her anyway, so why not give her her own section? She is probably the first recognizable queen anyway, even if she was before the conquest.

The Norman Section was a little confusing because so many of
...more
Brett
Wow. This incredibly comprehensive & addictively readable work sees Hilton detailing the lives & experiences of the twenty English Queens of the Medieval era, starting with Matilda, wife to William the Conqueror, & going all the way up to Elizabeth of York, who married Henry VII Tudor. It's absolutely amazing how much detail of these womens' day-to-day lives exists, considering that almost one thousand years has passed since the life of the first one, & yet Hilton gets enough inf ...more
Robin
http://historicalreadings.blogspot.co...

Received free review copy from publisher via NetGalley.

At first glance this looked similar to Helen Castor’s “She Wolves”. But Castor focuses more on the misogyny of the times, the individual powerful women who took control of their own destinies in spite of it, and what that meant for their reputations, whereas ‘Queens Consort’ is more about the role of queenship, both domestic and political, how each consort defined those roles and how it evolved. Casto
...more
Kim
When I first heard about this book, I could have danced for joy. An entire book dedicated to the medieval queens? I was thrilled by such an idea, so I immediately set out to find it, eventually obtaining it through my library's inter-library loan program.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with it. I was able to learn a great deal about the 'forgotten' queens like the second wife of Henry I, Adeliza, or Marguerite of France, the second queen of Edward I, two women I had been curious about for years bu
...more
Arieltsmith
I was impressed with how Hilton kept the pace fresh and entertaining through what can only be a dense pageant of characters and history. Hilton explored the medieval queens' role as "peaceweaver," their roles in legitimizing their husband's claim to the throne, and noted most chillingly that "while queenship made a woman exceptional, it by no means rendered her invulnerable." The sheer disparity in power or stability of the different queens - from Matilda of Flanders who was a fully capable and ...more
Sarah
A good introduction to the many women who helped shape England's history. I liked that some of the chapters overlapped one another, as some of their lives were very much intertwined. So much has been written about Elizabeth I and Mary - even tragic, manipulated Jane - it was interesting to learn about those who came before, yet never had any actual power.
Kari
This was a great book and Lisa Hilton did a good job of covering such a large period of history and twenty Queens of England without losing the continuity and flow of the book. It was really interesting to learn more about some of the lesser known Queens as well as those such as Elizabeth of York and Isabella of France who are perhaps more familiar and have been more often a focus for history books. Inevitably the lives of the Kings comes through and in some cases it seems the information about ...more
Samita
Very dense reading, like reading an encyclopedia? I don't think anyone would pick this book without a serious interest in the topic, it's definitely not for the faint of heart. It still had its moments. Not all queens were interesting, and some there was just not enough information to justify a whole section dedicated to them (ei Isabella of France and Anne Neville) tho that's not the author's fault. Still I found some queens I would definitely like to pick up another book about them (ei Matilda ...more
Caroline
I really enjoyed this book. So many books on medieval history focus, understandably, on the reigning monarchs, ie. the kings, so it's very refreshing to read a book that focuses entirely on the queens and how their role as changed over the centuries. The Anglo-Saxon queens and the very early Norman queens had a far larger and more powerful role than their later counterparts - Stephen's queen Matilda, for example, had a very large role in saving his crown, and then there are the more well-known e ...more
Becky
I always enjoy reading about history, especially English royalty. I appreciated the research Hilton put into this book, but I thought it could be organized differently. Each queen from Maltida of Flanders to Elizabeth of York is given her own chapter, but sometimes the queens overlapped and the previous queen stole the limelight from her successor. For example, during the wars of the roses, Marguerite of Anjou had much impact on events occurring in Elizabeth Woodville's reign as consort, but it ...more
Diana
The role of queen of England has changed drastically from the medieval times. This book covers the lives of each of England's queen from Matilda of Flanders to Elizabeth of York, the mother of the infamous Henry VIII.

Queenship as an occupation differed quite a bit. The earlier queens managed to command quite a bit of power and influence. As times and circumstances changed, the role of queen faded more into the background. Most of these queens are lesser known (with the notable exception, of cour
...more
Rebecca
(4.5 stars)

My main grievances with this book have to do with the cover of my (American) edition, and they are two:
why in the world do they have an Elizabethan portrait on there?
and
why do they have the tagline 'from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Elizabeth of York' since that is chronologically to skip over the first 4 queens in the book (and Matilda of Flanders, who IS the first in the book, was just as foreign as Eleanor, if that was the point the publishers wanted to make)?

The book itself is great -
...more
Leslie Street
Aside from some of the dates on the pedigree charts being wrong, and them not showing relationships between rival factions as well as they should have, I loved this book. Some have complained that it reads like a textbook, but I thought that it offered enough detail to actually make me feel like I was learning something new about the lives of individual queens. I also appreciated that this book did a good job of explaining alternative viewpoints and explanations about personalities and events. ...more
Donna Jo Atwood
While this book often read like a textbook, it contained a lot of informaton about many fairly obscure English queens. Hilton explores how each of the women crowned queen of England changed and expanded the concept of "queenship".
While most of us have the view that women's roles during the Middle Ages were very constricted, the Royal women often were using their positions to better their standings and to gain personal power and prestige.
I enjoyed this and would be willing to purchase my own cop
...more
Julie H. Ferguson
Queens Consort is a book for serious history buffs, not the casual reader of history. I would deem it scholarly and it took me a while to read because I took my time and read it very carefully. Having said that, I was fascinated with the depth of research from start to finish, the way the author explained her deductions, and how much I learned about the period from 1066 to the late-1400s. I discovered how the role of Queens consort evolved and how each played her part, both good and bad, in the ...more
Kellan Fabjance
A great read. It took me forever to finish because I had to keep going back over details that I enjoyed. Hilton writes an easily accessible, easily enjoyed book. Viewing this period of history not through the eyes of the King but through their consort is important.
Brandi
This is a very well-researched, academic text on the queens in chronological order of Britain through 1503. It is a great reference for information on each queen with very thorough, in-depth information on each woman's political and cultural roles in the realm and how their femininity influenced their power.

This is not the narrative nonfiction which I particularly enjoy and can easily read. Instead, treating it as a reference work, reading individual chapters at a time, rather than the whole boo
...more
Steve
Queens Consort by Lisa Hilton is a good overview of each English Queens from William I's Queen Mathilde to Henry VII's Queen Elizabeth.

Ms. Hilton uses both well known sources such as the colorful Wilton Diptych to the more mundane letters of the Emperor's Ambassador. This overview never pretends to be a text book, but rather endeavors to show each of these women as humans in a short encapsulated biography. The author shows aspects of each queen whether it be the good, the bad or the sadly misgui
...more
Victoria
This book does exactly what it sets out to do, tells the story of each of England's queens consort from Matilda to Elizabeth of York - via more than a few Isabelles and Eleanors - and it does it well enough.

As other reviews have pointed out, there are a few mistakes and typos that have slipped past the copy-editor, but my main problem with this book was that it was very dry and rushed in places.

For a similar book that I much preferred, try She-Wolves by Helen Castor (recently made into a three
...more
Mary
I thought this was great. Extremely well researched, balanced, concise and immensely readable. These medieval Queens are often glossed over but there is more information about them than I thought there would be. This book has certainly filled some gaps in my knowledge. Great to have all their stories in one volume, there is so little information to justify standalone books.

I read quite a few of the reviews on here before I read the book and disagree with many of the negative ones. There were no
...more
Beth
Not bad, but it suffered from a few too many typos, and the family trees were possibly missing information that would have been useful. It also felt to me that some of the chapters didn't really have enough relevant information; despite being a book on queens, much of it seemed to focus on their husbands and sons, completely ignoring their existance. A couple of the later chapters also seemed a little confused, discussing not the queen the chapter intended to discuss, but instead their predecess ...more
Jaime
2.5 stars The intent of the book is admirable, and succeeds to a certain degree. The author tries to present the changing role of queen in the Middle Ages, and provides information about some of the figures that isn't commonly disseminated. However, it is difficult to recommend the book because the editing is embarrassingly shoddy. There are simply too many glaring factual errors about names, dates, or relationships that should have been rectified in final edit. Also, the book begins far more st ...more
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Lisa Hilton is an author and biographer. She grew up in the north of England and read English at New College, Oxford, after which she studied History of Art in Florence and Paris. After eight years in New York, Paris and Milan she has recently returned to England and now lives in London with her husband and their daughter. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Elle, the Evening Standard and the Telegrap ...more
More about Lisa Hilton...
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