Tanya's Reviews > She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

She-Wolves by Helen Castor
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's review
Jan 19, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: ebooks, history
Read from January 16 to 19, 2012

She-Wolves looks at the women who exercised authority in England before the reign of Elizabeth, analyzing the way their experiences became precedent for the idea of a female monarch. Thus, this book is more than a collection of abbreviated biographies, as I at first assumed. It shows how each female built on her predecessor's aggregation of power and contravened the sexist (in the modern context) attitudes of the day.

Matilda was Henry I's declared successor, and even had received oaths of loyalty from the peers of the realm before her father's death, but when her cousin Stephen stepped in allegiance quickly switched to this military leader. Matilda spent much of her life pursuing her claim, and finally won back the crown for her son Henry II.

Eleanor of Aquitaine never ruled in her own right, but became a power behind the throne when she competently controlled the government during her son Richard the Lionheart's long absences.

Isabella of France led a successful rebellion against her tyrant husband, Edward II, but made foolish decisions once in power and quickly lost her authority to her young son and his counselors.

Margaret of Anjou was married to the feeble-minded Henry VI, and wielded power in his name for years before conspiring to remove him completely. She was one of the big players in the famous War of the Roses, but ended her life defeated.

Lady Jane Grey became England's first crowned Queen (without a King), but only reigned for nine days before Mary Tudor asserted her rights.

And Mary was the first queen to actually rule over the country, but made serious miscalculations in her unpopular marriage to Philip of Spain.

Castor demonstrates that Elizabeth I learned from the strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures of all these women before her. Their experiences served to prepare England for Elizabeth, and Elizabeth for a monumentally successful reign.

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