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

She-Wolves by Helen Castor
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's review
Jul 24, 12

bookshelves: favorites, history-and-non-fiction, i-own
Read from July 14 to 24, 2012

As with her earlier book, Blood & Roses, 'She-Wolves' is one of the most well-written and fascinating pieces of scholarship. Castor delves extensively into contemporary documents, while still pulling well from previous scholarship to highlight a point, or provide an alternative interpretation. Castor's writing is clear and exciting, one almost feels like they're reading a novel.

My only criticism is that she should have extended the section on Mary Tudor--seeing as she was the only one of the five featured women who actually ruled successfully in her own right. The main foci of the sections on Mathilda, Eleanor, Isabella, and Margaret are the various ways in which each woman struggled to gain and consolidate control as a queen consort. Mary was the first queen regnant, and while her reign (and therefore the time over which Castor could expound) was fairly short, it provides the first instance of woman who actually gained and maintained legitimate control as the sole, anointed ruler of England. Many of the examples Mary relied on to legitimize and portray her rule were the used by Elizabeth, save that Elizabeth also had the immediate examples from Mary's rule. And though Castor provides a few examples of this, I feel she could have exploited Mary's reign for a better explication of her overall narrative on pre-Elizabethan female rulers.

Despite this concern, 'She-Wolves' easily makes it onto my list of favorites, and is a necessary read for anyone interested in Elizabethan, Marian, or Medieval English history, or for those interested in gender studies.

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07/14/2012 page 80
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