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Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  1,307 Ratings  ·  100 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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Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
"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
Jul 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Apr 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, strong-women
It's a tribute to my stubbornness that I finished this book. I took a break of six months and almost didn't bother picking it up again. I managed to crawl through it finally by reading three other books at the same time.

What can I say? I don't even know where to begin. I've read books where I didn't agree with the author's premiss and, whilst this is certainly one of those, that doesn't even begin to describe the issues I have with it. Let's start with the errors. I lost count of the number of e
Carolina Casas
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
Shannon Elizabeth Heffner
This book of mini-biographies of the medieval queens of England was kind of a let down. Lisa Hilton didn't have much personal flare in here which is a shame because I actually do think she is a good author for the most part. I enjoyed her book on Madame de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV, very much; it was nowhere near unbiased, but it was good. Hilton has potential, and I wouldn't mind seeing her turn her attention toward fiction.

That being said, the main problem I had with this book was that
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
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
Dec 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Elia Princess of Starfall
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of medieval history
Recommended to Elia Princess of Starfall by: Chapters
Games of Thrones has a great deal to answer for.

And I'm not just saying that because I love both the TV and book series and the general upsurge in all things medieval and Middle Ages, from video games to historical fiction, that this interest in a brutal bloody and hierarchical past has sparked into an inferno!


Game of Thrones has ignited a powerful and at times consuming fascination with the endlessly enigmatic medieval era and this has furious trend has seen a monstrous proliferation from new
Feb 08, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I was thrilled to see this book; the personalities of the medieval queens of England are incredibly large and vibrant for the time period. The author gives us a window into their lives and personalities, even to the lesser known like Adelizia of Louvain, making them breathe with relevance and making them real people to a modern audience. I really enjoyed getting to know them on a personal level and seeing the role they played on a grander scale. I also was enthralled to see how the role of queen ...more
Sep 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: war-of-the-roses
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
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
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
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
Leslie Street
Oct 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
(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?
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 -
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
Mar 11, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Gill Staunton
Learned lots about the women behind the thrones. Really enjoyed this book. Thanks Alex Staunton for buying it for me.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Fascinating chronicle of the Queens of England and the social, cultural and religious traditions that bound them, deified them and sometimes killed them. The author skillfully combines characterization and scholarly research to give the reader a realistic view of life in the Middle Ages. What I really appreciated was that the author drew comparisons between the Queens showing how the role of each evolved over time and reflected the way women were viewed in the period, and how their 'allowed' rol ...more
Carole P. Roman
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lisa Hilton has written a comprehensive study of nineteen queens of England spanning five hundred years. She identifies each wife of the reining monarch, then proceeds to describe the life, times, and political climate of the time period. Sometimes colorful and full of vivid pictures, other times confusing with the complicated bloodlines of the princesses, she does manage to build a detailed picture of the queens and their impact on the country. Hilton points out, "One picture of medieval woman, ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting take on the historical period that did give new insights about events and actions.
So many histories are framed through kingship (or challengers) and only talk about the women as tokens of exchange. By focusing on the Queens and their families and connections, this book really elucidated the network of interactions that were created by royal marriages and how wide those networks spread.

THis book shares a common problem with many books about these times, in that it becomes difficul
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history-royals
I mean really, if you are not going to be accurate, you should at least be interesting. Good Lord, what a mess! There is a lot of information here. Unfortunately Hilton just cannot spin a story to save her soul. I gave it a two because there is a lot of information here on the early queens, but the accuracy is questionable.
A quite basic book about (guess) England's medieval queens. I had almost no knowledge of the women between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Marguerite of Anjou so it was pretty nice to know about them. I obviously loved the War of the Roses bit (who am I honestly). Only the conclusions were rather odd as they had a different tone from the rest of the book.
Coleen Dailey
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a really great read. While I knew about the Queens who were mentioned often in history Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabelle of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, etc. It was interesting to read about the other Queens Consort of history and their rolls in the history of England.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
I couldn't finish this book. Maybe it was just me, but I found it painfully boring and the writing was so dry.
Maybe I'll pick it up again; I just don't know.
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hist-bio, cpl
Many typos, especially in the dates in the genealogical charts, but illuminating, and interesting reading.
Cindy Smith
Very technical. A little hard to get through but extremely informative.
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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...