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Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  207 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
For good reason, the queen in chess inherits its fearsome power on the game board from the reputedly murderous maneuvers of the fourteenth-century Queen Isabella of England, as historian and biographer Paul Doherty shows in his engaging account of a savage chapter in medieval English history. What begins with a peace match—the marriage of the twelve-year-old daughter of Fr ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 21st 2003 by Basic Books (first published February 15th 2003)
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She’s been called a ‘She-Wolf’, eliciting disgust. She has also been reviled in her strength and resourcefulness with allegations that she influenced the queen character in the game of chess. Who is this formidable lady who can procure such contradictory views? Isabella of France. Having married Edward II of England at the tender age of 12; what followed was scandal, intrigue, adultery, the disposal of the King, and possible murder. Historian Paul Doherty explores this tumultuous relationship in ...more
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
On the one and only time I visited Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, way back in the sixties, the chamber where Edward II was reputedly murdered was billed as a highlight of the tour. Later, as a student at Southampton University in 1969, I remember Ian McKellen playing Edward II in Marlowe’s play of the same name, raising shocked intakes of breath as he entered planting a kiss on the lips of the King’s favourite, Piers Gaveston.

The notorious manner of the king’s death — “by a red hot poker be
The reign of Edward II must be one of the most turbulent and, from a historical perspective, fascinating eras in English history. Son of Edward I, Longshanks and Hammer of the Scots, and father of Edward III, the epitome of medieval kingship, Edward II is perhaps proof of the old adage that virtues and vices often skip a generation.

A weak-willed and pleasure-loving prince, obsessed with his favourites, neglectful of his duties and too easily swayed, Edward II was the first king in English histor
Rebecca Hill
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Paul Doherty goes deep within the medieval world, and comes up with a new theory of the death of Edaward II. Doherty digs into the royal family and dirty secrets that the monarchy would have rather kept hidden..

Isabella, the French princess that was supposed to bring peace, instead she was jealous and was determined to see anyone who vied with her position with her husband brought down. Edward II was a strange king. He preferred to not have to govern to much, delegating as much as he could to th
Pete Friend
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've just had to change this to 4 stars instead of 3. (Probably actually it's around 3.5 like the average seems to be). Not least because it pulled me through in only a few days and the bibliography is so detailed at the back that it invited me to appreciate the work that had gone into it. The writing style is great again from the author and I especially liked the thought that had gone into his own theory of Henry II's escape from the castle at Berkeley. Henry II starts out as a likable rogue an ...more
Jul 30, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: british-history
Well written history book. Despite the prurient interest we have in Edward II’s life (was his relationship with his favorites sexual? Did Isabella join in? Etc.) and his death (did Isabella actually order him killed? Was he killed with a red hot poker up the ass, so as to avoid detection? Or did he escape to live in Wales , as the author seems to believe?), we know little about him or his queen. No portraits or letters by their own hand—the best we have are their monuments and clerks’ inventorie ...more
Stefan Zak
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Especially well written, this is a book for the everyday person that does't take masses of historical knowledge for granted. Doherty unravels the story of Edward II's life and fall , which happens at the expense of the rise of his French wife and Queen Isabella and her dubious lover, Roger Mortimer. Although there is much speculation- which is unavoidable as the authors explains- this book helps to demystify the mysterious death of Edward II and presents a remarkable theory, that Edward II didn' ...more
A very interesting and highly readable revisionist/counterfactual reworking of the life and death of Edward II, and the role played in both by his either much-maligned or complete bitch of a wife, Isabella. Doherty suggests that Edward was not murdered unpleasantly (by having a red-hot poker shoved up his backside) at Berkley Castle, as centuries of bloodthirsty schoolboys have been taught, but may have actually been helped to escape and either travelled to the continent or hid out in Wales, whe ...more
Michele bookloverforever
strong woman survives less than loving spouse and his preferred favorites but makes the mistake of falling in lust with the warrior who overthrows her spouse, the king of england and then poses threat to her son, the new king, edward III. She is known as the she wolf of england. If she had avoided the sex outside of her marriage or at least kept it more discreet during the 14th century she might have kept her reputation. Her son, Edw.III whitewashed her reputation afterwards. However, turns out ...more
The history presented in this book is interesting and it is presented clearly. I did feel like the writing, as storytelling, could be better. It felt distant & rushed, particularly in the earlier chapters 1-6. The final 2 chapters are the heart of the book, where the author presents his theory. It does feel like the first 6 chapters presenting the history surrounding his theory were grudgingly written in order to get the reader up to speed. The book has certainly piqued my interest and I wil ...more
Leighbeth Winter
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I found this book rather interesting, it gave me a more enlightened knowledge on the life of Edward ll. Also I liked at the end the hypothesis of - Is he really entombed in Gloucester or did he escape, and if so where did he end up?
I never knew much about Isabella and really you have to feel for her and how she was mistreated, no wonder she turned to another man. I surely wouldn't have wanted to been living as a royal in those times !
Pete daPixie
Dec 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Having read 'The Perfect King' by Ian Mortimer, I wanted to dig a little more into the death of Edward II. I've visited Berkeley Castle many moons ago, scene of the so called murder. I've also visited the tomb of Edward's in Gloucester Cathedral.
I think Paul Doherty investigates this 700 year old whodunnit, and comes up with the truth behind what happened. No need to visit Gloucester Cathedral again then!
Lynda Wilcox
Sep 27, 2011 rated it liked it
I adore Paul Doherty's mediaeval mysteries but the early part of the Strange Death of Edward II is merely re-stating most of what he has covered elsewhere. It isn't until right at the end of the book that Doherty puts forward less than compelling evidence concerning Edward's demise. If he had written the first part with as much verve and panache as the ending, I might not have felt so disappointed.
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Pretty good, an interesting topic and the author provides some interesting ideas of what may have happened during this time, I don't agree with all of them but they were very interesting. I also was very intrigued by the fact that Doherty moves away from Gaveston's relationship with Edward that so many people focus on, when there is so much more to the relationship.
E.C. Ambrose
Jul 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: research
Wow--if you think fantasy novels are full of devious characters and twisted plotlines, you won't believe this history book! It's fascinating reading, full of love, betrayal, vengeance and murder.

the author also writes historical mysteries, and his deft prose is easy and enjoyable. Highly recommended if you're interested in royalty, intrigue or the Middle Ages.
Heather Domin
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
I'm not very familiar with the reign of Edward II, so this fact-filled book made a good educational starting point. I found the writing style somewhat flat, though, and some of the author's conclusions made me scratch my head, especially in regards to Isabella's motivations as a female.
Dec 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: masters
Doherty proposes that the accepted story of the death of Edward II at Berkley Castle may not be true, but fails to propose an alternative or suggest which of the other theories he finds most convincing.
Oct 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Recommended only to someone interested in English history. This was one ruthless chick!!!
Shawn Thrasher
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
The fortunes of a whole nation rested on the whims of just a couple of highly placed people, which is why we don't really have a whole lot of governments based on monarchies like this anymore.
Feb 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was not a mystery, more of a look into what happened to Edward II. Why he was a schmuck, why his wife hated him, why his wife had him killed. Hot poker up the rear end. Ouch.
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Very dry presentation of events in England surrounding life and death of Edward II
Blair Hodgkinson
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Interesting review of the facts surrounding the Isabella/Mortimer coup against Edward II and some interesting speculation surrounding the odd circumstances of Edward's death.
Robert G.
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N.W. Moors
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Nothing new, just author's opinions and speculations
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

He has been published under several pseudonyms: P.C. Doherty, Celia L. Grace, Paul Harding, Ann Dukthas, Vanessa Alexander, Michael Clynes and Anna Apostolou but now writes only under his own name.

Paul Doherty was born in Middlesbrough (North-Eastern England) in 1946. He had
More about Paul Doherty...

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