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Queens of the Crusades

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Alison Weir has embarked on a project to write a series of collective biographies of England’s medieval queens, a wise idea since many of them do not have enough known about them for a full-length biography aimed at the interested layperson. Queens of the Crusades is the second volume, although she has noted that her biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France should also be included in the sequence.

Although, as Weir acknowledges, these five queens did not all go on crusade themselves, this was the time when the idea of reconquering the Holy Land from Islam permeated the air, and it influenced the lives of all of them. The five women are Eleanor of Aquitaine (married to Henry II), Berengaria of Navarre (Richard I), Isabella of 
Angoulême (John), Eleanor of Provence (Henry III, and spelled Alienor to reduce the potential confusion at the plethora of Eleanors), and Eleanor of Castile (Edward I). Edward I also married Marguerite of France after his first wife’s death, so I hope that she hasn’t been left out and will be included in the next volume.

Queens of the Crusades paints what is probably as full a picture as possible of the lives of these five women for the non-historian (apart from Eleanor of Aquitaine, about whom there is an abundant amount known): their upbringing, personalities, triumphs and tragedies, relationships with their husbands and children, political influence, and often details of their daily lives drawn from accounts and other records. The account of Berengaria of Navarre is disappointingly slim, mainly due to her her husband’s inexplicable neglect of her while she was queen, but there was more than I have seen before about her life after Richard’s death. (I was glad to see the idea that he was gay firmly squashed, and anyway, as Edward II and James I show, even if his chief attraction had been to men, this would have been no bar to the fathering of children.) The lives of these women often overlapped, so it was also interesting to see their interactions with one another, which mainly seem to have been positive - surprising, since all of them - even Berengaria in her widowhood - seem to have been strong-willed women with differing priorities and personalities.

My main criticism of the book is something that probably won’t bother a lot of other people. Weir said in the introduction to the first book (Queens of the Conquest) that she would be skipping Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of France since she had written full-length biographies of both, but obviously, although she makes no reference to the factors behind it, she changed her mind, at least about Eleanor. I certainly don’t object to her inclusion in this book, since as noted, their lives do overlap, but I felt that her portion (probably a condensed version of the same information that is in the biography), took up too much of this book (I estimate almost 40% when the bibliography and other ending and beginning material weren’t included). She is such a towering figure that she overwhelms the others, and I feel that it would have been better to at least cut down her section somewhat - maybe to the time of her widowhood when her life overlaps with Berengaria’s.

Although Weir has never been one of my favorites, I feel that she did a creditable job with this book. On the whole, however, while there is a lot of information I didn’t know and they are put into the context of their times, her view of them is fairly conventional and I didn’t gain any new insights. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

I received a copy of Queens of the Crusades for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a meticulously researched academic account of several queens during the Crusades. 

I had not realized it would be so detailed. It is not for the casual reader but for someone who is really interested into a very in-depth account of their lives, including their rights and responsibilities during their lifetimes. As such, it was more than I was planning for.

I am taking away one star due to the mis-marketed nature of the book. If marketed as an academic research book, it probably warrants 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of this book.
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This was just as great as the first in this series. I love Alison Weirs books - both fiction and nonfiction. This series is a fun way to learn about queens I am not familiar with. I added her biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine to my reading list as soon as I finished this. Can't wait for the next one!
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What struck me the most from reading this marvelously researched and thorough book, is the dynasty of the Plantagenets family timeline! Alison Weir does it again. She is the epitome of historic authors particularly in this Medieval realm. I cannot read enough of her books. I had no idea that the word Plantagenet came from Planta genista - which was a sprig of broom, and that the name wasn't adopted as a royal surname until the 15th Century.  This book is filled with wonderful new things that I didn't know,  as that. The women of that time who were queens went through so much, especially with their randy husbands, all Kings. They gave birth to so many children that is unheard of today.
This book had me riveted and answered many questions I have had over the years when reading about these 5 Queens.  The riches, the furs, the jewelry....amazing! But all the Kings dalliances were outrageous! I particularly loved reading that during the Eleanor of Aquitaine chapter that the food wasn't very good during that time in one of their castle. Also realizing how old Windsor Castle is, is still amazing to me.
Thank you Alison Weir, for once again, writing the most amazing book. These Queens would be proud to read it and you continue to give the people of this time such respect, awe and dignity.
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the perusal of The Queens of the Crusade by Alison Weir. It was a pleasure to read!!!
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Alison Weir is one of my favorite authors and I really enjoy reading her books.  Queens of the Crusades is another hit with me.  You can tell when an author researches the topic and knows it well, and I believe that Weir's passion for the Queens is obvious by the details that she has written in this book.  

I learned so much that I never knew or even thought about.  Weir describes in vivid detail the ins and outs of the lives of the first five Plantagenet queens. She describes what their daily lives were like and the social atmospheres that they lived in.  She tells about their hardships and their successes.  She doesn't shy away from the negative parts of their lives, and doesn't try to paint them as something that they weren't.  The author writes based on facts and research, and for me this makes her books even more fascinating than if they were embellished.  

I love learning about history and Alison Weir is an excellent teacher.  I recommend all of her books because she can present facts without being boring and can write with such detail that the events are brought to life.

Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC.
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One thing I love about Alison Weir's nonfiction history books is that she makes history enjoyable. This book starts with Eleanor of Aquitaine and ends with Eleanor of Castile, the great great granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Two of the sections are about the successors of Eleanor of Aquitaine, but those sections are more about Eleanor than the two younger queen consorts. An enjoyable read, and I am looking forward to her next book on the Queen consorts of England.

I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher and/or author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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What struck me the most from reading this marvelously researched and thorough book, is the dynasty of the Plantagenets family timeline! Alison Weir does it again. She is the epitome of historic authors particularly in this Medieval realm. I cannot read enough of her books. I had no idea that the word Plantagenet came from Planta genista - which was a sprig of broom, and that the name wasn't adopted as a royal surname until the 15th Century. This book is filled with wonderful new things that I didn't know, as that. The women of that time who were queens went through so much, especially with their randy husbands, all Kings. They gave birth to so many children which is unheard of today.
This book had me riveted and answered many questions I have had over the years when reading about these 5 Queens. The riches, the furs, the jewelry....amazing
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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, 
Alison Weir knows her stuff about English history, and while I was less familiar with this period of history beyond some brief reading on Eleanor of Aquitaine, I felt Weir provided the perfect intro the topic. The era is politically complex, and I like how she broke it down, especially as it related to the various Queens of England over this period. While some of it does feel a bit uneven as she provides context and strays away from them a bit, I think this is perfect introductory reading for the history buff who wants to know a bit more about this time in history.
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Thanks to Netgalley, I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

I can't say exactly why but I've read a couple of books about the crusades during this pandemic and was pretty excited to get access to this one, since it focuses on the Queens of the crusades (and so many have focused on the Kings).  But oh man was this book still really about the kings!  I wish the author had spent more time going into why we had to hear so much about the kings' actions, when it was not always clear how they affect the queens' lives.  I also wish the author had gone into more detail about why there are so few primary sources that focus on the queens and what they were doing.  It felt like I was being promised one kind of book and got a different one.

Putting those expecations aside, Weir's writing was easy to follow and I appreciated her discussion of the women and the norms around retiring to convents and how a queen's household was funded.  That was all new information to me and the parts where the author focused on what the Queen was up to in order to pay her bills were very interesting.  I also appreciated the descriptions of how the queens were honored after death.

I didn't understand the organization of this book though.  It would move into a new section because there was a new queen, and then the new queen wouldn't be discussed at any length for a chapter or two.  Why even have these sections if they aren't going to change the narrative?  Eleanor of Aquitane's story is long and details becasue of how long she lived and how she had her hands in so much, but it completely overshadows the story of her daughter-in-law and now explanation is given as to why she gets so little.

Overall, I did enjoy the book.  The stories are interesting and I appreciate that the author called out the anti-semetic acts of the British Royalty (though forgot to call them out for Louis IX) and brought some real life to these stories.  I would definitely recommend this book for people looking into general history about the time of the Crusades, though this book does not focus on the actual Crusades (and is better for it).
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Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir tells the stories five of England’s Queens who reigned during the early Plantagenet period from 1154-1291. In order they are: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence, and Eleanor of Castile. This, like all of Weir’s books be they fiction or non-fiction, are well researched and does not get bogged down with dry details.

I admit I’d only heard of Eleanor of Aquitaine, or perhaps she’s the only one I remembered. As an American, my education into medieval European history is not as thorough as some perhaps, but it interests me. What I loved about this book was that the Queens were the focal point, not the Kings. Of course I’d heard of these men, Richard the Lionhearted, King John, King Henry 1-3. This was a sad point that men have always taken the focal point of history, even if it was the women who brought the lands and monies to the marriage, or changed history, or birthed the future Kings and Queens of Europe-they’ve usually been footnotes to history. In this book, Weir shows how these women did as much for the crown of England as the King. Some acted as Regent while awaiting the majority of their son, one travelled with their King on Crusade and gave birth in the Holy land, they all helped arrange marriages and alliances with other ruling houses and families throughout Europe. They played just as big a roll as their husbands. 

Weir also shows the dark side of these women. Choosing one child over the other, at times, over taxing their subjects, their spend thrift practices, the anti-Jewish sentiments. It’s interesting seeing the beginnings of what will become of England during the War of the Roses and under Henry VIII. 

I’m a big fan of Ms. Weir’s books, fiction and non-fiction. This is a rather large tome, but as I said before, she doesn’t weigh us down with dry facts. I will admit to getting lost a couple of times because it seemed like everyone was named Henry and Eleanor. Hopefully the physical version has a family tree included.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publishers, and Ms. Weir for an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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If you want to know about British Royalty, Alison Weir is the one to turn to.  Impressively researched, this book chronicles the lives of the queens during the times of the crusades.  It is the 2nd book in the series.  It must be incredibly difficult to piece together stories with so little information and she does this well.  I certainly would not have wanted to live during the 1100-1200s.  Queen Eleanor of Castile had 18 pregnancies and so many of the children died.  The book is an interesting look at the lives of the queens and their families during medieval times.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the arc. Another great and well researched book by Alison Weir.  For me the author brings history to life.
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A terrific read for history buffs!  Weir's impressive research and documentation of the lives of five women who live as much in legend as anything else is highly readable, as well as educational. Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre (new to me!), Eleanor of Castile, Alienor of Provence (also new to me) and Isabella of Angeoulmeme are all presented in context.  That is, you get a good grounding in the politics of the period as well as in the lives of their husbands.  This is less emotional than Weir's novels and some of her biographies but I still very much enjoyed it.  It's a big book you might want to take in chunks.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
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This one is for the history lovers, another well researced book from Alison Weir. This is a very in depth look at the wives of some of the greatest kings of medieval England. Ms. Weir has a magical way of bringing history to life and making each character alive and vibrant. She has a beautiful, lyrical way of portraying history. Reading any of her books are a learning experience on history that never gets boring.
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Another consuming, well-researched work. This book didn't provide as much focus on the queens as I would have expected based on the title. As with her other titles, Weir does succeed in making non-fiction readable for the masses. The escapades of the kings and queens in this book are redundant but that is certainly not the fault of Weir. Lovers of history will certainly enjoy this one.
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This is a very in depth look at the wives of some of the greatest kings of medieval England. We start off with Eleanor of Aquitaine, who first becomes the wife of Louis VII of France. After being denied an annulment through the Church, Louis later gives in after she gives birth to their second daughter. After her marriage to Louis ends, she becomes engaged to the Duke of Normandy, later named Henry the II of England. Not all was well in her marriage to Henry either, with the pair eventually separating and living in different areas. When Eleanor backed her son Henry when he attempted a revolt, King Henry imprisoned her, holding her for a total of about 16 years before he died and their son Richard (The Lionheart) became king. Eleanor acted as Richard’s regent while he was away on the Third Crusade. But this book isn’t only about Eleanor, it's also about Richard’s wife Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme (wife of John), Alienor of Provence (wife of Henry III), and Eleanor of Castile (wife of Edward I).
It is obvious from page one that Ms. Weir has done extensive research on all the people mentioned in this book, not just the five Queens discussed. I have walked away with more knowledge of some of the historical figures mentioned (especially Thomas Becket, and Richard the Lionheart). We are given a different view of historical events, such as the Magna Carta and the birth of the English Parliament. One cannot pick up this book and walk away without an appreciation for what the Queens went through during the time of the Crusades. These women were intelligent, hard-working, and determined during a time when women were thought to be less than a man and in no way able to run a country by themselves. Ms. Weir has taken a lot of time and patience to lay out a comprehensive history of these five women, their husbands, plus a lot of other side characters, and write the book in such a way that it doesn’t come across as a dry, boring, history book. It is chock full of facts, details, and intrigue.

**I received an ARC of this book and this is my honest and voluntary review.
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This is one of the best books ever written by Alison Weir. Her larger than life subjects led extraordinary lives & she portrays them in language that captures the imagination from the first page. Each portrait is livid-the lives of these women seem more like characters from novels-yet Ms Weir also shows us their very human side. 

Well done and highly readable. Five Stars.
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Alison Weir's new book Queens of the Crusades begin pretty much where Queens of Conquest ended once Henry was designated heir. We obviously start with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry's queen, at the beginning of her life. We continue with Matilda as well. The book progresses through the life of all subsequent queens through Eleanor of Castile's death in 1290, at which point there were none still living. All were followed through the end of their life, not the end of their husband's life, which I appreciated, particularly in the case of Richard's queen, Berengaria. I had never known that she had such issues obtaining the funds due to her and retired to become essentially the lord of a town in France. Obviously included were descriptions of their husband’s activities at this time when they related to the queen’s life. The book tried to bring many of these queens to life, infusing them with a probable exaggeration of their feelings and personalities compared to what chronicles provide. This was at its worst for Isabella of Angouleme and Eleanor of Aquitaine (see below). In addition, there was often dialogue added, which just made no sense, particularly when there wasn’t even a citation to back up where it came from. Obviously, any dialogue would have been written ex post facto and shouldn’t be used to make historical judgements. The majority of legends were accurately treated and dispelled as historically inaccurate, which I appreciated, having read the historians analysis of them in classes last semester. Still, why did Weir use the much later, unsourced history of William Camden at least once? It diminished her credibility, already on shaky ground. There was also a weird diagnosis of one of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile’s daughters with Rett syndrome, again without a source. You can’t do that for concrete information like this. I did like Weir’s emphasis on the relationship of Eleanor of Provence and her children, especially with her daughter in Scotland, since it always seems like they’re just forgotten by their families when they’re married off.
Eleanor of Aquitaine
I found Weir's description of Eleanor of Aquitaine at times especially flowery, describing her with far more detail than I can see chroniclers doing. I’m not quite sure how Weir could know what she felt about some of Henry’s more minor action. With fairly major events, particularly surrounding Beckett, I found Weir to stretch what even the more potted chronicles would have given her. I also think Eleanor was assigned too much of a role in the rebellion with Weir missing the blatant dislike for women acting at all in most chronicles. It seems more likely Eleanor played a role in the rebellion than actually being the mastermind behind it. Other statements about how Eleanor’s daughter Joanna would have pleaded to Henry to treat Eleanor better in prison seems far-fetched, given that no previous relationship between Joanna and Eleanor was mentioned in the book. In addition, there was a tale about how when Henry’s corpse had a nosebleed for the entirety of the time Richard was in its presence, something that clearly doesn’t make sense, so why include it as a true story?
Isabella of Angouleme
She attributed Isabella’s lack of power under John to his knowledge of her “haughty, tempestuous, wilful, and unscrupulous [nature]…whose chief character traits were greed, arrogance, and selfishness,” despite Weir herself saying these traits are only visible in her later charters after much time fighting with Hugh of Lusignan. John wasn’t exactly a leader known for his superb judgement anyway, and her relative youth and his mother’s prominent role in the rebellions and conflicts of the kingdoms seem like a more likely reasons for Isabella’s lack of power. There were other times where her description of Isabella seemed to take on the bias of many chroniclers who disliked her scheming to raise her second family’s position, yet this would never be the case for the constantly self-aggrandizing barons of France. 
Minor complaints: I wish the monetary figures were translated into numbers relative to the time because 5000 in modern money may not be too much, but if average wage were 1 it’d be enormous. I also wish there was a goddamn family tree, especially for the kids of Eleanor of Castile (it was in the teens) and the Lusignan and Savoyard families. It’s not like showing death years would really be spoilers considering it happened 800 years ago. She also asserted that Beatrice of Provence wanted to be a queen like her sisters, like where did she write that? 

Tl;dr: entertaining read with relatively accurate, if often exaggerated details 3.5 stars\


A digital copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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The Crusades have fascinated the Western world since they began in 1096, when Pope Urban II called on the leaders of Europe to raise armies in support of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos as well as urging militant Christians to go on an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which was under Muslim control. Over the next 200 years, periodic battles would rage between the Christian and Muslim worlds as they vied for control of the Holy Land and altered the course of history.

Most history books, documentaries, and films about the Crusades focus on such figures as Richard I (called the Lionheart), Saladin, Balian of Ibelin, and other leaders of these wars. They are exciting people with fascinating stories, to be sure, but these books and films often overlook the women who stood behind those men, treating them like damsels (sometimes in distress) who quietly waited in faraway castles until the menfolk finished their little wars and headed home. The women Alison Weir documents in her new book, Queens of the Crusades, were not damsels in distress, though. They were dynamic people who fought for power and wealth with as much fervor as their royal husbands, and whose names still ring through history. It opens with the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitane, who once signed a letter to the Pope as “Eleanor, by the wrath of God, Queen of England”, and who is known for having plotted against her husband, Henry II, and who also held England together while her son, Richard I, was away invading parts of the Holy Land during the Second Crusade. The narrative then discusses (at a glance) the life of Berengaria of Navarre, who had the misfortune to be the rightful queen of England while Eleanor of Aquitaine yet lived, and who holds the dubious distinction of being the only English queen to never set foot on English soil. Isabella of Angoulême, the scheming wife of the infamous King John follows Berengaria, and is succeeded in turn by Alienor of Provence, the venal queen of Henry III. The book’s final chapters deal with Eleanor of Castille, the beloved if avaricious wife of Edward I.

If the old saying is true that ‘well-behaved women seldom make history’, then volumes upon volumes could be written about the women in Queens of the Crusades. There are already plenty of biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine, but her successors are often shrouded in mystery, their stories drowned out by dubious legends. As with her many other biographies of medieval women, Weir seeks to shed light on these half-forgotten women. She doesn’t paint them as saints, however. In the age of the Divine Right of Kings, that supposedly holy light also fell upon the queens, who lived it up as much as they could and did not shy away from extortion to get the money and other luxuries they wanted. Perhaps it was a good thing that some of them– such as Alienor of Provence– did not have the same sort of power as their husbands. If Alienor had had the same patience and force of will as her mother-in-law, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had, who knows what sort of disasters she would have led England into?

This isn’t to say that Weir set out to tarnish the reputations of otherwise saintly women. She may be a ‘popular historian’, but Weir stays grounded in fact and relies on primary sources to separate truth from fiction. When dealing with the notion of Richard I’s supposed homosexuality, she states the source of the legends, what we know of the truth surrounding them, and points out that the first people to say that Richard I was gay actually lived in the nineteenth century. Modern popular culture might be interested in the tales of a gay king and his neglected wife, but if historical fact doesn’t support it, then we have to face facts and deal with the reality of it. And while revisionist history might want to paint the kings of the era as terrible men who had saintly wives, the historical reality doesn’t support that notion, either.

Queens of the Crusades covers nearly 150 years of tumultuous English and French history, beginning with the reign of Henry II and ending with that of Edward I. In that time, there were Crusades, the fall of an empire, uprisings, territorial disputes, and religious turmoil. But through it all, the English crown passed from one generation to the next, crowning kings and their queens in succession. They were far from saintly people, but that’s what makes them so interesting, no matter how many centuries have passed. Weir’s skill at showing historical figures’ humanity is showcased in this outing, and while the women she discusses are rarely well-behaved, they are always fascinating.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Ballentine Books for providing me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.
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Love Alison Weir and this was actually really easy to get into for a nonfiction. I do prefer her fiction but this was told almost like a fiction novel
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