Nancy Goldstone – Four Queens

Set against the backdrop of the turbulent 13th century, a time of chivalry and crusades, poetry, knights, and monarchs, comes the story of the four beautiful daughters of the count of Provence, whose brilliant marriages made them the queens of France, England, Germany, and Sicily.

From a cultured childhood in Provence, each sister was propelled into a world marked by shifting alliances, intrigue, and subterfuge: Marguerite, the eldest, whose resolution and spirit would be tested by the cold splendor of the Palais du Roi in Paris; Eleanor, whose soaring political aspirations would provoke her kingdom to civil war; Sanchia, the neglected wife of the richest man in England, who bought himself the crown of Germany; and Beatrice, whose desire for sovereignty was so acute that she risked her life to earn her place at the royal table.

Four Queens shatters the myth that women were helpless pawns in a society that celebrated physical prowess and masculine intellect. A riveting historical saga for fans of Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser.

Author: Nancy Goldstone
Narrator: Josephine Bailey
Duration: 11 hours 31 minutes
Released: 7 Oct 2005
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Language: English

User Review:

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After reading the book summary of four sisters becoming queens of different countries, I imagined four extraordinary women, overcoming adversity, and against all odds, bringing
peace throughout the land (I wasn’t a history major).

I bought this book after reading the author’s “The Lady Queen” which I liked a great deal. This is a pretty good book- but the storylines of the sisters are quite separate most of the time. And when they do intersect, it’s not always a happy family experience, but more in the line of trying to stop a scheming brother-in-law. There’s no murder, incest, or insanity. Although, it takes place in the 13th century, the author conveys the personalities and the actions in such a way that it is relatable to the kinds of problems we deal with today. You have an overbearing mother-in-law that her kind son won’t stand up to, your three older sisters publically snub you because they’re more successful (they’re queens, you’re not), your husband isn’t as smart or successful as his younger brother (even though your husband’s the king) so you keep having to bribe the brother for his help to get anything done, etc. are just some of the issues that the sisters face. It’s all very human.

I became very interested in Eleanor, the queen of England. She initially seems to have hit the marital jackpot. She had an arranged marriage (at, I think, 12) to an older man, but he turns out to be a devoted, loving husband, interested in the same things as her. One small problem: he’s not that good at his job (as king). So she assists him. With her intelligence and initiative, this sounds like a perfect remedy. But she ends up becomes one of the most hated women in England for bringing in her foreign family members to help out.. and get well compensated for their trouble.

Probably one of the most interesting unanswered question for me from the book is why no one seems to like Beatrice. In the book, the animosity towards her is chalked up to inheritance issues. But that still doesn’t explain why all three of the sisters (and I think the mother as well) don’t care for her. Her husband, while a good husband to her, doesn’t keep his word and is only out to enrich himself. But while he definitely contributes to the dislike, I have a feeling that their must have been some incident, lost to history, that led to the problem.

While a nonroyal group of sisters becoming Four Queens is an extraordinary situation that does capture attention, the reality of it is mainly a book of four different queens.