“Helen Castor has an exhilarating narrative gift. . . . Readers will love this book, finding it wholly absorbing and rewarding.” —Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall
In the tradition of Antonia Fraser, David Starkey, and Alison Weir, prize-winning historian Helen Castor delivers a compelling, eye-opening examination of women and power in England, witnessed through the lives of six women who exercised power against all odds—and one who never got the chance. Exploring the narratives of the Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Margaret of Anjou, and other “she-wolves,” as well as that of the Nine Days' Queen, Lady Jane Grey, Castor invokes a magisterial discussion of how much—and how little—has changed through the centuries.
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When Edward VI died in 1553, the extraordinary fact was that there was no one left to claim the title of king of England. For the first time, England would have a reigning queen—but the question was which one: Katherine of Aragon's daughter, Mary; Anne Boleyn's daughter, Elizabeth; or one of their cousins, Lady Jane Grey or Mary, Queen of Scots.
But female rule in England also had a past. Four hundred years before Edward's death, Matilda, daughter of Henry I and granddaughter of William the Conqueror, came tantalizingly close to securing the crown for herself. And between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries three more exceptional women—Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and Margaret of Anjou—discovered how much was possible if pre-sumptions of male rule were not confronted so explicitly—and just how quickly they might be vilified as "she-wolves" for their pains.
The stories of these women, told here in all their vivid detail, expose the paradox that female heirs to the Tudor throne had no choice but to negotiate. Man was the head of woman, and the king was the head of all. How, then, could royal power lie in female hands?About the Author:
Helen Castor is a historian, writer, and broadcaster. She is the author of Blood and Roses, winner of the English Association’s Beatrice White Prize, and presents BBC Radio 4’s Making History. She is a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University, and lives in London.
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