Queens of the Crusades follows the lives of five of England’s Queens: Eleanor of Aquitaine (Henry II), Berengaria of Navarre (Richard I), Isabella of Angoulême (John I), Eleanor (Alienor) of Provence (Richard III), and Eleanor of Castile (Edward I) – Yes, lots of Eleanors. The book uses primary sources and other research (mostly Mathew Paris) to tell the story of these five queens.
The majority of the book focuses on two of them: the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine and the ambiguous Eleanor of Castile. In fact, the first third of the book is devoted to Eleanor of Aquitaine which can be good or bad depending on your tastes. I personally would have liked a bit more time spent on the other queens… particularly Isabella, but that is me.
The book is told in Weir’s incredibly readable style. And it’s easy for the armchair historian to pick up and follow along with. While there’s a lot of very interesting information in this book, readers need to be aware that there is some unstated bias in the prose and some theories/facts which are in dispute. It’s a good start for people looking for more information about these queens who have exhausted Wikipedia, but it’s really only a start.
There were also some odd tangents at times that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the narrative and felt shoehorned in because they were interesting tidbits but didn’t relate fully to the information at hand.
In all, I am torn about what to rate this book. It’s readable. It’s approachable. But there’s a lack of context provided to some of the sources and Weir’s bias is present but it’s not stated or acknowledged. There’s also the potential for confusion regarding the names in this book. Maud is used instead of Mathilda for Henry II’s mother. Alienor is used for Eleanor of Provence. At several points, I had to pause to check to make sure that the name in question was a viable one and that lessened my reading enjoyment. I’m not a fan of fact-checking my non-fiction, and I needed to fact check much of this book. Additionally, I also felt that the book was uneven. The section on Eleanor of Aquitaine was far and away the best and most in depth. However the section on Berengaria of Navarre felt lacking.
If you’re a fan of Weir’s work, you’re going to enjoy this. If you aren’t, I’d give it a miss. If you’re new to the subject, then this is a good starting point and something light and easy to read.
In all, I liked and disliked parts of this book. And for that I give this:
If this is your jam, you can get it here.
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I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley