What’s Ashley Reading?: Queens of the Crusades

Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir

First line: On Sunday, 19 December 1154, Henry II, the first Plantagenet King of England, was crowned in Westminster Abbey, along with his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, amidst great splendor and rejoicing.

Summary: In the second installment of Alison Weir’s histories of the queens of England is Queens of the Crusades. It covers Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile spanning their lives over several centuries. These women lived in an age when they were expected to be humble and pious. But the queens of this time held power over their lands and income that drew the ire of their male subjects giving several of them tarnished reputations that Weir tries to dissolve.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed learning about these remarkable women. I love Eleanor of Aquitaine. She is one of my favorite queens of England. She lived for such a long time and was queen of France and England as well as duchess of Aquitaine. I was very excited to learn more about her daughter-in-law, Berengaria. She is glossed over so much in fiction since she was queen for such a short time and did not do much to gain prominence in England.

I like that Weir takes into account how often names are reused for different people that she tries to vary the spellings in order to keep them straight for the reader. I knew nothing about the queens after Eleanor. The amount of wealth these women had and spent is astounding. I love to see what the conversions are because it is so shocking.

Having visited England several times I have been to some of the places listed such as Westminster Abbey. I knew many of the tombs there but now I will need to find the ones for these medieval queens on my next visit.

FYI: Second installment of a four part series. Part one was Queens of the Conquest.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Queens of the Conquest

Queens of the Conquest by Alison Weir

First line: Imagine a land centuries before industrialization, a rural, green land of vast royal forests and open fields, wild moorlands and undrained marshlands, with scattered villages overshadowed by towering castles, and small, bustling walled towns.

Summary: In the first of a four book set, Alison Weir looks at the lives of the first five queens of England after the Norman conquest: Matilda of Flanders, Matilda of Scotland, Adeliza of Louvain, Matilda of Boulogne and the Empress Matilda. Each woman made their mark on the early part of English history through their good works, descendants and political maneuvers.

My Thoughts: I love to read nonfiction and biographies most of all. They tell so much about a person’s life but also about the time period. And this one was particularly fascinating. These women lived almost one thousand years ago but we know quite a lot about who they were, where they were at certain times and what they did. Some of the queens even left behind letters, their personal seals and elaborate tombs for historians and lovers of history to see.

I was not very familiar with these early queens so I learned a lot from reading Weir’s book. The fact that 4 of the 5 queens were named Matilda made the reading a little bit confusing but the author tried to make sure she differentiated between them either with their titles or other names they went my such as Maud. Life during these years was very hard and life was short but these women accomplished a lot during their time. And that so many of them spent such a short amount of time in England is shocking. They helped rule over several duchies in France and had to split their times between each country.

If you are looking for a great insight into medieval England then I would highly recommend picking this book up. It is a big book and very dense but filled with lots of information and several pictures are included in the middle too.

FYI: The next book, Queens of the Crusades, will be out on February 23, 2021.