Posted By Claire on September 30, 2011
Elizabeth Norton’s latest offering is “England’s Queens: The Biography” which is described as “Her story, not his, the English monarchy through the private and public lives of the queens of England”. And that’s exactly what it is, a look at the history of England through the lives of its queen consorts and queens, from Boudica and Cartimandua to our present queen, Queen Elizabeth II.
We know about the monarchs of England and even about some of their wives, seemingly scandalous consorts like Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth Woodville and Isabella of France, but what about Emma of Normandy, Matilda of Boulogne and Edith of Mercia? Have you heard of them? That’s what I loved about this book, it introduced me to a whole host of women who are deserving of my admiration, women who were more than submissive wives, women who acted as regents or who had real influence over their husbands and an impact on the country. Wow!
“England’s Queens” is divided up into 11 main sections:-
- The Early and Mythical Queens
- The Anglo-Saxon Queens
- The Norman Queens
- The Plantagenet Queens
- The Lancastrian Queens
- The Yorkist Queens
- The Six Wives of Henry VIII
- Tudor Queen Regnants
- The House of Stuart
- The Hanoverian Queens
- From the House of Hanover to the House of Windsor
And in these sections around 80 (I think I counted 81) women are examined, and in detail too. The book has over 350 pages so none of these women are skipped over. What Norton writes on these women is enough to give you a good overview of their life, importance and reign, and a hunger to find out more. Just the right amount of information. I found it a truly enlightening read given that I have not studied every period of English history and there are significant gaps in my knowledge.
Also included in the book are sections of full colour illustrations, genealogical tables and notes and bibliography. The Notes and Bibliography section is of particular interest to history lovers and students as it contains a list of sources for each section and also recommended reading. I’ve already looked up books on Emma of Normandy because, for some reason, she has piqued my interest, as has Eleanor of Castile, whose loving husband, Edward I, erected twelve “Eleanor Crosses” in a line down Eastern England in memory of her. That’s love for you!
So, who is this book for?
Well, it makes a great reference book, a general history book, to have on your bookshelf and it’s a wonderful read for anyone interested in women’s history or in broadening their knowledge of English history as a whole. It’s definitely a book to go back to and I know that the Bibliography will be invaluable to me over the years as I thirst for more knowledge! Elizabeth Norton has done a great job with something that must have been an immense project. When whole books could be written about many of these women individually, it is a tricky job to condense their lives into one book without missing vital information, but Norton has given very fair overviews, spot on.