Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe
Let me start out by saying that I am not a fan of non-fiction books. Seriously, the only things I read that can be categorized as historical are also categorized under romance. I expected this book to be like the ones I had to read for history classes in college: boring and never ending. It wasn’t an experience I was looking forward to. So imagine my surprise when I started reading and found that not only was the book interesting, it was so compelling that I literally could not put it down. I loved this book. I would even go as far as to say that it’s one of the best books I’ve read all year, and coming from someone who does not like non-fiction, that’s saying a lot.
Four Queens is the true story of four sisters from Provence who came to rule England, France, Germany, and Sicily during the 13th century. The subject matter is fascinating. Page after page is filled with royal marriages, secret alliances, crusades, wars, rebellions, and betrayals. This is the stuff that award-winning television miniseries are made of. The cast of characters is like something out of a soap opera.
There’s Marguerite, the eldest daughter, who must adapt to married life with her husband, the pious King Louis of France, while sidestepping his controlling mother, Blanche of Castille; Eleanor, married to the impulsive King Henry of England and determined to step out of her older sister’s shadow; Sanchia, as meek as she is beautiful, wed to Henry’s charismatic brother Richard; and Beatrice, young and spoiled and perfectly matched with Louis’s power hungry younger brother Charles.
While the events of the book are interesting in their own right, it is really the wit and charm that Goldstone injects into her writing that makes this novel a page turner. Her style is reminiscent of that favorite teacher you had in school, the one who could make the lecture fun and exciting while still presenting you with all the important facts and dates.
History tends to overlook women for the most part and it was refreshing and inspiring to read about four women who were so influential in a time when women’s rights were unheard of. If nothing else, the book proves one point: While French men may have a reputation for being weak, French women have always kicked ass!