Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Review: Queen Isabella, by Alison Weir
Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England is a biography of the wife of Edward II. It’s actually a composite of things: a biography of Isabella’s most intimate household moments, drawn from her extensive household account books (want to know what was used as toilet paper in the English royal household? It’s in there), as well as an account of her relationship with her husband, his favorites, and her lover, Roger Mortimer.
My major problem with this book is Weir’s extreme bias in favor of Isabella. Weir even goes so far as to blame Edward entirely for the breakdown of the royal marriage and for Isabella’s changed demeanor during it. It’s almost as though the author went into the research and writing of this book thinking, “I’m going to vindicate Isabella.” This is a work of popular history, and as such, I feel that Weir could have been more impartial in her assessment of Isabella’s story. All that’s really known about Isabella’s day-to-day life comes from her book of household accounts, and Weir continually tries to make presumptions about how the queen “might” have felt or “perhaps” have thought.
All that said, however, I enjoyed the detail that Weir goes into in telling what little is known about Isabella’s life. Weir certainly has a way with words, and she’s very good about bringing historical figures to life on the page. If you’re a newcomer to the history and politics of early-14th century England, I wouldn’t recommend this, however.
Also reviewed by: Jackets and Covers