Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones

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This book was about the four daughters of a thirteenth century Count of Provence, all of whom became queens. Eléonore (usually referred to in British textbooks as Eleanor, the English spelling of her name), married Henry III of England. His reign, despite having been the fourth longest in English history and seen the rebellion of Simon de Montfort, doesn’t generally get a lot of attention, probably because he lacked the glamour factor that most of the other Plantagenets had! I’ve never liked Eleanor of Provence, but I must say that this book did a rather good job of persuading the reader that maybe she doesn’t deserve the bad press that she usually gets. Her elder sister, Marguerite, married St Louis of France.

Their younger sisters aren’t as well known. Sanchia, the third sister, married Henry III’s brother Richard of Cornwall, who became King of the Romans/Germans. Beatrice, the youngest sister, married St Louis’ younger brother Charles of Anjou, who became King of Sicily. I generally associate Charles with the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, but this book finished in 1271.

The book concentrated on the “emotional lives” of the four sisters, and their relationships with each other. The difficulty of that was that not enough’s known about their personal lives, and the author made up some rather strange tales – Marguerite having an affair with the chronicler Joinville, Eléonore secretly fancying Simon de Montfort, and Beatrice arranging for Richard’s mistress to be murdered and then Sanchia blaming herself for it! I’d rather have seen more about the political events of the time but, to be fair, that wasn’t what the book set out to cover.

Overall verdict – it was a decent read, and covered an important period in history which really doesn’t get enough attention. My main criticism would be that it was all written in the present tense, which made it read rather strangely, but I’d recommend it all the same.

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