The Queen of Four Kingdoms by HRH Princess Michael of Kent

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Princess Michael’s non-fiction historical books are surprisingly good. Unfortunately, her style of fiction-writing (this is her first attempt) is bloody awful, which is a great shame because Yolande of Aragon, the queen of the book’s title, is an absolutely fascinating character.

The book is all written in the present tense. That just about works for the Peter and Jane/Janet and John books which we used to read in the second year infants, but it really doesn’t work for a book aimed at adults! It felt rather Jean Plaidy-ish as well, and I love Jean Plaidy’s books but her style is rather dated now. However, the actual subject matter was fascinating.

Yolande of Aragon (by birth), Duchess of Anjou and titular Queen of Naples and Sicily (by marriage) was the mother of the Dauphin of Joan of Arc fame – and, incidentally, the grandmother of Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI. She had far more influence behind the scenes, both political and financial, than Joan did, and in a lot of ways she was actually the force behind Joan. Princess Michael explains the famous scene in which the Dauphin disguised himself and Joan recognised him anyway by saying that one of Yolande’s supporters tipped Joan off, which is a far more likely, if rather less romantic, explanation than the idea that Joan was able to identify the real royal just by instinct!

Yolande is a very interesting character who led a very interesting life and deserves more attention than she gets. However, she also deserves a rather better style of writing than Princess Michael provides. Strange, that, because Princess Michael’s non-fiction historical books are written so well.

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