Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

Sarah Gristwood. Basic, $28.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-465-09678-7
Gristwood (Blood Sisters), a commentator on British royal affairs, reframes the Renaissance as an “Age of Queens” in a fast-paced chronological narrative bursting with intrigue. Opening with Spain’s Isabella of Castile (1451–1504) and concluding with England’s Elizabeth I (1533–1603), Gristwood successfully demonstrates how mentors, such as Margaret of Austria (whose court included a young Anne Boleyn), and power wielders, such as the resolute Isabella, helped influence generations of ambitious, high-ranking women through networking and clever manipulation. Some of these women (such as Louise of Savoy and Catherine de Medici) enjoyed great success, while others endured—and sometimes caused—great misery (notably Mary, Queen of Scots, and Mary I). Gristwood places each woman’s story in the context of her own realm as well as in that of contemporary Europe, using multiple sources and providing clear, impartial explanations. She sympathetically describes limited options for women, especially regarding marriages, and also bluntly details self-destructive decisions. Surprisingly, Gristwood barely mentions some of the powerful and well-known medieval queens (Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France) who preceded the women here, perhaps because too much emphasis on them would have shifted the book’s steady focus. Gristwood’s fresh take on a well-documented period and the achievements, failures, and relationships of some of Europe’s most powerful players is intriguing, cohesive, and accessible. Illus. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/2016
Release date: 11/01/2016
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-465-09679-4
Paperback - 392 pages - 978-1-5416-9722-5
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