She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

Helen Castor

Language: English

Pages: 496

ISBN: 0061430765

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“Helen Castor has an exhilarating narrative gift. . . . Readers will love this book, finding it wholly absorbing and rewarding.” —Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall 

In the tradition of Antonia Fraser, David Starkey, and Alison Weir, prize-winning historian Helen Castor delivers a compelling, eye-opening examination of women and power in England, witnessed through the lives of six women who exercised power against all odds—and one who never got the chance. Exploring the narratives of the Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Margaret of Anjou, and other “she-wolves,” as well as that of the Nine Days' Queen, Lady Jane Grey, Castor invokes a magisterial discussion of how much—and how little—has changed through the centuries. 

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beyond help. The imminent inevitability of his death had been reported to the royal courts of Europe for weeks, and time and again Edward had defied the rumours; but the stimulating effects of the powerful drugs his doctors had administered were fading as their toxins poisoned an already failing body. Now he lay still and silent, eyes closed in the swollen, darkened face, the disfigured hands motionless. For a moment it seemed as though the shallow breathing had stopped; but then Edward began to

the bloodstained corpse for burial before the altar of their church. Unhappy precedent there may have been, but, however shattering the repercussions of Gaveston’s death, they could not compare with the shock to the political system that Lancaster’s execution represented. Gaveston had been a peer of the realm in name, but not by hereditary right or territorial reach. And, crucially, his death had not been ordered by the king. Now, for the first time since the Conquest, a lord – and not just any

century very little had been unequivocally resolved about the possibility of female succession to the English throne, other than the evident fact of its undesirability. In some ways, the circumstances of 1553 appeared to offer more encouraging signs for the prospects of a female sovereign than had been the case even fifty years earlier. Tudor anxiety about the conspicuous vulnerability of the fledgling dynasty had combined with the personal frailties of the last two Tudor kings to diminish

thirstily on rumour until it was reported that Margaret and Henry would return at the head of an army made up, hydra-like, of contingents from Brittany, Burgundy, Scotland and Spain, with fresh waves of hundreds of thousands more troops sent by the kings of France, Aragon, Denmark, Sicily, Navarre and Portugal waiting to overwhelm England’s shores. Despite all the wild speculation and Margaret’s unrelenting diplomatic efforts, her invasion fleet, when it finally landed on the Northumbrian coast

dearest mother’, who held ‘the chief place in my heart’. But Henry died, a decaying, bloated hulk, in January 1547. Nor could Edward, king at nine, depend on the continuing support of his beloved stepmother. The bond of trust between them was broken only four months after his father’s death by Katherine’s impetuous remarriage to his maternal uncle, the dashing Thomas Seymour. She died little more than a year later after giving birth to her only child, a short-lived daughter named Mary. The young

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