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Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe
Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe
Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe
Audiobook11 hours

Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe

Written by Nancy Goldstone

Narrated by Josephine Bailey

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

3/5

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About this audiobook

Set against the backdrop of the turbulent thirteenth century, a time of chivalry and crusades, poetry, knights, and monarchs comes the story of the four beautiful daughters of the count of Provence whose brilliant marriages made them the queens of France, England, Germany, and Sicily.



From a cultured childhood in Provence, each sister was propelled into a world marked by shifting alliances, intrigue, and subterfuge. Marguerite, the eldest, whose resolution and spirit would be tested by the cold splendor of the Palais du Roi in Paris; Eleanor, whose soaring political aspirations would provoke her kingdom to civil war; Sanchia, the neglected wife of the richest man in England who bought himself the crown of Germany; and Beatrice, whose desire for sovereignty was so acute that she risked her life to earn her place at the royal table.



A compulsively readable narrative, Four Queens shatters the myth that women were helpless pawns in a society that celebrated physical prowess and masculine intellect. A riveting historical saga for fans of Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser.
LanguageEnglish
PublisherTantor Audio
Release dateMay 7, 2007
ISBN9781400173846
Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe
Author

Nancy Goldstone

Nancy Goldstone has written articles for the New York Times, Washington Post Magazine, the Boston Herald, Lear's, the Boston Phoenix, and the New York Daily News, as well as several novels, including The Lady Queen. She lives with her husband in Westport, Connecticut.

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Reviews for Four Queens

Rating: 3.246153846153846 out of 5 stars
3/5

195 ratings26 reviews

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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    In the 13th c., four sisters, the daughters of Count Ramon Berenger V of Provence, became European queens with considerable influence in the politics and warfare of the era. The eldest, Marguerite, became queen of France when she married Louis IX at 13. Her sister Eleanor married Henry III of England. The two younger sisters, Sanchia and Beatrice, secured lesser crowns as their husbands eventually claimed the kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire (Germany) and Sicily. The sisters were both rivals and collaborators, bringing their family ties to bear on creating war and peace.Goldstone's book is more popular than scholarly history, but it gives insight into 13th century power brokering and foreshadows the momentous events of 14th century Europe. It also, obviously, highlights the influence that aristocratic women wielded in the late medieval period.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Nancy Goldstone brings the Middle Ages to life with her biography of four sisters, daughters of the Count and Countess of Provence, who each became queens of European states. The author relies heavily on chronicles of the era written by Matthew Paris, Jean de Joinville, Salimbene de Adam, and Giovanni Villani, as well as the surviving correspondence of some of the major figures. Unfortunately the text doesn't include footnotes or end notes, probably because it is targeted to a general audience rather than to scholars of medieval history. Although it's fairly easy to identify the source of quoted material, it's harder to tell what sources, if any, support the author's claims about the feelings and motives she attributes to individuals.The most disturbing aspect of the book is the fact that these women were being evaluated as potential brides at only 10 to 12 years old. That might have been common for the era, but it seems creepy today. The most interesting thing I learned is that a number of the nobility and religious leaders mentioned in the book appear in Dante's Divine Comedy. Now I'm eager to re-read The Inferno and continue with the other two parts of the trilogy to see if I can spot the references to these newly familiar people.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Interesting history lesson, for once focused a little more on the women and their influence and power, rather than the usual focus on male power. Overall recommend. I personally find it so hard to read these english histories - so many titles and deaths and marriages and re-marriages and sneaky plot and deceptions. I thought this book was excellent in that the author was able to sort of "storify" those zillions of plot twists - I didn't feel confused even though I forgot many of the previous characters and plot twists. That to me is the mark of a good historian and this is one of the few massive english histories that I've able to follow. Good job N. Goldstone.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    this was very well done and gives a good potrait of the trials and characters of the time. i found if fascinating but i'm a history buff and very british. of course we can follow our line up to all 4 so that adds interest. nonetheless... i would recommend it highly. it contains a lot of information and gets it across to you in a very pleasurable, interesting way.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    this was very well done and gives a good potrait of the trials and characters of the time. i found if fascinating but i'm a history buff and very british. of course we can follow our line up to all 4 so that adds interest. nonetheless... i would recommend it highly. it contains a lot of information and gets it across to you in a very pleasurable, interesting way.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Excellent book for listening on audio. Very well organized, excellent narration. Brought to life the energy and personalities of the times.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Captivating and well read. French place names are clearly pronounced.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Very engaging and readable history, without the history channel flash to make you doubt her scholarship. I feel more informed and pleased about it.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    The flow of the narrative made this book very readable, and feel almost like reading a novel in places. While sometimes the book revolved more around the sisters' husbands than themselves, this can be attributed to the nature of the available historical sources. By taking the sisters as her subject, Goldstone is able to show the depth and intricacy of thirteenth century international relations. While many books fixate on one ruler or one country, this book highlights the often ignored connections that so strongly influenced decisions and policies affecting people's lives. Goldstone reconstructs a vivid picture of the power and influence thirteenth century women held in the governing of their and other nations.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    This history examines the life and times of the four sisters who married into high positions across Europe and whose reigns would have a lasting impact upon the world. It is a book primarily concerned with the complex politics of marriage, inheritance, and international affairs during the Middle Ages. Ultimately, I felt this book failed a bit in its promise to look specifically at the four queens. For the most part, the book covered wars, crusades, and various political events. The sisters got lost a lot and it was hard to keep track of all the different players.In general, I found this book a bit dry and lost interest in certain places, but it was a fascinating time that is often romanticized in popular culture so it was good to get a historical view.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
     This is a tale of four sisters from Provence who married above themselves such that all four became queens and had a significant impact on the state of Europe for decades. The older two became queens of France 7 England, while the younger two ended up queens of the Romans (germany) and Sicily. However I remain unsure how happy any of this made them - and it doesn't necessarily seem to have occurred to the author to try and answer that question for all of them either. This book tries to pack a lot into it and, at times, it feels a little rushed. The focus is on the 4 sisters and their interaction with the family, but to cover the rebellion of de Montfort on a couple of pages felt somewhat sketchy. There is also only a very short chapter on Europe in the aftermath of the sisters, and this is not very detailed, mentioning Sicily not at all, although the election of Rudolh of Hapsburg does get a knowing nob to the future. But the next 50 to 100 years in Europe are barely covered. This is perfectly readable, and doesn't read like an academic tome, but neither does it feel as if it is rooted in scholarship. That may well be doing the author a disservice, but the lack of reference indications makes this feel light. There are plenty of quotations for chroniclers of the period, and from more recent historians, but there is also an amount of speculation that can't be supported. This book is interesting and informative, but strikes me as falling into that trap of being a readable history and not feeling like serious history, while trying to be both.

    1 person found this helpful

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    In the 13th century, four sisters from Provence made advantageous marriages, and each ended up a queen. The eldest, Marguerite, married the heir to the French throne, Louis IX, when she was only 13. It wasn't until the death of her domineering mother-in-law that she was able to exert her influence over her weak-willed husband. Eleanor became the wife of the English king, Henry III and helped to mastermind a series of wars and peace treaties. After several engagements were broken off for better prospects, Sanchia, reportedly the most beautiful, married Richard of Cornwall, a much older widower who was Henry's brother and reportedly the wealthiest man in England. When he literally bought the position of King of the Romans (Germany), she, too, became a queen. Beatrice, the last sister, wed Charles of Anjou, the ambitious brother of Louis XI, who managed to secure an Italian crown.Historian Nancy Goldstone details the personal and political lives of these influential women, the courts in which they thrived, and the wars (including the Crusades) and manipulations in which they became involved. While we often tend to think of medieval royal women as little more than baby machines or inspiration for minstrels, each of these sisters played an active role in the workings of her husband's kingdom. It's a fascinating story--even if it does sometimes get a bit bogged down in battle details and confused by multiple occurences of the same or similar names. A few readers on Amazon complain that there are historical inaccuracies; I really wouldn't know, but often "inaccuracies" end up being a different interpretation of players and events. I enjoyed the books and think anyone with an interest in medieval women and/or politics would probably like it as well.

    1 person found this helpful

  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    If you are looking for a very interesting history lesson, this is the book for you. I thought I would be reading a sort of fictional/historical story, so it took me a while to read this book. It was quite interesting nonetheless.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    This is a good book that portrays the history of Europe in the 1200's, showing the relationship of King Henry III of England and Louis IX of France as well as the major development of Europe through Richard of Cornwall and Charles of Anjou. The queens of these four were sisters, daughters of Ramond Berenger V of Provence. They each played major roles in the development and foundation of laws and government to come.I enjoyed the unfolding of history through the complexities of these families, It was enlightening to learn how great the role the queen plays can be and how much power and courage she needed. On the flipside, I enjoyed reading this as a family document, seeing each person as a seperate character with a distinct personality. The timeframe covers the better part of the 13th century, beginning after the reign of King John and just hinting at the impending rule of Edward I, John's grandson. There are many names that are familiar that round things out well......King John and his Queen Isabella, Simon de Montfort, Hugh de Lusignan, Pope Urban IV, Frederick II, Gilbert De Clare. It is exciting to see how they all involve together.The book does well to fill in this part of European, especially French and English, history. Dates and Names are repeated often so the reader doesn't become confused. Events are overlapped with skill making it easy to not lose your place in what is happening at what point in time. I was never confused with the chronology. It was an easy read and learning of these women and the office of being Queen was rewarding. I recommend this to anyone interested in Plantagenet or Middle Ages history.

    1 person found this helpful

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Goldstone's book explores mid-13th century European politics through a family of four daughters of Provence, all of whom ended up being Queens. This was quite a feat for one family who didn't have particularly large inheritances to dole out to suitors. The oldest sister, Marguerite, paves the way by marrying Louis IX, future King of France. Next, Eleanor marries Henry III, King of England. Sanchia marries King Henry's brother, Richard of Cornwall who eventually becomes King of the Romans (Germany). Beatrice, the youngest sister, marries Charles of Anjou, Louis IX's younger brother. Charles later wins the kingship of Sicily. Just how much did these women influence the politics of the time? I would say quite a bit based on Goldstone's writing and other books I've read on the time period. I think the general impression that many people have of women sitting quietly on the sidelines trying to have babies is proven wrong with only a little digging. These women used their family influence and banded together to put their family members in positions of power and influence. Eleanor, particularly, managed to infiltrate English politics with family members of her choosing. This ended up back firing on her when Simon de Montfort wrested power from the King, but it still was an impressive run of power. Sanchia was the least politically active of the sisters, but even she significantly helped Richard's play for power in Germany. Beatrice bucked the trend of family helping each other out in her quest for Queenship for herself. This time period is very interesting to me and I enjoyed this book. It read easily, almost like historical fiction, which I both liked and disliked. I can't argue with a book that makes centuries old politics entertaining, but I felt that it may have benefited from a slightly more scholarly tone and a bit more detail. Overall, though, a lot of fun to read.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    One of the best historical books I have ever read! She really does make history come alive. The author tells their story clearly and succinctly, deftly weaving through the decades.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    In the 13th century, the four daughters of Raymond Berenger V, Count of Provence--Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia, and Beatrice--each married men who were to become the Kings of France, England, Germany, and Sicily. While they did not live idyllic lives, they each helped to shape the course of European politics for years to come. They survived the English civil war (when Simon de Montfort tried to take over the crown from King Henry III) and two Crusades. They lived through the reign of fifteen different Popes. They even caused the beginning of the Hapsburg dynasty. Goldstone does a very good job of balancing the various chroniclers' voices with historical fact and produces a splendid soap opera-like view of European history. A good read.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Themes: royalty, family, ambition, religion, commerce, politics, loveSetting: 13th century EuropeGreat story about four wealthy and powerful sisters who changed the fate of Europe. They were the beautiful and charming daughters of the Count of Provence, Raymond Berengar V, and each one of them became a queen: Marguerite, the eldest, became Queen of France and married Louis IX, Eleanor married Henry III, Sanchia, the saddest story of them all, married brother to King Henry, Richard, who became King, but not Emperor, of the Holy Roman Empire, and Beatrice, who married Charles of Anjou, brother to King Louis, who became the King of Sicily by conquest.Despite all the royal names and politics involved, this one was an easy read that was more like a modern family drama than a dry historical treatise. There was plenty of feuding, an occasional war, going on Crusades, a rebellion here and there - it was certainly not a boring time to live. This is a great one for the RTT theme this month.I could have used more maps, but even without them, I really enjoyed the book. Maybe somewhat slow to start, but once the first couple of sisters were married, I couldn't put it down. I'm not really familiar with this time period, although I recognized a lot of the names, so I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. 4 stars
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    A well-written account of the lives of the four daughters of Count Raymond Berenger of Provence and the role they played in shaping the history of 13th Century Europe. While, even by the author's account, the sisters can hardly be said to have "ruled Europe," their collective biography provides an interesting examination of events unfolding in their lifetime.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    I've been fascinated for years by mentions in other works of the four beautiful and influential Provençal sisters of the Middle Ages, so I welcomed this book. It's the very best kind of history -- a first rate piece of scholarship written in a lively and entertaining style. Ms. Goldstone expertly weaves togther the lives of the sisters and their families with the events and culture of the period. I wish there had been more detail about the daily lives of the individual sisters, but perhaps there just wasn't enough source material for that; plus the author had the bigger picture of 13th century power politics in mind. I don't think she quite makes the case that these sisters actually "ruled" Europe. It appears rather that they had varying degrees of autonomy and influence (although a couple of them actually did save the day for their hapless husbands!)
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    In 13th century Europe, women were primarily seen as pawns, almost property that would bring riches or glory to their family by how they married; sons were prized over daughters as heirs to the family land or fortune. Into this climate, the Count and Countess of Provence delivered four daughters and no sons. Yes, they were probably very disappointed at the outset, but their four daughters ended up changing the history of Europe.Each of the Count’s daughters ended their lives as European Queens. The oldest, Marguerite was married to French King Louis IX and the second oldest, Eleanor, married the English King, Henry III. Both of these kings had ambitious younger brothers, each of whom married another one of the sisters and won a kingdom, at least partially because of his wife’s family connections: England’s Richard of Cornwall married the third daughter, Sanchia, and got himself crowned Holy Roman Empire and France’s Charles of Anjou married the youngest daughter, Beatrice, and conquered Sicily.Certainly the family of these women, particularly their maternal uncles, influenced their husbands and the policy in their kingdoms to varying degrees. What was slightly less convincing was how the women themselves influenced their kingdoms. Eleanor was certainly a strong queen who influenced her husband but some of the others, Sanchia in particular, seem to be more notable because of their family connections.Goldstone did not use many citations - although she did often quote primary sources - so I’m not entirely sure how good her history is, since this is not a period I’ve ever studied. Whatever her biases may be, however, I am reasonably certain that she has her basic facts and timelines down. She writes a very readable narrative history book and it is fascinating to see how women could work within the context of their societal roles, even in the 13th century, to shape the fate of a continent.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    2/5
    Maybe it was listening to this, instead of reading, but I was bored. I got to disc 7 (of 9) and gave up. I found myself being somewhat skeptical as I listened to descriptions of what great marriage/partnerships some of the sisters had. I wanted to know what sources, exactly, had suggested that - particularly since this is history from the 13th century. Of course, reading the book might have given me access to those notes. I got tired of hearing what new intrigues were embarked upon so this very small group of people could gain themselves titles and influence.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    This is book from my favorite period of history looking at that history from a women's perspective. The author does a good job of explaining the politics and intrigue of the period. She keeps the history clean and accessible to those not familiar with the period. I am not sure she does as good a job making her case that these four women influenced history as much as the book purports.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    During the Middle Ages, one of the biggest challenges for nobility was to marry one's daughters well. Raymond Berenger, a thirteenth century Count of Provence, surely wins the gold medal. Through marriage, each of his daughters became queens - France, England, Germany and Sicily. Goldstone does an excellent job of telling the story of each daughter and their tangled relationships during a turbulent historical period. Moreover, Raymonds brothers, the Uncles from Savoy come to play pivotal roles as advisors to both the French and English kings and mediators in the disputes that arose.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A beautifully written history that is so fascinating it reads like a novel about four sisters, a clever mother and ambition matched by success. It was the time of knights, crusades, kings, and troubadours in medieval Europe. Each sister made a brilliant match marrying some of the most powerful men of their time, surviving wars, crusades, and rebellions. Their stories are interwoven in the fabric of the thirteenth century. Family disputes over dowries (how many times can a father promise the same castles?), triumphs, heartaches and petty jealousies as they grew into powerful women (all actually became queens) are all duly noted. How they raised families, formed political and social alliances and lasting impact on the times is also explored in detail. Nancy Goldstone writes with heart and makes the sisters stories a fascinating miniseries of thirteenth century life.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    An excellent book. Well written and researched, this book follows the stories of four medieval queens who all happened to be the daughters of Beatrice of Savoy: Eleanor of England (wife of Henry III); Marguerite of France (wife of Saint Louis); Beatrice of Sicily (wife of Charles I of Naples) and Sanchia of the Romans (wife of Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans). A fascinating, interwoven tale, following alternating narratives as the story unfolds. Covering two crusades, a civil war, and more than a handful of popes, this book is well worth the read for anyone interested in medieval history.