When Edward VI died in 1553, the extraordinary fact was that there was no one left to claim the title of king of England. For the first time, England would have a reigning queenbut the question was which one: Katherine of Aragon's daughter, Mary; Anne Boleyn's daughter, Elizabeth; or one of their cousins, Lady Jane Grey or Mary, Queen of Scots.
But female rule in England also had a past. Four hundred years before Edward's death, Matilda, daughter of Henry I and granddaughter of William the Conqueror, came tantalizingly close to securing the crown for herself. And between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries three more exceptional womenEleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and Margaret of Anjoudiscovered how much was possible if pre-sumptions of male rule were not confronted so explicitlyand just how quickly they might be vilified as "she-wolves" for their pains.
The stories of these women, told here in all their vivid detail, expose the paradox that female heirs to the Tudor throne had no choice but to negotiate. Man was the head of woman, and the king was the head of all. How, then, could royal power lie in female hands?
About the Author
Helen Castor is a historian, writer, and broadcaster. She is the author of Blood and Roses, winner of the English Associations Beatrice White Prize, and presents BBC Radio 4s Making History. She is a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University, and lives in London.
Praise for She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth…
“Helen Castor’s very readable She-Wolves is . . . full of beautiful, imperiled ladies; fearless knights; and remarkable, often unbelievable turns of fortune. . . . Castor is a fine scholar and an equally fine storyteller.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
“[Helen Castor is] an accomplished and elegant historian.”
-Miranda Seymour, New York Times Book Review
“A gripping book . . . She-Wolves is a superb history of the powerful women who have surrounded England’s throne, combining blood-drenched drama, politics, sex and swordplay with scholarly analysis, symptahy for the plight of women and elegant writing.”
-Simon Sebag Montefiore, Daily Telegraph (London)
“A fascinating biography of four powerful English queens…An insightful look at issues still relevant today, related by an accomplished historian and storyteller.”
“Castor’s deep research will please European, military, and women’s historians, while [her] tight storytelling makes this unusually fine royal history enjoyable reading for casual readers.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Beautifully narrated . . . learned and exciting. This is medieval history at its best.”
“Castor skillfully combines this analysis with driving narratives, using vivd details from contemporary chronicles to bring those distant days alive. She-Wolves makes one gasp at the brutality of medieval power struggles—and at the strength and vitality of the women who sought to wield royal power.”
-Jenny Uglow, Financial Times
“Exceptional, even inspirational reading.”
“Castor has done a masterful job of outlining the burdens these women faced. . . . Readers of popular history of British royals will enjoy their immensely human stories.”
“A fascinating biography…An insightful look at issues still relevant today, related by an accomplished historian and storyteller.”