ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE: The Mother Queen by Desmond Seword


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Another once-over for the most popular woman in medieval biography. This is an easy-reading version with the story line clear enough and maps and charts to help, but containing no revelations. Eleanor conspires against her husbands--meek Louis VII of France and energetic Henry II of England--because they interfere with her frustrated womanly need to govern her own territories, the richest province in Western Europe. Seword's contention that ""From Roman times until the sixteenth century. . . almost no European woman played a leading part in politics"" is utter nonsense, though we may have more first-hand sources in Eleanor's case--she seems to have startled everyone with one of history's truly vigorous personalities. Not much of the personality or the extra source material comes through here, however. Seword gives short shrift to everyone and everything not immediately centered on Eleanor and then fills up space with surmise--""To Eleanor, Bernard must have seemed,"" ""Anyone so intelligent as Eleanor would have been intrigued by,"" ""Eleanor almost certainly knew""--and a little pop psychology--""In view of [Richard's] later reputation for homosexuality, it is not too much to suppose that the queen was one of those excessively dominant mothers who transform their sons into little lovers."" There is no breath here of a living era, such as Amy Kelly gave us with poetry and detail and a matchless ear for idiom. There are also no footnotes, so if you want to know whence came which tidbit of information, you'll have to consult Kelly anyway. Only for readers with a very casual interest in the subject.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Times Books