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What We’re Reading: The Sister Queens & Four Queens

Post by Amie Reno
Posted July 17, 2013 in NoveList Bookshelf, NoveList Plus

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Once upon a time, there were four beautiful sisters, the daughters of a count and countess, who all grew up to become queens. Sound like the beginning of a fairy tale, doesn't it? But it really happened -- to the daughters of Raymond Berenger V and Beatrice of Savoy, Count and Countess of Provence. Beatrice of Savoy was fiercely intelligent and had been educated alongside her brothers, a rarity in the thirteenth century. She, in turn, educated all four of her daughters as if they were male.

Marguerite, the eldest, became Queen of France upon her marriage to King Louis IX at the age of 13. Two years later, Eleanor also became a queen when she married King Henry III of England. Marguerite and Eleanor were close as children and stayed close for most of their lives, in spite of having a serious falling-out at one point.

Sanchia, the third sister, married Henry's younger brother Richard of Cornwall, who was later elected Holy Roman Emperor (Germany). Beatrice, the youngest, married Louis' younger brother Charles of Anjou, who invaded Sicily (which encompassed much of modern Italy) and became king after ousting the legitimate claimants.

The Sister Queens is a historical novel concentrating on Marguerite and Eleanor's relationship, as well as each woman's relationship with her husband. Although it's a novel rather than a biography, I felt that I knew both sisters from reading it. I wanted to find out more about all of the sisters, and so looked for a biography about them. Four Queens explores the lives of all four sisters in a very readable way, while placing their actions firmly with their historical and political context. I highly recommend reading both books.

Amie Reno is a Senior Cataloger at NoveList.