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About the Author

Helen Castor is a historian of medieval England and a Bye-Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Her first book, Blood and Roses, was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the English Association's Beatrice White Prize. Her second book, She-Wolves, was selected as one of the books of the year by The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Independent, Financial Times, and BBC History Magazine. She lives in London.


Castor (fellow in history, Univ. of Cambridge; Blood and Roses: One Family's Struggle and Triumph During the Tumultuous Wars of the Roses) readably recounts the lives of six women who exercised-or tried to exercise-political power in England prior to Elizabeth I: Matilda, granddaughter of William the Conqueror; Eleanor of Aquitaine; Isabella of France; Margaret of Anjou; Jane Grey; and Mary Tudor. The story of Elizabeth I's ultimate accession can be fully appreciated only when viewed in the context of these women's earlier struggles to hold power in a society where female rule was seen as grotesque and an immoral aberration. In light of source limitations and the bias of contemporary chroniclers, Castor has done a masterful job of outlining the burdens these women faced-public scrutiny and ridicule, imprisonment, incorrigible husbands, political manipulation-as they attempted to secure the political prizes that should have fallen to them had not their gender been an impediment to rulership. VERDICT Genealogical charts and maps will help general readers follow a narrative lacking scholarly apparatus or historiographical debates, which will be thus of less interest to specialists. Readers of popular history of British royals will enjoy their immensely human stories and applaud the indomitable will of these strong protofeminists.-Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Without these ancestral "she-wolves" (as Shakespeare dubbed Margaret of Anjou), says Castor, England's legendary Queen Elizabeth I may have been cast off, overlooked in the search for a male monarch. Spanning nearly 400 years, four notable foreign-born queens demonstrated strength and political savvy as they sought to establish their claims to English rule while their kings (whether husband or son) were absent, weak, or deceased. Castor (Blood and Roses), a fellow at Cambridge University, ably explains the dilemma of appearing unnaturally masculine while maintaining an aura of leadership. Castor's clear dissection of medieval expectations and restrictions make these queens' painfully won advances even more impressive. Early rulers Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine indirectly prevented a French-style Salic Law from hindering female-claim succession, paving the way for the reigns of Mary Tudor and of Elizabeth I, whose question of succession bookends the stories of the earlier queens. Castor's deep research will please European, military, and women's historians, while the detailed maps, lucid family charts, and tight storytelling make this unusually fine royal history enjoyable reading for casual readers. 8 pages of color photos; 5 maps. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

"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
"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
"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)
"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)

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