April 2012

The woman beside Joan of Arc

By Nancy Goldstone
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In 1429 the embattled French dauphin, Charles, faced an internal civil war and an external threat from English invasion. He was fast losing hope that he would ever survive to take his father’s place on the throne. All seemed lost until an obscure teenage mystic arrived on a mission from God: to raise the siege of Orleans and crown Charles the true king of France.

Joan of Arc’s triumphant and tragic story has fascinated people for 600 years. However, most scholars have studied these events from Joan’s perspective. Now Nancy Goldstone has uncovered new elements of Joan’s story by gazing through a different lens: the life of Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Sicily.

Yolande, mother-in-law of the dauphin, was ambitious, strong, intelligent and one of the busiest diplomats of her day. A devoted wife to Louis II, king of Sicily, she was not just an ornament but wielded power as his equal. She also raised Charles along with her own children, married a daughter to him and acted as his closest advisor and confidant for years. When his rule was threatened, she worked tirelessly to protect him (and her own interests); and she may have been the one who delivered Joan to his court just when he needed her most.

Goldstone has written a lively, fast-paced and fascinating account of Joan’s story, weaving together the labyrinthine intrigues of medieval politics, the real story behind a medieval fairy tale and the astonishing events that led a young peasant girl from the command of an army to a fiery death at the hands of the English. As in her previous books, Goldstone also sheds light on a little-known but admirable woman, Yolande of Aragon. The Maid and the Queen reminds us that, as Goldstone has remarked, “History makes a lot more sense when you put the women back in.”

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The Maid and the Queen

The Maid and the Queen

By Nancy Goldstone
ISBN 9780670023332

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