Warrior Queens: The Legends and the Lives of the Women Who Have Led Their Nations in War by Antonia Fraser

Warrior Queens by Fraser

The author of the Six Wives of Henry VIII (a special favorite) returns with her next biography of multiple women who held positions of power via force, inheritance, or by election. The women who were successful in this account is explained simply by the roles they took and how they applied their strength to tackle difficult matters such as warfare, national unity and religion.

In Isabella’s case, she rebelled against the established social roles many times by carrying the sword at her coronation ceremony and enforcing her rule over Ferdinand (despite the fact she did make him her king consort, but in her kingdom there would be one ruler and one ruler alone and this ceremony left it clear: it was going to be her!), but nobody recalled those breaks with tradition at a time when national unity was needed, when she evoked religious virtues, when -in spite of her ‘weak condition’ of a woman- she rode to meet her troops and with them on almost every campaign, knitting for them and making sure they were all very well taken care of.

Nearly a century later her granddaughter’s half-sibling, Elizabeth I ascended the throne -on more peaceful means. But like Isabella of Castile her rule was not uncontested and she used religion to her advantage, and misogynistic stereotypes of women to promote national unity and of course comparing herself to ancient (and accepted) warrior queens to justify her rule. These are two of the Tudor related figures this book addresses but there are much more from ancient times, medieval, renaissance and up to our modern times showing us little has changed. So read it, recommend it, you won’t be disappointed.

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