Politically astute, ambitious, and beautiful, Yolande of Aragon, queen of Sicily, was one of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages. Caught in the complex dynastic battle of the Hundred Years War, Yolande championed the dauphin’s cause against the forces of England and Burgundy, drawing on her savvy, her statecraft, and her intimate network of spies. Even when the dauphin’s own mother betrayed him, Yolande fought to save her son-in-law and his claim to the throne. But the enemy seemed invincible.
Just as French hopes dimmed, an astonishingly courageous young woman named Joan of Arc arrived from the farthest recesses of the kingdom, claiming that she carried a divine message - a message that would change the course of history and ultimately lead to the coronation of Charles VII and the triumph of France.
Now, on the 600th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc, this beautifully written book explores the relationship between these two remarkable women. With irresistibly rich historic detail and stunning accounts of political intrigue, The Maid and the Queen deepens our understanding of this dramatic period in history.
How did an illiterate peasant girl gain access to the future king of France, earn his trust, and eventually lead his forces into battle? Was it only the hand of God that moved Joan of Arc - or was it also Yolande of Aragon?
©2012 Nancy Goldstone (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
Nancy Goldstone has written a compelling history of Joan of Arc and the final days of the Hundred Years War. It suffers slightly from the "Secret" billing: the major secret is that Yolande of Aragon, Charles VII's mother-in-law, was a supporter of Joan (which was not so secret) and may have cleared the way for Joan's first appearance at Charles's court (which is a reasonable inference, made more convincing here by the "coincidental" juxposition of certain letters, meetings and decisions). Secret or not, the book DOES provide a detailed look at the political infighting that characterized the French court, and sets each of the participants, including Joan, in a credible historical context. It provides one of the clearest explanations I've read of the tangled Anglo-French dynastic issues.
Goldstone tries to maintain a balanced perspective. In one instance, I think she goes too far in explaining away Yolande's behavior: in describing the absence of any French support for Joan after her capture, she says, the trial was such a breach of protocol that no one could have expected it (lame); and she notes that Yolande had her hands full with other problems, including the fact that her own son Rene had been captured by Burgundy (understandable but still ungrateful).
Sandra Burr does an excellent job narrating the book. I did find, in the copy I downloaded, one technical glitch. This is likely to be fixed (such issues often are in Audible's downloads), but I'll mention it just in case it isn't. Part of Chapter 17, from the second audio file, has been dropped into the first file, between chapters 4 and 5. The same content is repeated in the right place, so it's a question of being momentarily confused rather than having to mentally unscramble the story.
I will definitely be listening to other books by Goldstone. Among other things, she pulls off the difficult balancing act of demystifying Joan without in any way devaluing her achievement.
I cannot say that I found much of interest in this book. The fist half of the text rambles on about Yolande of Aragon. While Yolande has a tale to tell, it is certainly no more and clearly much less intriguing than any other member of the house of Aragon, As to the secret of Joan, there is less to tell. My doctoral work was in French Medieval Literature. I did a great bit with the transcripts of Joan's trial. Goldstone's book references the trial with accuracy but reveals nothing about any "secret."
The true "secrets" for which Goldstone does not address are such things as Joan's ability to ride and control a war horse: no small feat, and Joan's military tactics. Was Joan trained and primed by those who needed her to lead their cause? These are but two of the many "secrets" but the author does not address them.
I cannot say that I found this text either interesting or informative.
World Champion Parallel Parker
The "secret history" described here is about how women's actions are traditionally left out of historical narratives so that the big picture appears skewed. It's really a book about the woman behind Jeanne D'Arc, and sometimes the complexities of her family structure are described in so much detail that they move away from Jeanne's tale. Good nevertheless.
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