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Editorial Reviews

Historian Nancy Goldstone examines medieval Europe from the point of view of four Provençal sisters who played key roles in shaping history. Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia, and Beatrice were daughters of the count of Provence; through their marriages they became queens of France, England, Germany, and Sicily. This engaging story highlights the crucial role each sister played in shaping history. Narrator Josephine Bailey adds a note of refined elegance with her clear and clipped British accent while expertly pronouncing the often complicated and obscure names. Rather than attempting accents and voices, Bailey keeps a steady and impassive tone throughout, raising her voice only in moments of extreme emotion. This technique enhances the third-person objective perspective of the text.

Publisher's Summary

Set against the backdrop of the turbulent 13th century, a time of chivalry and crusades, poetry, knights, and monarchs, comes the story of the four beautiful daughters of the count of Provence, whose brilliant marriages made them the queens of France, England, Germany, and Sicily.

From a cultured childhood in Provence, each sister was propelled into a world marked by shifting alliances, intrigue, and subterfuge: Marguerite, the eldest, whose resolution and spirit would be tested by the cold splendor of the Palais du Roi in Paris; Eleanor, whose soaring political aspirations would provoke her kingdom to civil war; Sanchia, the neglected wife of the richest man in England, who bought himself the crown of Germany; and Beatrice, whose desire for sovereignty was so acute that she risked her life to earn her place at the royal table.

Four Queens shatters the myth that women were helpless pawns in a society that celebrated physical prowess and masculine intellect. A riveting historical saga for fans of Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser.

©2007 Nancy Goldstone; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Fascinating." (Booklist)
"On Goldstone's...rich, beautifully woven tapestry, medieval Europe springs to vivid life....This is a fresh, eminently enjoyable history." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

Entertaining!

I enjoyed this light historical biography of the four amazing sister princesses of medieval Provence. The narrator has a pleasant, easy-to-follow style. The historical facts are lightened with some humorous and interesting contemporary quotations and anecdotes. The author makes this world come alive for the listener. Delightful!

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Eunice
  • Harrodsburg, KY, United States
  • 12-06-07

Interesting, informative

I loved listening to this book! The book itself is well written. One forgets that it is a history and is soon drawn into the world of the Four Queens! The narrator was wonderful as well. I am looking for more books read by her. Highly recommended on all fronts!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A charming narrative

I fell in love with the narrative the moment I began listening and the book endeared me right till the end. Although primarily about the four Provencen Sisters, The book was a great for those people interested in the life of the top echelon of the society, their aspirations and troubles. I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this book.

The narrator's switching between Accents was charming and enhanced the narrative in no small way, this is a great book, and I'd love to read or listen to more books like this.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Four Queens ...

This was both a fascinating story about a period in history of which I knew very little. The narrator is wonderful as well, and the book engrossing.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Medieval Keeping Up with the Joneses

After reading the book summary of four sisters becoming queens of different countries, I imagined four extraordinary women, overcoming adversity, and against all odds, bringing
peace throughout the land (I wasn't a history major).

I bought this book after reading the author's "The Lady Queen" which I liked a great deal. This is a pretty good book- but the storylines of the sisters are quite separate most of the time. And when they do intersect, it's not always a happy family experience, but more in the line of trying to stop a scheming brother-in-law. There's no murder, incest, or insanity. Although, it takes place in the 13th century, the author conveys the personalities and the actions in such a way that it is relatable to the kinds of problems we deal with today. You have an overbearing mother-in-law that her kind son won't stand up to, your three older sisters publically snub you because they're more successful (they're queens, you're not), your husband isn't as smart or successful as his younger brother (even though your husband's the king) so you keep having to bribe the brother for his help to get anything done, etc. are just some of the issues that the sisters face. It's all very human.

I became very interested in Eleanor, the queen of England. She initially seems to have hit the marital jackpot. She had an arranged marriage (at, I think, 12) to an older man, but he turns out to be a devoted, loving husband, interested in the same things as her. One small problem: he's not that good at his job (as king). So she assists him. With her intelligence and initiative, this sounds like a perfect remedy. But she ends up becomes one of the most hated women in England for bringing in her foreign family members to help out.. and get well compensated for their trouble.

Probably one of the most interesting unanswered question for me from the book is why no one seems to like Beatrice. In the book, the animosity towards her is chalked up to inheritance issues. But that still doesn't explain why all three of the sisters (and I think the mother as well) don't care for her. Her husband, while a good husband to her, doesn't keep his word and is only out to enrich himself. But while he definitely contributes to the dislike, I have a feeling that their must have been some incident, lost to history, that led to the problem.

While a nonroyal group of sisters becoming Four Queens is an extraordinary situation that does capture attention, the reality of it is mainly a book of four different queens.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Claudia
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 04-09-10

A Fascinating Study

Four Queens is a very "listenable" account of the lives of four sisters from Provence. I liked the narrator (who on a few occasions went into dramatic overdrive). I'm going to the south of France soon and I picked up some valuable history along with enjoying a well-told story.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Linsey
  • BRANDON, FL, USA
  • 02-27-09

Light, medieval history

I disagree with the more negative review, but I understand exactly what the reviewer means. This book is a light medieval history and like many histories the information is cobbled together a bit. It does seems disjointed because the story rotates among the sisters, and it's not in a perfect chronology, though it is _generally_ chronological. It's a good book but it's a more challenging listen than something like a historical romance. Two-thirds in, I was a little tired of it. BUT, if you don't know anything about these sisters and like medieval history, you will find the book fascinating.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Oma
  • Canada
  • 10-05-17

Not a Historical Romance

If you are looking for a light read about historic females this is not the book for you. If you are interested in detailed history, then you are on the right track. I am of the later, but still found all of the character’s lives hard to follow, especially since it is an audible book, not a written book, which I personally find easier to absorb. Nevertheless this is a very interesting time of history and affords the reader a real sense of the complexity of that time in European history. I am enriched by reading it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Bonnie
  • Bellmore, NY, United States
  • 06-17-13

If you enjoy historical novels then go for it

Would you listen to Four Queens again? Why?

I enjoy all historical novels. Some are written better than others and give more information. This gave a brief history of the Provencal Sisters who did indeed rule Europe. Marguerite married Louis IX, Elenor married Henry III, Beatrice became queen consort of Sicily, Sanchia became queen of the Romans. We are talking 12th century Europe. You can tell that these young ladies, because they were very young when they married, 12 and 13. Were very lucky to be brought up by rich and intelligent parents. They were taught to read, and understand finance. These young girls went on to shape the world of the the 12th century. It is a very brief but enjoyable story.

Which character – as performed by Josephine Bailey – was your favorite?

I have heard Josephine Bailey before and was always please with her narrations.

Any additional comments?

This book is too short to really go into each young woman's life. In the court's they were brought up in and how they learned to survive on their wits and charm. They were all supposed to be amazing beauties. (I'm sure that helped) When you start out as a 13 year old beautiful queen, by the time you are 25, you have learned much to survive, and use your charms to aid your king and country. I would love to read (or listen to a book about each one of these woman)

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  • Performance
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  • A User
  • cocoa, FL, United States
  • 01-27-13

A quarter of the time for each person.

What did you love best about Four Queens?

I loved the stories but I kept getting confused with the story lines. I felt like I kept jumping around. I would have liked more story with out the details.