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Summary

Here is the first full-length biography of a much maligned but astonishingly colourful Queen of England.

In Newgate Street, in the city of London, stand the meagre ruins of Christ Church. On the same site once stood a royal mausoleum set to rival Westminster Abbey in the 14th century. Among the many crowned heads buried there was Isabella of France, Edward II's queen - one of the most notorious femme fatales in history. But how did she acquire her evil reputation? And is it justified? Alison Weir's engrossing biography sets out to put the record straight.

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©2005 Alison Weir

Critic reviews

"Pierces the veil of history with scholarly precision....A serious rendering of a sensational life." ( Irish Times)

What listeners say about Isabella

Average customer ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Historical Work

Well researched, complete and thorough life of Isabella, fairly assessed, and an excellent overview of this crucial period in English history.
This is a serious historical work using all the sources available for the period. It is neither a novel nor light listening. If you are looking for historical biography disregard the complaining reviews. You will not waste your credit.
The book is well if a little starchily read. Mind you the reader has to decide when sources are being quoted and of course one cannot see references.
Highly recommended.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A Gripping Story

I loved this as much as I had the book. Having become a night time listener this was, for me, an ideal saga of a strong and powerful woman. As always Alison Weir brings a wealth of facts into the narrative but never distracts from the story. The narrator was just right.

8 people found this helpful

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loved it

very interesting to understand why she underttok an invasion against her husband and her own life story

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great!

The usual story of this time but with so much extra evidence that it turns certain long thought ideas on its head.

4 people found this helpful

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Excellent

I was a bit apprehensive about this book due to my hatred of historical romance fiction, which Weir is known for, but this book was so well researched and interesting. I wasn't entirely convinced about her argument that Edward the second hadn't been murdered, but had in fact, run away, but it's not something that detracts from the overall book. Whilst other reviewers have complained that the book is bogged down in unnecessary detail, for me, this was incredibly interesting, as it helped me really imagine the world that Isabella inhabited in her day-to-day life. I cannot recommend this book enough!

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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history brought to life

enjoyed this book. great insight into life in the 14 th century. worth a listen

3 people found this helpful

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Just excellent

Fascinating biography. Well told, well researched and a good pace.

My respect for Isabella has shot up. Dhe was quite a queen.

2 people found this helpful

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Educational and enlightening.

I hadn’t previously known anything about Isabella but this provides a good jigsaw puzzle piece to gaps in my historical knowledge.
Love the narrator, excellent performance. My only criticisms of the whole thing are as follows;

Equivalent modern monetary values would be useful, and I note that Alison Weir includes these in later books.

The editing is a little clipped and not smooth in places, between paragraphs and some sentences.

However, well worth a listen.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Good story bad editing

Badly edited. One sentence not properly finished before another chapter being announced. Takes away from the story a little bit

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Far, far too much unnecessary detail

I am disappointed by this book as I’ve enjoyed other books by the author. I’ve given up after about 8 hours as the book is so overburdened by superfluous details. I don’t need to know the intricate genealogy of minor royals and aristocracy of France and England, the architecture, decor and repairs, if needed, of every property visited by the King and Queen (and there are an awful lot), shopping lists for banquets, supplies for the royal stables or the names and wages of numerous employees of the royal households. The latter might be of interest if the shillings per week weren’t just converted into exactly equivalent decimal currency, I don’t need to be told that 1 shilling equals 5 pence, but how much that wage would be taking into account inflation. All this detail bogs down what should be an interesting historical novel and converts it into an academic thesis in which a student has to show that she has dug out every fact available about medieval life. It would be tedious to read but totally unsuitable for an audio book in which it’s difficult to skip the boring bits.
By the time I gave up the book seemed more about Edward II’s lack of judgement and extravagance and yet another example of why monarchy as a way to govern a country is a lottery.

The narrator is good and I sympathsize with her having to read such a long book of facts.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Wallen
  • 29-12-08

Excellent

I am normally not a person interested in this kind of books but another family member had purchased it. I started to listen to it with a sense of "I'll give it 5 minutes..", but when the 5 minutes were up, I was hooked. It is a story of a great - but for me hitherto unknown - personality, intellectually told and with a lot of sensible distance to the object. A great history told in a very interesting way. When I had listened to the first two parts I thought the story was over, but was delighted to find out there was a third part! This book would become a great movie.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jillian
  • 11-10-07

Good History

This is a rare academic book that sounds less like a textbook and more like an interesting story. There are a few tedious moments of minute household account details, but overall this was interesting and entertaining, even if Ms. Weir has other ideas about what happened to Edward II. ;) Its definitely a worthwhile read for history fans.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Neil Chisholm
  • 22-08-12

No she-wolf but no pussy cat either

This was a fascinating biography of an extraordinary woman for her age - the 14th century was not a time for rampant feminism but Isabella was a woman to be reckoned with. Its a period in history of great changes, huge loss of life both in wars and in the Black Death and the beginnings of an awakening that was to become the Renaissance and through it all lived Isabella, wife of the pathetic King Edward II and lover of the tyrannical Mortimer.

History has been unkind to Isabella and in this book Alison Weir has set the record straight and makes a wonderful job of it. Lisette Lecat did a superb job of narrating it and her french accent pronouncing the french place names that cropped up throughout the book was wonderful - these names would have been tripped over and bastardised by any English or American narrator - Lisette was perfect for the role.

Highly recommended for those interested in the 14th Century, English History and those who enjoy a good revolution, murder and women with big personalities.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • h and l
  • 13-07-09

fantastic biography

a book full of fascinating details, all working together to bring the characters to life. i found the voice of the reader to be mature, calm, unobtrusive, and she held my attention without slipping into the kind of performance art so many readers offer. no stage theatrics here. it has been a very relaxing but stimulating experience. all biographies should be this wonderful.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Linda S. George
  • 16-01-10

Excellent Book!

This was a captivating, well-researched and intelligently presented biography of the fascinating Isabella. Highly recommended to an intelligent, well-educated readership.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Laurie
  • 02-10-10

Weir is an historian, but not great audio material

I've read most of Weir's books, both historical fiction or like this book, fiction/history. Alas, I must say that I would rather have read than heard this very methodical review of everything everyone wore, ate, wrote, etc. Better read than heard in my opinion.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nancy
  • 23-03-10

Loved it.

I am really glad that I bought this book before reading the reviews -- because if I had not, I may not have. So it's important to remember that a review is always going to be subjective.

That said, I loved it and found it really, really interesting. And I happen to really like Alison Weir's voice and accent, which helped.

It's worth it to find out.

7 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • LeighLeighE
  • 24-07-14

Wasn't for me

I got bored with this one, but usually love Historical based literature (fiction or non-fiction).

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mary Elizabeth Reynolds
  • 01-09-12

awesome history

considering the time period, this is a wonderful history of the middle ages. I especially enjoyed the little details about the castles, clothing and so on. It also does a good job with a woman of dubious character, the author does a pretty good job with her though. Isabella was no saint and she wasn't made out to be such, but I do believe she makes a great case for how important this one woman was to the history of England and Europe. The seeds of the Hundred Years War and the War of the Roses began with her and good ole' Mortimer. I'm pretty certain though that Edward the Second didn't end up in a monastic order. He didn't die per Lancastrian propaganda BUT I can't picture him in hermit garb either. Bottom line, this woman survived them all........

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Katelyn
  • 16-05-09

Credit worthy

I was interested in the real story of Isabella and after listening to this book I have so much sympathy for her. It's just another example of society pointing to the worst aspects of women and ignoring the cause and the good qualities.

8 people found this helpful