Title: The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc
Author: Nancy Goldstone
Genre: Non-Fiction Historical
Publisher: Penguin Group
Source: Review copy from publisher
“The untold story of the extraordinary queen who championed Joan of Arc.
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. 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 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 six hundredth anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc, this fascinating book explores the relationship between these two remarkable women, and 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 ultimately lead his forces into battle? Was it only the hand of God that moved Joan of Arc-or was it also Yolande of Aragon?”
The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc by Nancy Goldstone is the story of two remarkable women, Yolande of Aragon and Joan of Arc.
The title of this book could be a little bit misleading for some (it was for me). The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc is more about Yolande of Aragon involvement and manipulations that brought Charles VII to the French throne and consequently triumph of France in the Hundred Years War than about Joan of Arc, even though she is also included in great part of the book.
This book is divided in three parts, Before Joan, Joan of Arc, and After Joan.
In Before Joan we learn more about Yolande of Aragon’s childhood, marriage and involvement with the French monarchy. We also learn about Charles VI madness and the lengths his followers went to keep it hidden. We learn about his marriage to Isabella of Bavaria and the power struggle in the French court. We also learn how Yolande of Aragon “worked” to marry her daughter Marie to the Dauphin.
In Joan of Arc, we learn about the prophecy that brought Joan to the light, we also learn about the Dauphin’s inadequacy to take the reins of a country in dire need of a ruler.
The author doesn’t tells us that Joan of Arc was a pawn used by Yolande of Aragon but give us some information that make us consider it. Yolande needed a way to shake the Dauphin and make him start to believe in himself and Joan of Arc was that person. Joan made him believe he was the rightful heir to the throne and days later Charles VII was crowned. She also leaded the French army to some victories. But sadly as with many pawns when they were needed no more they were put aside and that same thing happened to Joan. But Joan couldn’t keep still, she needed to fight and without a strong support she left one more time to do battle only to end captured and sold to the English. Her capture as we well know ended in her trial for heresy and her condemnation to be burned at the stake.
Mrs. Goldstone gives us an inside to the trial and Joan’s last months of life. To the injustices that were committed against her and to the fear this young girl produced in others. She also shows us how Charles VII did nothing aid her.
The third and last part, After Joan, shows exactly that, what happened after Joan died and the consequences of her dead. We see how finally Charles VII reached an agreement with the opposite party (Duke of Burgundy), ending years later with the victory against the English and with that the end of the Hundred Years War. We continue seeing how important Yolande of Aragon was to this cause, but now she is old and ready to retire from court.
After twenty-five years of Joan’s execution an investigation authorized by Pope Callixtus III studied her trial, pronounced her innocent and declared her a martyr.
I found this book compelling but tedious at times. There were a lot of interesting facts but some parts were a bit boring. Also on the beginning keeping all the names straight took some work on my part.
I really liked to learn more about Yolande of Aragon, I knew who she was but I didn’t know the importance she had in all the events of the time. She was a very smart woman who was able to command in a world ruled by men. France not only owes a debt to Joan of Arc but to Yolande of Aragon.
My last thing to say is that this book is a non-fiction historical book; don’t expect a historical fiction novel because you won’t find it here. Saying that, if you are into non-fiction historical this book is for you, if not, keep away from this book.
My Verdict: 3 Paws
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