Author and award-winning historian Helen Castor explores the history of female power in Great Britain with her revealing non-fiction book She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth. With all the drama, excitement and intrigue featured in this book, which focuses on women who fought for the British crown during the Middle Ages, it’s more than just history buffs who will be riveted by these stories.
These ladies, most of whom rose to power as the daughters or wives of kings or as named heirs, were pioneers of sorts, battling for the opportunity to lead the country. In some cases they had to be tougher and more ambitious than the men who surrounded them, to compensate for the obstacles in their path; hence the label she-wolves. But in some cases they were no different than a determined man fighting for the throne. However, this behavior was seen as so unnatural for a woman that they were painted as monstrous.
The women who are profiled include Empress Matilda, who was forced into hiding when an angry crowd of Londoners crashed her coronation feast; her daughter-in-law, the passionate Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most powerful and cultured women of her time; the controversial Isabella of France and Margaret of Anjou, along with Lady Jane Grey “the nine days queen”; and the first queen to truly govern in her own name, Bloody Mary.
This book spans hundreds of years, from a time when it was unthinkable for a woman to rule Britain until the age of Gloriana when Elizabeth proved herself to be one of the greatest monarchs in the history of the nation.
The book has also been made into a fascinating documentary hosted by Castor titled She-Wolves: England’s Early Queens.