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Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

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Sixteenth-century Europe saw an explosion of female rule. From Isabella of Castile, and her granddaughter Mary Tudor, to Catherine de Medici, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth Tudor, these women wielded enormous power over their territories, shaping the course of European history for over a century. Across boundaries and generations, these royal women were mothers and daughters, Sixteenth-century Europe saw an explosion of female rule. From Isabella of Castile, and her granddaughter Mary Tudor, to Catherine de Medici, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth Tudor, these women wielded enormous power over their territories, shaping the course of European history for over a century. Across boundaries and generations, these royal women were mothers and daughters, mentors and protégées, allies and enemies. For the first time, Europe saw a sisterhood of queens who would not be equaled until modern times. A fascinating group biography and a thrilling political epic, Game of Queens explores the lives of some of the most beloved (and reviled) queens in history.


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Sixteenth-century Europe saw an explosion of female rule. From Isabella of Castile, and her granddaughter Mary Tudor, to Catherine de Medici, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth Tudor, these women wielded enormous power over their territories, shaping the course of European history for over a century. Across boundaries and generations, these royal women were mothers and daughters, Sixteenth-century Europe saw an explosion of female rule. From Isabella of Castile, and her granddaughter Mary Tudor, to Catherine de Medici, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth Tudor, these women wielded enormous power over their territories, shaping the course of European history for over a century. Across boundaries and generations, these royal women were mothers and daughters, mentors and protégées, allies and enemies. For the first time, Europe saw a sisterhood of queens who would not be equaled until modern times. A fascinating group biography and a thrilling political epic, Game of Queens explores the lives of some of the most beloved (and reviled) queens in history.

30 review for Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

  1. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Pickstone

    4.5 stars Interesting look at the role of women in the 15th and 16th centuries, showing that they were far more influential than might at first appear. Sarah Gristwood covers a lot of royal women of Europe and gives detailed accounts of that influence. I was given a small introduction to many of the women I knew of in that era but had not known much about them - I am now eager to learn more about most of them! I held back one half of a star - this was because, especially in the section detailing 4.5 stars Interesting look at the role of women in the 15th and 16th centuries, showing that they were far more influential than might at first appear. Sarah Gristwood covers a lot of royal women of Europe and gives detailed accounts of that influence. I was given a small introduction to many of the women I knew of in that era but had not known much about them - I am now eager to learn more about most of them! I held back one half of a star - this was because, especially in the section detailing Anne Boleyn in Europe, I was annoyed by overmuch speculation - 'she might have seen this, she may have thought....' etc. I never like that.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Fabulous history. Griswold is genius in her depth of context and "eyes" for all nuance for this pivotal 16th century. 4.5 stars. Only reason for my not rounding up is the complexity. It is perhaps only in my own inability to follow such inter-related lines of heredity and multiple titled nomenclature. Her gender cognition for every character is 5 star. As is the personality and core self identity for myriad women AND men. The research is intensive and the charting and photos some of the most ins Fabulous history. Griswold is genius in her depth of context and "eyes" for all nuance for this pivotal 16th century. 4.5 stars. Only reason for my not rounding up is the complexity. It is perhaps only in my own inability to follow such inter-related lines of heredity and multiple titled nomenclature. Her gender cognition for every character is 5 star. As is the personality and core self identity for myriad women AND men. The research is intensive and the charting and photos some of the most instructive to crux of purposes and goals I have viewed. This is an extremely difficult read. It took me at least 4 times per average time read than a normal modern non-fiction read. It's a book I would like to own for reference. I do have high interest in this period. Gristwood does NOT over inflate the Elizabeth I role as essential female savvy model as some others do, IMHO. But considers how other women in various precarious placements used every genius ploy or option for survival and progress in highest intelligence and association to protections of family and national strength /solidity.

  3. 4 out of 5

    N.N. Light

    I loved this book because it describes in detail these female rulers who ran Europe in the 16th century. As a woman, I found this very insightful and the author didn't demean the women. It also inspired me to continue to go against the grain and be great! Highly recommend! My Rating: 4.5 stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    I quite enjoyed this. I could do without the weird sexist tropes around Anne Boleyn but otherwise fantastic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    BAM Endlessly Booked

    The sixteenth chapter witnessed a proliferation of royal women of power. from Isabella of Castile to Mary Tudor to Louise of Savoy to Elizabeth Tudor, there are direct lines of associations to these great ladies. What's to be remembered though is the great historical movements these women witnessed as heads of state, most importantly the Reformation. The beginning of this book was new information for me, but as the century progressed, the history became more rote. If one is an English of French The sixteenth chapter witnessed a proliferation of royal women of power. from Isabella of Castile to Mary Tudor to Louise of Savoy to Elizabeth Tudor, there are direct lines of associations to these great ladies. What's to be remembered though is the great historical movements these women witnessed as heads of state, most importantly the Reformation. The beginning of this book was new information for me, but as the century progressed, the history became more rote. If one is an English of French history buff much of the last several chapters can be skipped. Lenten Buddy Reading Challenge book #4

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carole P. Roman

    Detailed and wonderfully written book celebrating powerful queens of Western Europe. Starting with Isabella of Spain and ending with Elizabeth I . Gristwood writes of the various women from England, The Netherlands, Spain, Hungary, and France and how they impacted history. Isabella of Spain broke the mold as a warrior queen, setting the precedent of a woman taking control of her country as well as standing beside her troops in battle. With each new personality, Gristwood shows how they influence Detailed and wonderfully written book celebrating powerful queens of Western Europe. Starting with Isabella of Spain and ending with Elizabeth I . Gristwood writes of the various women from England, The Netherlands, Spain, Hungary, and France and how they impacted history. Isabella of Spain broke the mold as a warrior queen, setting the precedent of a woman taking control of her country as well as standing beside her troops in battle. With each new personality, Gristwood shows how they influenced the next generation of queens in training. Isabella's fierce ability to govern and defend her country set the example for her own daughter Katherine of Aragon to act as regent in Henry's absence and defeat the Scots at Flodden. Similarly, the author compares Margaret Tudor's role in Scotland as well as Anne of France's impact on the girls she mentored. The author moves through time, describing the dynamics of Marguerite of Savoy's relationship with both her brother, Francis I and her mother, Louise of Savoy. Each new era brings a widening influence affecting women across Europe, the older queens tutoring the younger girls in their future roles. Interestingly, she writes that Anne Boleyn's failure and ultimate downfall may have been the result of her not being an actual princess, her common roots leaving her unprepared the navigate the dangerous shoals of palace politics. She asserts that Boleyn was so caught up in the idea of courtly love, she had no understanding of when to stop and perhaps protect herself. She shows the differences of a political savvy Marguerite of Navarre played with her brother, the king, when he forced an undesirable marriage on her daughter. Marguerite understood the dangerous dance of when to push and when to retreat, unlike Anne who did not. Mary of Hungary, Catherine de Medici, Elizabeth 1, Mary of Guise, Mary of Scotland, are a few of the ruling queens mentioned. The times created women who learned how to steer the world, shaping bloodlines as well as borders with quiet strength. They changed what they believed in with passionate dedication, proving leadership did not belong solely in a king's hands. Interesting, at times, riveting, this is a fascinating glimpse into a world that is too often overshadowed by the achievements of kings rather than the women who surrounded and influenced them.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Orsolya

    History makes it very clear that women often held a diminished (or even non-existent) role in politics, leadership, and even the marital sphere. The female gender, however, had more of an influence and control than one perceives especially during that of Medieval/Renaissance Europe. Sarah Gristwood brings to the forefront examples of these lionesses in, “Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe”. In “Games of Queens”, Gristwood attempts to highlight the roles and interactions History makes it very clear that women often held a diminished (or even non-existent) role in politics, leadership, and even the marital sphere. The female gender, however, had more of an influence and control than one perceives especially during that of Medieval/Renaissance Europe. Sarah Gristwood brings to the forefront examples of these lionesses in, “Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe”. In “Games of Queens”, Gristwood attempts to highlight the roles and interactions of several females of interest who impacted European political affairs such as: Isabella of Castile, Margaret of Austria, Mary of Burgundy, Mary of Hungary, Louise of Savoy, Catherine de Medici, Margaret Tudor, Mary Stuart, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, and Anne of Brittany; to name a few. This is a lofty goal by Gristwood as the web of these women is thick and heavily intertwined. Yet, whether Gristwood is successful or not, is laid aside momentarily for the mere fact of the attempt at this fresh and unique look at history which is often glossed over. Although shelves are rife with individual biographies; Gristwood stands out presenting the macro-view of all these women. That being said, “Game of Queens” certainly suffers from a bombardment of content that can feel disorganized, repetitive, and sometimes aimless. This isn’t necessarily a fault of Gristwood’s as she has clearly conducted her research and isn’t short of material; however, her writing seems to be a bit overwhelmed which decidedly makes “Games of Queens” overwhelming, in turn. Thus, readers may have a difficult time retaining all of the information offered on the pages. On the other hand, even though fact-retention is an issue; the overall thesis of proving how important these women were to European history is very clear, solidified, and will impress the reader. In this manner, “Games of Queens” is a compelling piece of writing. At times, Gristwood is slightly too casual with her tone and language which is inconsistent with other efforts to be on the academic spectrum. This, fortunately, isn’t overly abused with “Game of Queens”; but it is noticeable (Gristwood, for example, seems to be obsessed with the term, ‘party’). Gristwood peppers “Games of Queens” with some speculative statements yet she also excels with presenting some new information or that which is not generally discussed in the foreground adding to the reader value of the text. The second half of “Game of Queens” is notable smoother in terms of Gristwood’s choppiness with the content having much more of an appeal and strength. Gristwood debunks some myths and presents some convincing information raising the echelon of the text. “Games of Queens” is much more entertaining at this point and helps to make the weaker former portion more forgivable. Much of the latter chapters focuses on the Tudor and English connections versus the other women discussed earlier in “Game of Queens”. This is a bit constrained for those familiar with the Tudors. Yet, Griswood continues to uncover some lesser-known areas and “Game of Queens” is therefore better suited to be read with some breaks in order to grasp all of the material. Consequentially, “Game of Queens” proceeds to lose the grip on dissection the roles of the women and missing the thesis instead becoming a standard history-recall piece. At this point, the pace slacks a bit. A highlight in the concluding chapters is Gristwood’s explanation of the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre which she presents in a riveting and raw voice. The material is easy-to-understand for those new to the topic but is also entertaining for those well-read on the subject. Gristwood sums up “Games of Queens” with a strong postscript traversing the after-effects and state of Europe post-the discussed women in power. This is followed by a light ‘Notes’ section which also offers some sources for further reading (but, sadly, this is not as in-depth as some fact-checking readers would prefer). “Games of Queens” also includes a section of color plate photos. Gristwood generally strives to pen pieces focusing on unique subjects or angles of history and “Games of Queens” is no exception. Although “Game of Queens” suffers from some execution issues and some consistency errors; it is a ‘solid’ choice for imbibing on the subject and gaining some insight. “Game of Queens” is recommended for those interested in powerful women of the sixteenth century.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    In the 16th century Europe there was a significant amount of behind the scenes and occasionally center stage of female power. Sarah Gristwood has in this book attempted to make it into a cohesive zeitgeist of the era. So was there a mighty female sisterhood in the 1500s? This book doesn't really convince of it. Exhaustive as it is exhausting, the narrative jumps across timelines and countries at a flickeringly mad or madly flickering rate, bouncing between the characters named out of such a limi In the 16th century Europe there was a significant amount of behind the scenes and occasionally center stage of female power. Sarah Gristwood has in this book attempted to make it into a cohesive zeitgeist of the era. So was there a mighty female sisterhood in the 1500s? This book doesn't really convince of it. Exhaustive as it is exhausting, the narrative jumps across timelines and countries at a flickeringly mad or madly flickering rate, bouncing between the characters named out of such a limited unimaginative pool of names that it's actual work just to maintain the separate treads of all the Margarets (Marguerites) and Marys (Maries) and so on, all following more or less the same template of life as preset by times and position. But that aside, the women in this book are primarily wielding their powers conditionally, as wives, mothers and so on. The book starts off with a powerhouse of Isabella, queen of Spain, but since then the women are at best regents, seldom regnants, with notable exception of the star of the game, Elizabeth I. In Europe Salic Law wasn't to be defied. There is, as one would expect, much time devoted to Tudors and their machinations, most of it was already known to me, but it's always nice to refresh one's knowledge. That's the thing with this book, it strings together many facts to tangentially support a theory, but it mainly overwhelms and still not enough to ignore the fact that these women, ambitious, clever and strong as they were, were empowered primarily through things like the horrid mortality rates and low life expectancies, often leaving a woman to help rule the land for her infant child too soon on the throne. Most of the women in this account have circumstantially been put and maintained in the positions of power. Only Elizabeth I, after biding her time and waiting out competition, have really secured her throne through personal effort, combination of terrific political astuteness and will power. Majority of the rest of these queens were still treated as customary to the times like cattle, to sell, trade, marry off at an alarmingly young age, breed and so on. This may stand as an account of how several exceptional women have made their best of the terrible situations they were repeatedly put in, but to describe them as major players might be an overstatement. Gynocracy is still very much a utopian concept, so much so that my computer actually is refusing to recognize the word. What's interesting is that in present day, centuries later, there is still a great inequality when it comes to female leaders. Most of the world nations have never had female in charge. North America, for example (with a tiny exception of 4 months served by Canadian prime minister). The number of female leaders is on the rise globally and yet most nations, USA for example, is apparently too devoted to the traditional Aristotelian idea of a country as a family ruled by the father figure. Sure, currently some of Europe's most important leaders are women, but it's fascinating to see the statistics which show female rule as a relative norm in what is viewed as traditionally gender conservative places, while certain presumably more progressive and equality minded ones find the idea repugnant enough to consider that...Anyway, in that way this book has a certain political relevance and it's certainly something to think about. Gender politics are fascinating, but depressing, the way most politics are. Game of Queens is an interesting book, it's educational which was my main goal behind reading it, but too dense, too erratically structured and ultimately too much work to genuinely enjoy. Interspersed with fiction, it took days to get through, but some things were learned.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessie (Ageless Pages Reviews)

    Solid 3.5/5 I enjoyed this nonfiction about the influential reigns of various queens across Europe in 1500s. It's a fresh look at politics in a tumultuous century and how women wielded power unexpectedly often during those trying times. It isn't perfect: the text can be speculative and repetitive, but it's a fascinating read -- the earliest chapters in particular because they focus on figures like Louise of Savoy, Margaret Tudor, and Margaret of Austria. More well-known queens (Katherine of Arago Solid 3.5/5 I enjoyed this nonfiction about the influential reigns of various queens across Europe in 1500s. It's a fresh look at politics in a tumultuous century and how women wielded power unexpectedly often during those trying times. It isn't perfect: the text can be speculative and repetitive, but it's a fascinating read -- the earliest chapters in particular because they focus on figures like Louise of Savoy, Margaret Tudor, and Margaret of Austria. More well-known queens (Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I) are also featured but much more familiar to an audience likely to seek this book out.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    "Game of Queens" was a fascinating read, focusing on the power and chessboard politics of various queens, regents and important women of the sixteenth century. Author Sarah Gristwood really knows her stuff, and her writing is clear and factual without becoming dry. I knew a lot about many of the women going in (Anne Boleyn, Katharine of Aragon, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Mary I) but it was definitely nice to revisit these figures and to be able to fit what I know of them into the larger p "Game of Queens" was a fascinating read, focusing on the power and chessboard politics of various queens, regents and important women of the sixteenth century. Author Sarah Gristwood really knows her stuff, and her writing is clear and factual without becoming dry. I knew a lot about many of the women going in (Anne Boleyn, Katharine of Aragon, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Mary I) but it was definitely nice to revisit these figures and to be able to fit what I know of them into the larger picture of world politics at that time. There were some new figures introduced to me that I didn't find as interesting (Mary of Hungary, Jeanne d'Albret), but I did see their importance within the puzzle. And there were some women I had known little things about before but that I was really in-depth introduced to here (Margaret of Austria and Catherine de Medici, to name a couple). I am definitely inspired to go forth and read some more about those two. This book is great for anyone interested in queenly history or women's politics and triumphs in a century not set up for their success (is any century?). Side note: the last paragraph says with pride that the author is writing at a time when a female is challenging the highest office in the most powerful country in the world, and that was just a sucker punch in the gut. If we'd only known how that would turn out.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Fascinating look at the woman who dominated sixteenth century Europe. There are names most people know, like Isabelle of Castille, her daughter - Katherine of Aragon, and Anne Boelyn. But also women less known to the average person like Margaret of Hungary, Louise of Savoy, and Jeanne De'Albrecht. A deeply interesting book showcasing the female and often feminist side of history. Highly recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rick Slane

    This is like a college text book for a course on powerful women from Isabella I of Spain to Elizabeth I of England. I believe it was written in anticipation of Ms.Clinton joining Merkel and May on the world stage as the most powerful group of women rulers since the 16th century.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Does not work as popular history: short choppy chapters that whip back and forth between the various women, with no real feeling for said women so it is hard to tell them apart. Does not work as history: don't feel her argument very convincing that this group of women were all that powerful. Like most women, they were pawns dealt by the men in their lives (fathers, husbands, brothers, whatever), and even if they were named regent for a child it was more or less an interim thing that could and wa Does not work as popular history: short choppy chapters that whip back and forth between the various women, with no real feeling for said women so it is hard to tell them apart. Does not work as history: don't feel her argument very convincing that this group of women were all that powerful. Like most women, they were pawns dealt by the men in their lives (fathers, husbands, brothers, whatever), and even if they were named regent for a child it was more or less an interim thing that could and was taken away when something better came up. Possibly Isabella of Castile and Elizabeth I were outside this sad cliche but even they were more looked at as something to get around rather than admired as powerful women. Author's footnotes were scant and often seemed to consist of catty remarks. Not recommended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    Really enjoyable book, filled in my knowledge of the history of the time period (1500s) very nicely. I especially liked how it linked events in England, France, and the Holy Roman Empire - Spain, the Netherlands, the German states, and covered the role of religious dispute and reformation in a very clear and nonpartisan way.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Meghana34

    Fabulous history. I've always thought so. The sixteenth century was a time of various political and religious conflicts. It was all so very riveting. Why, then, is 'Game of Queens' terribly slow at times? The answer to that is because it is not a history. It is discussion of how the queens related to each other. 'Game of Queens' isn't just a catchy title; it is a theme repeatedly emphasised. "Juana would be no player in the game of queens...." Gristwood forces down our throats the idea of Renaiss Fabulous history. I've always thought so. The sixteenth century was a time of various political and religious conflicts. It was all so very riveting. Why, then, is 'Game of Queens' terribly slow at times? The answer to that is because it is not a history. It is discussion of how the queens related to each other. 'Game of Queens' isn't just a catchy title; it is a theme repeatedly emphasised. "Juana would be no player in the game of queens...." Gristwood forces down our throats the idea of Renaissance Europe being a chessboard. Another theme was linking the queens together in a sisterhood. Their connections are repeatedly emphasised while we learn hardly anything about them personally or about the complex conflicts of the time. It was infuriating at times. I have a huge interest in the women discussed because they were ambitious, brave and determined. I wanted to know more about them and was disappointed. To be fair, though, I think if I had read this before I was well-versed in these period of history then I would have liked it. It's a good introduction - hence the two stars instead of one. Still, unless you are new to this area of history, 'Game of Queens' is not recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    2.5 stars While reading this, I couldn't help wonder why I was struggling with it. It's a historical period I enjoy reading about with the additional bonus of focusing on the women in power. I have very much enjoyed previous books by this author so it wasn't the writing style. Having finished, I've concluded that it was simply that Gristwood tried to cover too many people and too long of a time period. It needed a tighter focus so that more depth could be explored for me to enjoy it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I loved this book. While biographies about Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, and Mary Queen of Scots are a dime a dozen these days, it's not so for the many other women who rose to prominence in sixteenth century Europe. I was fascinated by the other women that Gristwood brought to the fore, many whose names I had heard before but knew little about, which really whetted my appetite. Anne de Beaujeu, Margaret of Austria, Marguerite of Navarre, Louise of Savoy, Jeanne d'Albert, and the other Queens I loved this book. While biographies about Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, and Mary Queen of Scots are a dime a dozen these days, it's not so for the many other women who rose to prominence in sixteenth century Europe. I was fascinated by the other women that Gristwood brought to the fore, many whose names I had heard before but knew little about, which really whetted my appetite. Anne de Beaujeu, Margaret of Austria, Marguerite of Navarre, Louise of Savoy, Jeanne d'Albert, and the other Queens or queen-like figures who rose to high positions during this period are absolutely fascinating. As I said, I had heard of most of them, usually briefly in other books I read about other figures of this period, but Gristwood did an amazing job introducing them to me in enough detail to get me interested in learning more about them. A real treat, and very well-written.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Thatmostpeculiarmademoiselle

    Absolutely brilliant book on equally brilliant and interesting women. I am quite familiar with what was happening in France, England and Scotland, so it was nice to learn more about other European countries and figures. Highly recommend!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    An absolutely riveting group biography of the queens and other women who changed the face of sixteenth-century Europe. From Isabelle of Castile through the reign of Elizabeth I of England, this is a fascinating and well-researched epic of the women who became queens, soldiers, mothers, allies and enemies. A must-read for anyone fascinated by European history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan Abernethy

    Link to my review of this book: https://flhwnotesandreviews.com/2017/... Link to my review of this book: https://flhwnotesandreviews.com/2017/...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth S

    Kings are fascinating. We can learn an endless amount about history by studying them, and I even have favorites who I find particularly interesting. But queens are major players in their own right, too. Game of Queens by Sarah Gristwood highlights the royal women who made sixteenth century Europe what it was. Of course, both Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots are widely known figures. But there were plenty of other women across the continent who made immeasurable impacts. One especially well done Kings are fascinating. We can learn an endless amount about history by studying them, and I even have favorites who I find particularly interesting. But queens are major players in their own right, too. Game of Queens by Sarah Gristwood highlights the royal women who made sixteenth century Europe what it was. Of course, both Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots are widely known figures. But there were plenty of other women across the continent who made immeasurable impacts. One especially well done aspect is the way in which the author lays context. Neither of those women could have held the powerful, memorable roles they did if not for the work of queens before them. We head back to focus on queens from the fifteenth century who helped adjust the world stage and set the precedent of a politically powerful queen - whether regent or regnant. Queens were able to broker peace to fix the qualms of kings who couldn’t be seen conceding. They had the ears of their fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, nephews, and cousins. They could be left in charge when kings went off to meetings or war. In some countries, they could inherit the throne. Personally, I enjoy learning about the queens who came before Elizabeth in this book more than I like reading about her. Combining that with my appreciation for thorough scene setting to make the way history unraveled more meaningful, and I was very happy with the narrative in Game of Queens. However, it’s important to see how Europe got from Point A to Point B. If Isabella of Castile could wage war, why was it such a big deal for Elizabeth I? If some countries could pass thrones along to queens, why did other countries take centuries longer to consider it a possibility? All of these aspects require an understanding of cultural and historical context, and I think Gristwood achieves this necessity quite well. Whether you’ve studied some, all, or none of these women, the book is easy to follow. It’s sectioned into parts by time period, and then into chapters by country or group of countries. I felt this worked as a narrative tool because it enabled the author to keep weaving queens of the past and future through each part of the story to help us appreciate the progression. Clearly well researched and with a good amount of anecdotal notes for further commentary in each chapter, Game of Queens outlines the lives and impact of female monarchs throughout Europe’s fifteenth to sixteenth centuries. It underlines the legacies of powerful warrior queens and behind the scenes queens who brokered peace while their male relatives were off waging wars or ignoring their governmental duties. There was by no means one type of queen on the continent in this period, and Gristwood shows us just how influential all of them had the potential to be - or refused to be, in some cases - both because of and despite their gender.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katheryn Thompson

    I find the Renaissance period one of the most fascinating in history and, especially when the focus is so often on England and on men, I was therefore extremely excited to win a copy of Game of Queens in a Goodreads giveaway. And I wasn't disappointed. Gristwood both presents the stories of individual queens, and weaves their stories together to show their impact on one another and on Europe as a whole, using the analogy of a chessboard throughout without forcing it too hard upon the reader. The I find the Renaissance period one of the most fascinating in history and, especially when the focus is so often on England and on men, I was therefore extremely excited to win a copy of Game of Queens in a Goodreads giveaway. And I wasn't disappointed. Gristwood both presents the stories of individual queens, and weaves their stories together to show their impact on one another and on Europe as a whole, using the analogy of a chessboard throughout without forcing it too hard upon the reader. The information is clear and concise, and Gristwood often speculates to interesting effect where the evidence is lacking. Particularly impressive is the way in which she navigates the reader so smoothly through the book, despite the diverse range of women, countries, and time periods. What led me to give a five-star rating is the surprising ease with which I was able to read Game of Queens. I often find books of this nature to be a challenging, although rewarding read, because of the sheer amount of information. However, Gristwood's style of writing and choice of structure makes it a relatively easy read, as do the short chapters. I thoroughly enjoyed Games of Queens and would highly recommend it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I found this book to be a bit too general for me, but I will concede that the book's premise necessitated this, and that Gristwood's Blood Sisters, which I read last year, was much the same. I appreciated the new perspective into how common and influential female rulers were during the 16th century, as well as the little anecdotes sprinkled throughout the book. Jeanne d'Albret particularly impressed me, as did her mother Marguerite of Navarre, Elizabeth I, and her own mother, Anne Boleyn. :)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Le

    This reads with the fluidity of an epic novel. Despite the staggering number of characters on this historical stage, Gristwood does a wonderful job revolving through their stories and tying together all of these women and their trajectories in and out of power. The book is very well-organized, largely in chronological order; Gristwood makes a solid case for the sixteenth century being an "age of women" for Europe.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    I’m really happy I read this book. Non-fiction isn’t a genre that is usually my first choice but this has been on my TBR for so long and I absolutely love learning anything I can about this time-period. I also a big Philippq Gregory fan so if you’re a fan hers I definitely recommend checking out this book and vice versa. I’ve always said this time was really the closest I think we as human beings have ever gotten to a real life Game of Thrones. So many power struggles, conspiracies, political ma I’m really happy I read this book. Non-fiction isn’t a genre that is usually my first choice but this has been on my TBR for so long and I absolutely love learning anything I can about this time-period. I also a big Philippq Gregory fan so if you’re a fan hers I definitely recommend checking out this book and vice versa. I’ve always said this time was really the closest I think we as human beings have ever gotten to a real life Game of Thrones. So many power struggles, conspiracies, political marriages, and more.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Margaret of Austria was such a badass. This book tries to accomplish so much in relatively few pages, but my main takeaway is that Margaret was straight up Boss Lady #1. Sarah Gristwood has a gift for exploring an insane amount of detail in a readable way. I tore through this book and my only complaint is that she tried to achieve so much. We get to read about queens of England, France, Scotland, Spain, and the Netherlands...in 324 pages. Are you kidding me? Each of the women in this book could ( Margaret of Austria was such a badass. This book tries to accomplish so much in relatively few pages, but my main takeaway is that Margaret was straight up Boss Lady #1. Sarah Gristwood has a gift for exploring an insane amount of detail in a readable way. I tore through this book and my only complaint is that she tried to achieve so much. We get to read about queens of England, France, Scotland, Spain, and the Netherlands...in 324 pages. Are you kidding me? Each of the women in this book could (and have) had weighty biographies written about them, but the unique perspective Gristwood brings here is the intricate and dangerous web each of them moved around in relation to the others. While at times confusing due to its breadth, this is an incredible reference book and one I know I could learn from over and over.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Klempner

    I knew some of the women who were discussed but knew nothing about others. It was a very good read about other women in the 16th century who influenced the politics and religion of the age (and who you never hear about).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jazmin A

    Covers a lot of ground well, but I found that the last few chapters were rushed and difficult to get through. Enjoyed the queen on a chessboard analogy throughout, though I'd hoped for more dialogue or narrative finessing as it seemed to get a little too textbook towards the end.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Bryson

    Starting at the beginning of the 16th century with the strong, warrior like figure of Queen Isabella of Castile and ending with the powerful Queens of Elizabeth I and Catherine de' Medici; Gristwood’s book explores the often overlooked women of Europe who played vitally important roles in the political and religious happenings of the time. Sadly women were often overlooked, the focus being on their male counterparts. Gristwood pulls back the covers and exposes many important, influential women w Starting at the beginning of the 16th century with the strong, warrior like figure of Queen Isabella of Castile and ending with the powerful Queens of Elizabeth I and Catherine de' Medici; Gristwood’s book explores the often overlooked women of Europe who played vitally important roles in the political and religious happenings of the time. Sadly women were often overlooked, the focus being on their male counterparts. Gristwood pulls back the covers and exposes many important, influential women who changed the very shape of Europe with their decisions and actions. Throughout history women have so often been sidelined in the game of life. It was men that ruled the country, men who became great King’s, men who made all the important decisions regarding finances, war and international relations. Women were nothing more than beautiful images that would support their husbands dutifully, who would bear them children and if they were able to, become patrons of the arts or other ‘feminine’ pursuits. And while unfortunately there is a great deal of truth to these statements during the 16th century there are also many, many examples of powerful, independent women who broke the cast given to them by men and showed that they were more influential, more astute and more intelligent than the men around them. Gristwood starts her book at the beginning of the century exploring the lives of several powerful women including Queen Isabella of Castile and Anne of Brittany. She then chronologically moves through the 16th century detailing the lives of extremely influential women such as Louise of Savoy, Margaret of Austria, Katherine of Aragon, Mary of Hungry, Anne Boleyn, Jeanne d’Albret, Elizabeth I, and Marguerite of Navarre just to name a few. These women lived and travelled across Europe, including England, Scotland, France, Spain and Italy. They were daughters, wives, sisters as well as being rulers and women of great influence in their own right. Some were Queens, others were regents, controlling and guiding King’s and whole nations on behalf of the men in their lives. Each woman is researched in detail with Gristwood providing a wealth of information not only about the woman but the political climate into which they were born and then aged. This provided a deeper understanding of what was happening at the time and provided a well-rounded view of what life was like for each woman. Each woman was presented with a human perspective and many personal anecdotes about these women were provided. We were shown their fears, their joys, their triumphs and failures. Gristwood detailed the great struggles many of these women had to face in order to maintain their position and status. It was inspiring to read and aided in the reader gaining a deeper understanding of the motives and actions behind the decisions these women made. On a personal level I found Gristwood’s book to be extremely inspiring for women of today’s generation. In an age where many women are still not paid equal pay for equal work, are not equally represented in areas of politics or corporate position, and many of whom are still expected to stay at home and ‘mind the children and the house’; Gristwood’s book on 16th century women inspires women of today’s modern age to strive for their very best. Gristwood provides examples of women who broke out of the traditional mould of the time and made the very best of their situation. They were strong, independent women who fought for what they believed in, who followed their hearts and who achieved much in their lives and that in itself is something important for all women to take away from this book. I would strongly recommend Sarah Gristwood’s book to any woman.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Malagisi

    When one thinks about strong women in the sixteenth century, many turn their attention towards women like Elizabeth I, Isabella of Castile, Katherine of Aragon, Mary I and Catherine de Medici. These seemed like extraordinary examples of the power that stretched the boundaries on what was right and acceptable for women of the time. That, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the sixteenth century in Europe was filled with powerful women who do not get the attention that they deser When one thinks about strong women in the sixteenth century, many turn their attention towards women like Elizabeth I, Isabella of Castile, Katherine of Aragon, Mary I and Catherine de Medici. These seemed like extraordinary examples of the power that stretched the boundaries on what was right and acceptable for women of the time. That, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the sixteenth century in Europe was filled with powerful women who do not get the attention that they deserve. In Sarah Gristwood’s book “Game of Queens: The Women who made Sixteenth-Century Europe”, we are shown that it really wasn’t the men who had control, but their wives and daughters. Diplomacy is often described as a chess game and in the case of the sixteenth century, that could not be more accurate. This was the century of political games, the importance of marriages, wars galore and religious reforms. It all started off with women like Isabella of Castile of Spain and Anne de Beaujeu of France; powerful women who would not only influence their own children but girls who would come into their homes to learn how to be strong royal wives. Anne of Beaujeu wrote a manual for noblewomen, including this piece of advice: “And nothing is firm or lasting in the gifts of Fortune; today you see those raised high by Fortune who, two days later, are brought down hard.” This would come to describe the lives of the women who would follow throughout the rest of the sixteenth century. Most of them had to act as regents for their sons or male relations. Others were wives of kings who tried to change their countries for the better and either succeeded or failed miserably. It was the women at the beginning and the middle of the century that would pave the way for the more infamous queens like Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth Tudor, and Mary Queen of Scots. Sarah Gristwood was able to combine this complex game of women political chess with sixteen protagonists into a masterful biography to give a better understanding of how sixteenth-century Europe worked. This was a sisterhood of queens with mothers teaching daughters on how to survive in the courts. These women were connected by blood and by marriage, however, it was how they used the lessons of those who came before them which would define them. Sarah Gristwood could have made sixteen separate biographies, but by combining all of these stories into one book, it shows how each country and each ruler truly depended on one another. In a world where male heirs were few or died young, it was the women who had to step in and make Europe ready for the future. The sixteenth century was the changing point for European history and it was the women who had to navigate the complex field to keep Europe from completely falling apart. This book is the story of powerful women who helped make Europe the powerhouse it would become in the sixteenth century and how they did it.

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