Reviewed: The Sister Queens, Isabel and Katherine de Valois by Mary McGrigor


Hardcover Edition Published May 1st, 2016, The History Press, 288 Pages

Two sisters: born nine years apart to a mad French king during the turbulent years of the Hundred Years War, the bitter series of conflicts that set the House of Plantagenet against the House of Valois. Catherine de Valois, the beautiful young bride of Henry V, conducted a passionate love affair with the young Owain Tudor, with whom she was to found the entire Tudor dynasty.

Her sister Isabella was married aged seven to Richard II, subsequently fled England following his murder, only to find her country fatally divided. This is a gripping tale of love, exile, and conflict in a time when even royal women had to fight for survival.

In some ways, this book was good, as an interesting account of the lives and times of two of the daughters of King Charles VI of France, Katherine de Valois and her far less famous sister, Isabella. Both were Queens of England, Katherine, of course, was the wife of Henry V of England and mother of Henry VI, and Isabella was briefly married to Richard II at the age of 12. 

The poems composed by French Charles of Orleans at the time of his imprisonment in England and some of the details about Henry V’s relationship with the King of Scotland really interested me. 

However, as other reviewers have pointed out, the number of errors and mistakes in the book was a real let down. Some have estimated that up to one-third of the dates are wrong, and there are some glaring errors. In one place Edward of Norwich Duke of York was called the Uncle of Henry V (they were in fact cousins), and John of Gaunt and Henry IV were described as ‘brothers’. They were father and son. 

Also, I sometimes found writing style and tone of the book disagreeable, rather gossipy and making assumptions about what historical characters thought and felt. In some places, it almost read as if it was aimed at teenagers.  It’s a shame, as there are few books specifically related to this subject, that this one proved such a disapppintment.

Thanks to The History Press for giving me a copy of this book to read and review. I was not required to write a positive review, and these opinions are my own. 

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