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Medieval Royal Mistresses (ePub)

Mischievous Women who Slept with Kings and Princes

P&S History > British History P&S History > Medieval World > Medieval History P&S History > Royal History Women of History

By Julia A Hickey
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 18.2 MB (.epub)
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 20 mono
ISBN: 9781399081955
Published: 3rd November 2022

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Marriage for Medieval kings was about politics, power and the provision of legitimate heirs. Mistresses were about love, lust and possession. It was a world that included kidnap, poison, murder, violation, public shaming and accusations of witchcraft. Ambition and quick wits as well as beauty were essential attributes for any royal mistress. Infamy, assassination and imprisonment awaited some royal mistresses who tumbled from favour whilst others disappeared into obscurity or respectable lives as married women and were quickly forgotten.

Meet Nest of Wales, born in turbulent times, whose abduction started a war; Alice Perrers and Jane Shore labelled ‘whores’ and ‘wantons’; Katherine Swynford who turned the medieval world upside down with a royal happy-ever-after and Rosamund Clifford who left history and stepped into legend.

Discover how serial royal womanisers married off their discarded mistresses to bind their allies close. Explore the semi-official roles of some mistresses; the illegitimate children who became kings; secret marriage ceremonies; Edith Forne Sigulfson and Lady Eleanor Talbot who sought atonement through religion as well as the aristocratic women who became the victims of royal lust.

Most of the shameful women who shared the beds of medieval kings were silenced, besmirched or consigned to the footnotes of a patriarchal worldview but they negotiated paths between the private and public spheres of medieval court life - changing history as they went.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"Medieval Royal Mistresses" by Julia A. Hickey is an eye-opening journey into the intriguing and often scandalous lives of the women who dared to become mistresses to medieval kings. In a world where politics, power, and the quest for legitimate heirs dominated royal marriages, this book peels back the layers of history to reveal the hidden stories of these remarkable women.

Julia A. Hickey paints a vivid picture of a bygone era filled with love, lust, ambition, and danger. Each chapter introduces readers to a different mistress, from the audacious Nest of Wales, whose abduction ignited a war, to the infamous Alice Perrers and Jane Shore, who were subjected to public shaming and vilification. The stories of these women are brought to life with meticulous research and engaging storytelling.

One of the book's strengths lies in its ability to shed light on the complex and often perilous lives of royal mistresses. Hickey explores the challenges these women faced, including accusations of witchcraft, imprisonment, and even assassination. Yet, she also highlights their resilience and intelligence, showcasing how some were able to navigate the treacherous waters of the medieval court and secure their positions.

The book also delves into the intriguing relationships between these mistresses and their royal paramours. It examines how some kings married off their discarded mistresses to strengthen political alliances, offering a fascinating glimpse into the strategic aspects of medieval courtship.

"Medieval Royal Mistresses" goes beyond the scandalous affairs to explore the semi-official roles some mistresses held and the legacies they left behind. It touches on the illegitimate children who ascended to the throne, secret marriages, and the women who sought redemption through religion.

Julia A. Hickey's meticulous research and passion for her subject shine through in this book. She resurrects these often forgotten women from the footnotes of history, giving them a voice and a place in the annals of time.

For history enthusiasts and anyone intrigued by the lives of strong and ambitious women in a medieval context, "Medieval Royal Mistresses" is a compelling and enlightening read. It's a captivating journey through the lives of these remarkable women who defied convention and, in their own way, changed the course of history.

NetGalley, Chelsea Littleton-Harper

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As an avid Medievalist, I had already heard of a few of the Royal mistresses discussed in Julia Hickeys book. The thing which I enjoy about these women is the power which many of them wielded albeit for their own purposes. As we know Royal and aristocratic marriages were political and financial for the greater part, love or even affection was often absent. The Divine Right of Kings applied also to their alliances with women and men it must be said, but women are specifically written of here.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new mistresses and revisiting known ones and recommend this book to students of the Medieval period and any interested lay person, this was a fascinating period.

NetGalley, Carol Elizabeth Keogh

This biography focuses solely on the mistresses in the Middle Ages! The were some that I have heard of like Alice Perrers and Kathryn Swynford! Others, I have never of before! Thus, the writing was very engaging and the work was very concise! I recommend this for fans of royalty!

NetGalley, Lauralee Jacks

This was an interesting book on women who were vilified in the past and are frequently ignored in the present. Unless a mistress played some major role in history or became prominent at court, she remained largely unknown. One thing this book does well is explore the changes in marriage and social customs over 4 centuries through the lives of the women involved.

Edith Swan-Neck, although seen as a mistress probably did undertake a form of marriage with Harald Godwinson. This was marriage more danico which technically allowed bigamy and easy divorce. It was recognized by society if not by the church.
The book goes all the way up to the mistresses of Edward IV in the late 15th century, but also covers the 4 centuries from before the Norman Conquest and the first wife of Cnut to the children of Henry I, the mistresses of Henry II and the other Plantagenet Kings.

I found the chapter on Jane Shore especially interesting. She was, apparently known for being kind-hearted and even warm: and was also (according to the author at least) fully literate. She could read and write.
Her bad reputation did not come from the Tudors but from Richard III.
Yes, she had 3-4 different lovers before her actual marriage, but it was Richard who really presented her as a manipulative seductress who led the King astray and he even tried to scupper her later attempts to find a husband. Richard III is too often presented as an innocent and wholly virtuous figure: but his treatment of Jane Shore might reveal a more vindictive and hypocritical side to his nature which is not often explored.

NetGalley, Joanna Arman

It was nice to read about women in this position rather than just the male viewpoint and I really liked that they took a European wide look rather than just sticking British. A lot of research done and well written certainly one for people into Women’s history through the medieval period.

Read the Full Review Here

The History Fella

Seldom, if ever, did a Medieval king marry for love. Often it was a case of keeping your enemies closer and if love did evolve, it was a pleasant surprise. Women were traded from pillar to post, their lands and possessions given and then taken away at the whim of powerful men. Mistresses were fairly common but some mistresses were anything but common. Some of them knew how to play the game of thrones in real life. Much to the chagrin of many of the men watching, they wielded real power and had a cunning and intelligence to rise above their place.

This book is filled with the stories of many of those women. The fog of time and story telling have clouded the facts but the author takes considerable care in trying to sort through what written record exists. It is a fascinating look at the kings but mostly it is a fascinating look at how some women refused to stay in their allotted corners and made an impact on their times. Some suffered greatly for it. Some thrived. And to be be fair, there are also a couple of male “companions” whose influence and power threatened others around the monarch. It did not work out well for them.

Well researched and written in an accessible style, this fills in some of the blanks of Medieval court life. Four purrs and two paws up.

NetGalley, Susan Johnston

Julia's books is a colourful introduction to the women who influenced such kings and princes in the medieval period, and it makes a truly fascinating read.

Books Monthly

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It was an interesting read that made me wish to learn more about these women and their stories.
Well researched, informative and entertaining.
Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fresh new take on the women who were royal mistresses during the medieval period. I loved that this book covers various women from various countries and not only the English royal mistresses. Biographical information is difficult to come by when it comes to medieval women but this author made sure to stick to the facts. Highly recommended.

NetGalley, S. Constant Reader

Article: 'All the kings' mistresses: True tales of medieval royal scandal'

The Sunday Post (Dundee)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow lots of interesting facts which blew me away…. how serial royal womanisers married off their discarded mistresses to bind their allies close. Explore the semi-official roles of some mistresses; the illegitimate children who became kings; secret marriage ceremonies; Edith Forne Sigulfson and Lady Eleanor Talbot who sought atonement through religion as well as the aristocratic women who became the victims of royal lust.

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a refreshing analysis of a sector of royal life rarely studied in detail, in my opinion. I love that this looks at the lives, impact, and role of royal mistress during a time period often overlooked. Everyone knows Diane de Poitiers and Madame du Barry, but what about those who came before? This book delivers those women and delivers them with witty and thoughtful analysis. If you enjoy Royal histories, this will be a great addition to your library.

NetGalley, Kelsie Johnson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is very interesting and highly recommended for all royal history lovers. It covers numerous royal mistresses in both Britain and France, from early life to death. However, given the little documentation left behind by these women, the majority of information comes from male figures, which is sadly not surprising. If only these women's voices were recorded in history, it's a wonder what additional information could be learned. In addition, I appreciate that the author focused on how these women empowered themselves in these relationships by obtaining financial security and self-autonomy, rather than just being used as a piece of meat.

NetGalley, Kendra Carter

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From the known to the unknown this book is full of the royal mistresses that ruled monarchs in the middle ages. Some were even mothers to future royalty what I love about this book is it not only tells you about the mistresses put the gossip and opinions that surrounded them in their modern day. I think Julie Hickey did a wonderful job with this book I found it hard to put down easy to read and if you love gossip mixed in with interesting historical facts you’ll love Medieval Royal Mistresses it’s just more proof that people have always been naughty.

NetGalley, Janalyn Prude

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I have been on a nonfiction kick recently and this one stood out for many reasons. I loved the honesty and emotion. I felt like I was in the moment with the author and I felt like the articulation of the circumstances were easy to understand which I appreciated with such a complex issue.

NetGalley, Caroline Craig David

Article: 'Princess Nest features in new book'

Western Telegraph

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love history books and this was a very interesting take on a different aspect of history. Exciting to read, well written. Recommend.

NetGalley, Hayley Graham

Overall, I found this book enjoyable and informative... the fact that Hickey could combine nearly 500 years' worth of history about relatively hidden royal mistresses is quite admirable. Suppose you want a solid introduction to medieval England's world of royal mistresses. In that case, I recommend you read “Medieval Royal Mistresses: Mischievous Women who Slept with Kings and Princes” by Julia A. Hickey.

NetGalley, Heidi Malagisi

I recommend this for history buffs, especially those that want to learn more about the lives of the women who shaped the history of England.

NetGalley, Lisa Emmert

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a fascinating read! Medieval Royal Mistresses is well-researched, interesting and covers many women who this history-lover did not know existed. I really enjoy historical biographies about women, and their influence on the times and their world, and am glad they are getting their recognition, albeit centuries too late.
This is an interesting study of how women's power is degenerated and vilified, and how they navigated their worlds and how they influenced the future. I have never heard of Nest of Wales or Jane Shore, and I was really interested in their stories! Katherine Swynford's life is a fountain of fascination and really well told in this book.
This was a wishlist read that was granted by the publisher and Netgalley, my opinion is my own. I really recommend this for readers interested in medieval history, women's history or European history.

NetGalley, Vanessa Stoner

It is fascinating to get a glimpse into the lives of some women who have fallen into the cracks of history.

NetGalley, Devon Syndram

Really interesting look at something that is by nature hard to pin down and discuss. I thought the research was quite good and the author does a good job discussing the royal mistresses without descending into caricature. The author particularly does a good job discussing how royal mistresses were seen in their own day, and the misogynist tropes they have been subjected to since.

NetGalley, Rebecca Fachner

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Very interesting tales about the historical "Other Woman" of the Royals in history.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

An interesting study of how women of this time were both powerless and powerful, but all too often defined by their relationship to men. Plenty of new information here, particularly for lovers of social history who crave insights into the cultural practices of the time.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading this, it worked as a nonfiction historical book. I could tell Julia A. Hickey was invested in the topic and did the research for this book. I really enjoyed going through this book as some of these Mistresses I had never heard of before.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

About Julia A Hickey

Julia has been passionate about history since she visited Buckland Abbey as a child more than forty years ago. She has an MA as well as a BA in History and English Literature. She has taught in a range of educational settings but is currently an independent lecturer and speaker based in the Midlands and Yorkshire. In addition to a text for Literacy Specialists she has written about border reivers, the grisly tale of Carlisle’s gallows and is the author of many short stories set in the past. She writes a regular blog at thehistoryjar.com about all things historical and can often be found exploring castles and stately stacks.

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