Book Review: Daughters of Edward I by Kathryn Warner

Genre: History, nonfiction
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Pub date: 30 July 2021

In 1254 the teenage heir to the English throne married a Spanish bride, the sister of the king of Castile, in Burgos, and their marriage of thirty-six years proved to be one of the great royal romances of the Middle Ages. Edward I of England and Leonor of Castile had at least fourteen children together, though only six survived into adulthood, five of them daughters.

Daughters of Edward I traces the lives of these five capable, independent women, including Joan of Acre, born in the Holy Land, who defied her father by marrying a second husband of her own choice, and Mary, who did not let her forced veiling as a nun stand in the way of the life she really wanted to live. The women’s stories span the decades from the 1260s to the 1330s, through the long reign of their father, the turbulent reign of their brother Edward II, and into the reign of their nephew, the child-king Edward III.

Edward I and his wife Leonor had many children, sadly a lot did not survive infancy. This book focuses on the daughters who did; Eleanor of Bar, Joan of Acre, Margaret of Brabant, Mary of Woodstock, and Elizabeth of Rhuddlan. The daughters of Edward I is a brilliant narrative of not only the lives of the daughters but also the events occurring in England at the time. The daughters lived different lives, from taking the veil to moving abroad to marry and Warner discusses events that impacted them and their children.

I loved the story of Mary, the daughter who became a nun but continued to live a pretty independent life, leaving the Abbey when she wished and visiting family. Joan of Acre was also independent and was not afraid to do as she wished and face the wrath of her father. The sisters clearly had a solid, close relationship all evidenced through Warner’s meticulous research.

As someone trying to branch out on my history this was invaluable. I found it extremely interesting to read about the affection Edward I showed his daughters, it is a shame the same could not be said on all accounts of Edward II to his sisters and their children. I would have loved to know the sisters thoughts on Hugh Despenser but unfortunately we don’t know.

There are many Edwards and Eleanor’s in this book but it’s not as confusing as may be expected as Warner does a great job of clarifying who’s who. Warner notes that if Edward I son Alfonso had survived it would have become a popular name so we’d be reading about many Alfonso’s today.

If you are looking to learn about these women and their relationships then this book is perfect but I’d also recommend to those wishing to read more about Edward I and his son Edward II.

Warner has a great easy to read writing style so whilst this is nonfiction it’s not difficult to get stuck in to.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pen and Sword for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.

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