Eleanor of Aquitaine

Now unlike any of the previous queens, Eleanor has a wealth of books written about her.  For the others it is largely a matter of gathering tit-bits from lots of places - for Eleanor you are spoiled for choice.

For me, the best work on Eleanor is by Ralph Turner Eleanor of Aquitaine.  It's not enormously engaging, but it is packed with detail and the best single volume on her that you will find.

From a French perspective, there is the translation of Jean Flori's Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen and Rebel.  I found it to be not as reliable as the Turner, but it's always useful to get multiple perspectives.

If you're looking for something a little less academic and easier to read, then I would recommend Helen Castor's chapters on her in She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth  and Alison Weir's Eleanor of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England.  You won't get the detail or sober analysis of Turner here, but these are far more engaging.

In terms of primary source material, you need to read the chronicles of Suger of St Denis, John of Salisbury, William of Newburgh, Richard of Devizes and Roger of Howden

Matilda of Boulogne

Much to my lasting regret, no one has yet written a book on Matilda of Boulogne.  Therefore the research for this episode had to come from various sources. Of the General Reading books the books by Lisa Hilton and Helen Castor were really useful, but there are a lot of books written about the Anarchy that are also out there

I would strongly recommend Edmund King's King Stephen and Marjorie Chibnall's Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English as the best sources for those two characters.  They are quite academic, but are peerless in terms of analysis.

If you are looking for something a little more in the way of military history Jim Bradbury's book Stephen and Matilda: The Civil War of 1139-53  is a really nice and relatively short book, and it will also give you a good grounding in all the political and diplomatic manoeuvres of the war.


Matilda of Scotland

Matilda's main historian is an American academic called Lois Huneycutt who has written a lot of articles on her, and one full length biography called Matilda of Scotland: A Study in Medieval Queenship.  I read this a lot at university, its a fabulous book for fans of queenship BUT unfortunately it's impossible to find at a reasonable price.  If you see it at a local university library though do get it, it's a great read.

For more on her husband Henry I, there are two excellent full length biographies of him:  Henry by the late C. Warren Hollister, and Judith Green's Henry I: King of England and Duke of Normandy. Both are comprehensive and full of great history, I personally prefer Judith's Green book, mainly because it's a lot shorter!

If your interest was piqued on William Rufus then you can't go wrong with Frank Barlow's biography William Rufus.  Like Hollister's book on Henry I it's part of the Yale English Monarchs series, and he does a great job of getting under the skin of this fascinating character.

I'd also recommend again Aird's book on Robert Curthose as he figures very highly in her story.  For Archbisbop Anselm there is R.W. Southern's Anselm and His Biographer but it isn't the most accessible of works.  All the surviving letters exchanged between Matilda and Anselm are collated in The Letters of Saint Anselm of Canterbury by Walter Frolich.  For Edward the Exile I'd recommend Gabrial Ronay's The lost King of England : the East European adventures of Edward the Exile.

In terms of primary sources, William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis are the two crucial ones again.  To them I'd add Eadmer's Vita Anselmi and Historia Novorum which focus largely on Anselm's role in events.  Finally, Turgot of Durham's work Life of St Margaret which was commissioned by Matilda herself is a really good source for her upbringing.

Matilda of Flanders

You can't go wrong with Tracy Borman's Matilda: Wife of the Conqueror, First Queen of England is an excellent biography published in 2012 - detailed and accessible.  It's the only good full-length work on her, and it is very well-researched and accessible.

For William the Conqueror there are many good biographies, but my favourite is William the Conqueror by David Bates.  He's a good historian and really gets under his skin.  A longer. more academic, biography was written by David Douglas William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact Upon England. Definitely more for a scholarly audience but if you want the most comprehensive book on the market then this is the one.

My favourite book for this episode though is William Aird's Robert Curthose: Duke of Normandy. Robert is an utterly fascinating character, one of my favourites in history, and this is a beautifully written biography.  For an analysis of the relationship between Matilda and her eldest (and possibly favourite) son, this is perfect. 

In terms of contemporary sources, the best chroniclers for her are Historia Ecclesiastica of Orderic Vitalis, Historia Regum Anglorum of William of Malmesbury and Gesta Guillelmi of William of Poitiers.

General Reading

A great start if you just want an overview of each queen is Lisa Hilton's Queen's Consort: England's Medieval Queens.  It's designed for the general reader and is very accessible.  If you want to go back a little further then I would recommend Elizabeth Norton's England's Queens: From Boudica to Elizabeth of York.  It is a lot shorter than Lisa Hilton's book, but if you want a brief summary of each reign, then this is the book for you. 

In a similar vein, Helen Castor's book She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth is a brilliant introduction to queenship, especially to the power that certain queens did have.  The book focusses on Empress Matilda, Isabella of France and Margaret of Anjou but it is a worthwhile read no matter which queen interests you.  The book accompanied an excellent BBC television series which is periodically on the iPlayer and well worth a watch.

If you are looking for something a little more academic then I would suggest Anne Duggan ed. Queens and Queenship in Medieval EuropePauline Stafford's Queens, Concubines and Dowagers and John Carmi Parson's Medieval Queenship are all great places to start.

If sensationalism is more your thing, then Agnes Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England. It was written in the nineteenth century and is completely uncritical of some of the claims of sources and even on occasion seems to just make things up.  That said it is an entertaining read and available for free as it's in the public domain.