As a girl, one of my favorite books was Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. Wait, you’re thinking, Mark Twain wrote about Joan of Arc? Yes, he did. In the novel, Twain tells her remarkable story through her page, Louis de Contes, who Twain makes one of her childhood friends in Domremy, hence, the “personal recollections.” I absolutely loved that book, reading it multiple times in my tween years. Joan fascinated me.
Twain’s wonderfully romantic novel, however, was meant for children and filled with glory and tragedy with a complete absence of such adult concepts as politics, greed, and self-aggrandizement that played such a vital role in Joan’s story. The Maid and the Queen makes no such exception.
In fact, in this book, Goldstone contends that Joan’s rise was the ultimate culmination of the subtle, deviously ruthless, political strategy of Charles’s VII mother-in-law, Yolande of Aragon. And her fall was the result of one man’s ambition and the blinding hatred she engendered in his English patrons, which he used ruthlessly, for his own ends. In eminently readable prose, Nancy Goldstone meticulously paints a rather unpleasant, and unflattering, picture of the vicious avarice and naked greed and vindictiveness that was the medieval French court. A true nest of vipers with the singular goal of enriching themselves and their families, the fate of France and its common people be damned.
The Maid and the Queen is a wonderful, fascinating, if slightly cynical, read. I really want to read Goldstone’s The Lady Queen, which is about how Joanna I, Queen of Naples, and her lover, managed to get away with the blatant assassination of her first husband, Andrew of Hungary. The murder, and her absolution, were one of the great scandals of the day.
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
By the way, if you want to read Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc for yourself, you can download it in two volumes from Project Gutenberg: Volume 1 and Volume Two.