She-Wolves, The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth was made into a successful BBC TV series. Historian Helen Castor’s original book has been released by The Folio Society, which celebrates its’ 70th year this year with an exhibition at the V&A. The Folio Society publishes beautifully illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books.
The book portrays the life of four extraordinary medieval women: Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen Isabella and Margaret of Anjou. Castor explores the powerful attributes of these women and the attitude surrounding women via the female characters’ dramatic stories.
In 1553, as Edward VI, Henry VIII’s longed-for male heir, lay dying in his bed, the only contenders for his crown – for the first time in English history – were all female. And although England had never previously had a reigning queen, women’s hands had reached for power and the crown many times before, and for their pains would be vilified.
Castor tells their dramatic stories and captures the paradox they faced: the traits deemed essential and admirable in a male ruler were abominable in a female. Women were ‘inherently inferior to men and predisposed to sin’, to preserve their virtue, they had to submit to ‘God-given male authority’. A power-seeking woman was therefore a violation of the natural order – she was feral, threatening, lupine … a She-Wolf.
This beautiful edition illuminates this bestselling history with a wealth of colour images, selected with the author’s input. Also included are genealogical tables for each key figure and new hand-drawn maps. Castor’s lively commentary takes in Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton and ‘the Matilda effect’, coined by historian Margaret Rossiter in the 1990s to describe bias against female scientists. This luxurious edition also features a blocked slipcase, a striking binding and decorated endpapers. The book is bound in cloth blocked with a design based on the Matilda seal, drawn by Neil Gower.
She-Wolves by Helen Castor by The Folio Society is available from: http://www.foliosociety.com/book/SWV/she-wolves.