Book Log

Jun. 28th, 2017 04:31 pm
scaramouche: Beyonce wearing a suit and tie (beyonce in suit)
[personal profile] scaramouche
It's been a subdued Eid this year, which is a kinda fitting wrap-up for a subdued Ramadan in general. It's probably a combination of things -- my grandmother's heart attack, work stress, the sweltering weather, plus general happenings that made the festivities somewhat less shiny than usual.

I did manage to get quite a bit of reading done during the trip down, thus catching up on the reading I'd missed during Ramadan itself. I finished Sara Cockerill's Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen, which is about Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I of England.

I realized about halfway through that pretty much all the books about royal women I'd read before that point were about women who were notable for being "troublesome", i.e. women who made things difficult for their husbands and/or children and/or birth families. Eleanor of Castile, as argued by Sara Cockerill, was one of those women who didn't rock the boat in any overt way, but instead had (at least visibly) an excellent personal and working relationship with her husband that was (also, at least visibly) free from big drama. The question may be posed then, what is the value in examining this queen in a biography? Cockerill argues with a deft hand that a working marriage is notable in itself for how relatively rare it is, and that Eleanor would've been a remarkable woman to be able stand by Edward Longshanks and against his mother Eleanor of Provence, the latter of which went and outlived her daughter-in-law, which must've been stressful as hell.

Cockerill also puts forward an comprehensive argument that Eleanor had a tremendous role as a property manager and business woman (another necessity, when there are two queens to rely on what was then a single dower), and with a temper to boot. The book is structured a little differently from most other biographies I've read, with a really interesting middle segment which stops the chronological retelling for a hollistic view of Eleanor's personality, habits and relationships as a whole. You'd think it'd set everything grinding to a halt but it doesn't, I found it clever and useful in developing my mental image of Eleanor as a person.

It was a nice read overall, and really interesting in how Cockerill frames her argument convincingly. I also really like Cockerill's snide jabs at other authors who argue that Eleanor was uninteresting or just incomprehensible because of the different reports on her temperament, arguing what should be an obvious point that women are complex.

On a lighter note, I had my mind blown a little at the bit about how Edward had physical crosses (monuments with a cross on top) erected all over England in tribute to Eleanor after she died, and one of said crosses was put up in Charing, making it the... Charing Cross. SURE the one that now stands there is a Victorian replica since the original was destroyed, but I KNOW THAT CROSS. I didn't know it was even called a cross! I'd only ever thought of it as that vague triangular monument in front of the train station. LEARNINGS. (Though I reckon that even if I did read up before on what that cross is, it would've still had less resonance since I did not yet know who Eleanor of Castile was.)

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