Review: Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen by Sara Cockerill

Publisher: Amberley, September 8, 2014 (Kindle copy).
Genre: Non-fiction, British History Reading Challenge 2014, Kings and Queens of England, Eleanor of Castile, Edward I, Henry III.
Format: Hardcover.
Pages: 448, with 56 illustrations.
Rating: 5 Stars for Excellent.
Source: Free copy from Amberley in exchange for a review. All reviews expressed are from my own opinion.

Available in US @ Amazon. Kindle published September 8, and hardcover will be published November 19, 2014.
Barnes and Noble, the publishing date they are stating for hardcover is October 19, 2014.
I'm unclear if the above dates for future publishing are correct as they are very different.

Links for further information:
Medieval Queens,
English Monarchs,
The Freelance History Writer,
Time-Travel Britain,
Westminster Abbey,
A collection of images from V and A.

Sara Cockerill's website.
Sara Cockerill studied Law at the University of Oxford. She is a practicing QC specializing in commercial law, and the author of a leading specialist legal text. She has had a lifelong interest in English history and has devoted her spare time over the past ten years to researching the life of Eleanor of Castile. She is married with one cat, and divides her time between London and the seaside.

On the 1st of November 1254, twelve year old Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290), and fifteen year old Edward (1239-1307), the son of Henry III (1207-1272) king of England were married. Eleanor's brother Alfonso X (1221-1284) was king of Castile and Leon. Their father had been King Ferdinand (1201-1252). Edward and Eleanor's marriage was a political marriage; nonetheless, it would become a successful marriage considering most royal arranged marriages. They were married thirty-six years. Eleanor had at least sixteen children, six survived. Their son Edward of Caernarfon (1284-1327) became the future Edward II.
Eleanor was successful in fulfilling her duty as queen to have children; but, she was also a successful partner in a royal marriage taking part in Edward's cabinet of advisers, she was also an astute business woman.
Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen, is a narrative biography non-fiction book. It stands alone both in its own distinct genre and its own weighty merit.
My Thoughts:
Sara Cockerill worked on Eleanor of Castile for ten years. She read about, studied, and researched a queen who had been swept aside in favour of other notable queens through the course of British history. One other complete non-fiction work has been written, by J.C. Parsons- Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society in Thirteenth-Century England. Cockerill refers to his book in her's, it is one of the many sources she utilized. This is the first reason I have given Eleanor of Castile a 5 star review. Ten years of research is a great achievement. The patience and careful study given over ten years has produced an excellent work. I read through Cockerill's list of first, second, and online sources. Many of these sources are included inside another person's historical account, chronicle or letter. Piecing together and shaping the information into a readable biography which is informative and interesting is a careful balance. I feel Cockerill has achieved all of this.
To give the "basic template" of a life is bland. In order to breathe life into a character one must see the person's essential qualities, decisions made, reactions to events, and most importantly their legacy. The book begins with the actions and historical events surrounding Eleanor and her family, and continues with her husband's reign, their children-those who died and survived, a Crusade in which Eleanor accompanied Edward, land purchases and business dealings, and then chapter eleven came. In chapter eleven, Cockerill gave me a close-up perspective of Eleanor. I felt the book culminated in this chapter.
The last chapter of the book is a study on the crosses (several of which are forever lost) which were made after Eleanor's death. This was an added gem in the book.
Edward I is not beloved by all; those in Wales or Scotland have strong opinions of him. He was brutish, avenging, larger than life. On the other hand, he was faithful to his beloved Eleanor. This last point leaves me astounded. Kings such as Henry VIII are written about to great length in both non-fiction and historical fiction, yet he was not a faithful husband. I'm thinking of another king who was also a tyrant, William the Conqueror, I've read he was faithful to his diminutive wife Matilda. People are fascinating to me, this is just one of the reasons I have always loved history.


  1. Hi Annette, looks like a fab book! How about adding your review to the Books You Loved collection over at Carole's Chatter? Cheers


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