Heroines of the Medieval World

Written by Sharon Bennett Connolly
Review by Xina Marie Uhl

As slightly more than half of the human population, women have always had an integral role in history. But that role has been buried, denounced, and ignored in favor of male figures. Historian Connolly makes strides toward correcting that flaw in this impressive effort to catalogue and—perhaps more importantly—make readers care about dozens of impressive medieval women. To do this, she applies deft historical analysis and a wealth of details to female figures in groups such as the religious, mistresses, pawns, captives, warriors, and so on.

Connolly writes with vigor and admirable thoroughness. She includes details that add immensely to the enjoyment of reading, such as that of Margaret, 11th-century Queen of Scotland, who was so knowledgeable about church affairs that she “embarrassed some of the [reform-minded] clerics by knowing more about the proper procedures of the Church than they did. She even had the papal manuals to quote from.”

My only complaint with the title is that the sheer number of kings, queens, princes, princesses, and other relations Connolly sometimes mentions can be a bit mind-boggling. Despite this minor flaw, readers will find this title a veritable treasure trove of details about medieval women.