The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc

Written by Nancy Goldstone
Review by Nanette Donohue

Joan of Arc is an iconic figure in French history—an uneducated peasant woman who helped her countrymen rise up against the English during the Hundred Years’ War. Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Sicily and mother-in-law of France’s Charles VII, was an astute leader, capable of navigating the complex politics of court and country. One woman is legendary, the other forgotten. In The Maid and the Queen, Goldstone, who has developed a reputation for illuminating the lives of medieval women, investigates the connection between Joan of Arc and Yolande of Aragon.

Goldstone theorizes that Yolande was heavily influenced by the French novel The Romance of Melusine. Written in the late 14th century, Melusine is a fairy tale — but like most fairy tales, there are deeper meanings within. Yolande’s reading of Melusine prepared her to believe Joan when she arrived, bearing her message from God and demanding an audience with Charles — thus setting into motion the chain of events that changed the course of the Hundred Years’ War. Goldstone has a gift for making historical fact read like fiction, and The Maid and the Queen is highly recommended for all readers who enjoy medieval history.