Queen Emma and the Vikings by

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A history of power, love and greed in 11th-century England
ISBN 0747574898
Read with Medieval Britain book group

She looks a little peevish, although this would not have been the intention of the artist

This is the story of Queen Emma, by birth a Norman, who married two kings of England. Her first marriage was as peacemaker between her family and England. Her second came about because Cnut defeated her first husband and came to power. She was, in effect, the spoils.

But Emma was not a woman to be taken lightly, nor was she one to sit back and let events unfold. This book attempts to show her as an active, manipulating Queen, one who held power in her own right.

The problem of course is that there really isn’t all that much evidence left to us today about the people of the 11th century. And what does remain may not be strictly true. Emma herself commissioned a book to be written about the times she lived through. But this cannot be believed as it is not merely a recording of events, but a piece of political propaganda. Despite the lack of evidence, O’Brien has created an interesting, readable book. I’m too sure if her method of interspersing speculation and motivation of character really ever worked for me. But overall it is an interesting account of a woman I’d never heard of before.

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