Game of Queens

Pages: 416
Subject: History
Imprint: Oneworld

Game of Queens

The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

Sarah Gristwood

A BBC History Magazine Book of the Year - the rise and fall of the women who ruled sixteenth-century Europe
9781780749945 (6 Oct 2016)
RRP £20.00

The Book

A BBC History magazine Book of the Year and an Best Book of the Month

Two childhood companions, now matriarchs of two opposing powers, calmly set their menfolk aside and declare that they, as women, are better equipped to organise a peace between their warring nations.

An ambitious young woman, debarred by her sex from ascending the throne, nonetheless rules her country and turns her court into an academy where girls are taught how to rule.

A mother tells her daughter to face death rather than give up the sceptre that is her right to wield…


As religion divided sixteenth-century Europe, an extraordinary group of women - queens, consorts and thinkers - rose to power. Despite finding themselves on opposing sides of power struggles both armed and otherwise, through their family ties and patronage they educated and supported each other in a brutal world where the price of failure was disgrace, exile or even death. Theirs was a unique culture of feminine power that saw them run the continent for decades. And yet, as the sixteenth century waned and the Reformation left faultlines across the continent, the Virgin Queen of England was virtually alone as ruler — a queen surrounded by kings once more.

From mother to daughter and mentor to protégée, Sarah Gristwood follows the passage of power from Isabella of Castile and Anne de Beaujeu through Anne Boleyn - the woman who tipped England into religious reform - and on to Elizabeth I and Jeanne d'Albret, heroine of the Protestant Reformation. Unravelling a gripping historical narrative, she reveals the unorthodox practices adopted by these women in the face of challenges that retain an all-too familiar aspect today, and assesses their impact on the era that began the shaping of the modern world. Epic in scale, this game of queens is a remarkable spectacle of skill and ingenuity.

Additional Information

Subject History
Pages 416
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Sarah Gristwood has written bestselling biographies of Arbella Stuart, Elizabeth and Leicester. Her previous book, Blood Sisters, was a dramatic portrait of the women whose dynastic ambitions and rivalries fuelled the Wars of the Roses. She lives in Camden, London, and Kent.


‘Gristwood handles multiple narrative strands with tremendous finesse... Densely packed with fascinating material, this immensely ambitious undertaking succeeds triumphantly.'

- Literary Review

‘A masterpiece that effortlessly and enthrallingly interweaves the amazing stories of women who ruled in Europe during the Renaissance period...and a pacy and illuminating good read.'

- Alison Weir

‘Engaging and highly readable.'

- BBC History Magazine, Books of the Year

‘Gristwood brings them all to life with her usual mix of character study and pacy narrative'.

- History Revealed

‘Gristwood interweaves the drama of monarchy with its more domestic moments.'

- Telegraph

A fast-paced chronological narrative bursting with intrigue.'

- Publishers Weekly

‘Sarah Gristwood's study of the brilliant, beleaguered and often bloody difficult women who kept Europe going in the sixteenth century is compelling, clear-eyed, beautifully rendered and never-more-timely.'

- Jessie Childs

‘A magnificent exploration of a most remarkable groupGristwood gives us impeccable research, incisive attention to detail and exquisite writing as she investigates these truly fascinating women and their lives of courage, tribulation and determination. Absolutely unputdownable.'

- Kate Williams, author of The Storms of War