The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

Bloomsbury. Feb. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9781635574913. $30. HIST
Between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Carolingians, there was a lesser-known Frankish empire led by the fierce Merovingians. The fiercest among them were two queens: Brunhild and Fredegund. In a time when much of Europe was navigating the challenge of reassessing its lost Roman identity and trying to take its first steps into an uncertain future, the Merovingian queens stood up to the challenge as politicians and army commanders. Both queens were rebellious and violently unforgiving to treason, but each was also quick to outmaneuver assassination attempts and plot their own rebellions around their other responsibilities (negotiating political marriages, building international relationships with allies, and navigating domestic crises). Poet Puhak (Guinevere in Baltimore) takes the audience deep into the lives of these ruling women and shows how they were both capable and skilled as they climbed to the height of their power. They reigned during an era of which there is limited historical record; Puhak contends that this made it easy for the queens’ adversaries to reduce their memory to crude misogynistic stereotypes that encouraged the populace to fear women with power.
VERDICT A compelling read for those with an interest in early medieval European history, Merovingian history, and women in power.
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