Historian Alison Weir is launching an "ambitious" new series this autumn exploring the lives of England’s queens over four centuries "long neglected by historians", from the Norman Conquest to the end of the Wars of the Roses.
The new series, entitled England's Medieval Queens, will comprise four titles, beginning with Queens of the Conquest, coming out in hardback, trade paperback and e-book on 28th September. It will reveal the extraordinarily dramatic lives of the five queens of England in the century after the Norman Conquest, from Matilda of Flanders, who supported William the Conqueror in his invasion of England in 1066, to the life of the Empress Maud, who fought a bitter war to become queen of England in her own right.
The next three books in the series will cover the interconnected lives of England’s queens in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.
Jonathan Cape acquired World English language rights to the series (excluding US and Canada) from Julian Alexander at Lucas Alexander Whitley Literary Agency.
Weir said the project would be see the publication of her "only remaining major unpublished work", following decades of extensive research.
"I’m very excited about this new series," she said. "The story of England`s medieval queens has all the elements of a historical soap opera. After Agnes Strickland published her ground-breaking, but now hopelessly outdated and highly romanticised Lives of the Queens of England in twelve volumes in the 1840s, the story of England’s medieval queens was long neglected by historians. In recent years, interest in medieval queenship has revived, and there have been some notable academic studies, and at least two excellent composite biographies. Yet it is impossible to tell this story fully in a single volume, and I should like to do that in these four books. In writing it, I will be fulfilling the ambition of decades, for the extensive research for the series is my only remaining major unpublished work."
Bea Hemming of Jonathan Cape added the launch promised to be Weir's "most ambitious" project to date. "It is hard to imagine anyone better qualified to chronicle the extraordinary lives of England’s medieval queens, who for too long have been lost to the footnotes of history," she added.
The Queens of the Conquest cover image has been revealed on Weir’s website, created by Stephen Parker, deputy art director, and Lily Richards, picture researcher at Vintage, who between them created the series style, inspired in part by an exhibition of English Medieval embroidery at the V&A and the manuscript of the Apocalypse of St Severus.
Parker said: "We wanted to create a strong and graphic series style for England’s Medieval Queens and thought using pattern from the period would work well. We visited Opus Anglicanum, an exhibition of English Medieval embroidery at the V&A for inspiration. Whilst there was plenty to look at and to keep in mind for the later books in the series, so few textile fragments remain from the 11th and 12th centuries that we had to turn elsewhere for The Queens of Conquest. The starry background from a manuscript page from the Apocalypse of St Severus provided a colourful and bold basis for this first jacket design and the series to come."