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Travels with a Medieval Queenby Mary Taylor Simeti
Synopses & Reviews
Two Women Set Out Across Europe in Search of a Dead Queen
The medieval queen in question is Constance of Hauteville, daughter of the Norman King Roger II of Sicily, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, and mother to the Emperor Frederick II. In 1194, at the age of forty, Constance journeyed from Germany south to reconquer her father's throne. On the way she discovered that she was pregnant for the first time. She decided to give birth in public so that the world would know the child was truly hers. These intriguing facts, and very few others, are all we know directly of Constance's life.
Seventeen years ago, Mary Taylor Simeti promised in On Persephone's Island--her now-classic memoir of an American in Sicily--that she would someday tell the story of Constance (who was, like her, an expatriate and the mother of a bicultural family). In Travels with a Medieval Queen, Simeti keeps her promise: retracing Constance's route from Germany to Sicily, contrasting the exotic setting of Constance's childhood in Palermo with that of her married life in the north, and drawing on reading in contiguous fields to flesh out a spare legacy of historical facts. This is the beautifully illustrated chronicle of Simeti's twentieth-century travels, first in books, then on the road, as she searches the landscapes and the monuments that survive from the twelfth century for clues to the inner life of a mother who was also a monarch.
"Author Simeti, an American who has lived in Italy for four decades and written beautifully about her beloved Sicily in On Persephone's Island, has concocted another remarkable book about a medieval queen of Sicily who traveled widely, gave birth to one of the most outstanding figures of the Middle Ages in Frederick II of the Holy Roman Emperor, and was herself by all accounts a fascinating character. Simeti tries to reconstruct the journey from her husband's Germany to her native Sicily that Queen Constance of Hauteville took in the late 12th century and by so doing so, seeks also to uncover the inner world of this little-known but highly educated woman. As she follows the route of Queen Constance, the author communicates clearly her love of her subject and succeeds in transferring this sense of romance to her readership. This is a book that will please both the connoisseur of good travel writing and the historian in thrall to the Middle Ages. An excellent read." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
About the Author
Mary Taylor Simeti, an American writer who has kived in Silcily for almost forty years, is the author of On Perephone's Island, Pomp and Sustenance, and Bitter Almonds.
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