Review: Heroines of the Medieval World by Sharon Bennett Connolly

I have to recommend Sharon Bennett Connolly's Heroines of the Medieval World to you. It's big, with many gripping, moving and heart-breaking stories, so you can spread the reading time over weeks or months. But once you're hooked, you keep wanting to read on. 

These women were real, flesh-and-blood people with emotions, strengths and weaknesses, who often didn't have much of a say in their fate. That's why they are even more so remarkable in what they achieved despite the odds. They are real heroines.

This is such a fascinating book, a collection about the (mis-)adventures of a wide range of famous, barely-known or infamous women of the Middle Ages. Their stories are inspiring, hair-raising and also sobering. And not all tales end well. 

But the author's meticulous research and attention to detail brings these women back to life, centuries after they lived, loved, hated, or suffered. The book shows their challenges, trials and successes without glossing over the less savoury details. 

A must-read for anyone interested in the medieval era, and how women really lived in what was essentially a man's world. Well worth five stars. 


These are the stories of women, famous, infamous and unknown, who shaped the course of medieval history. The lives and actions of medieval women were restricted by the men who ruled the homes, countries and world they lived in. It was men who fought wars, made laws and dictated religious doctrine. It was men who were taught to read, trained to rule and expected to fight. Today, it is easy to think that all women from this era were downtrodden, retiring and obedient housewives, whose sole purpose was to give birth to children (preferably boys) and serve their husbands. Heroines of the Medieval World looks at the lives of the women who broke the mould: those who defied social norms and made their own future, consequently changing lives, society and even the course of history.

Some of the women are famous, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was not only a duchess in her own right but also Queen Consort of France through her first marriage and Queen Consort of England through her second, in addition to being a crusader and a rebel. Then there are the more obscure but no less remarkable figures such as Nicholaa de la Haye, who defended Lincoln Castle in the name of King John, and Maud de Braose, who spoke out against the same king’s excesses and whose death (or murder) was the inspiration for a clause in Magna Carta.

Women had to walk a fine line in the Middle Ages, but many learned to survive – even flourish – in this male-dominated world. Some led armies, while others made their influence felt in more subtle ways, but all made a contribution to their era and should be remembered for daring to defy and lead in a world that demanded they obey and follow.

Where to find Heroines of the Medieval World:

Amazon UK: