The Most Powerful Women in the Middle Ages by Melissa Rank, Michael Rank

A biographical history of the 10 most powerful women in the Middle Ages

The most powerful women in the middle ages

The idea of a powerful woman in the Middle Ages seems like an oxymoron. Females in this time are imagined to be damsels in distress, trapped in a high tower, and waiting for knights to rescue them, all while wearing traffic-cones for a hat. After rescue, their lives improved little. Their career choices were to be either a docile queen, housewife, or be burned at the stake for witchcraft. 

But what if this image of medieval women is a complete fiction? 

It turns out that it is. Powerful female rulers fill the Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon queen Aethelflaed personally led armies into direct combat with Vikings in the 900s and saved England from foreign invasion. Byzantine Empress Theodora kept the empire from falling apart during the Nika Revolts and stopped her husband Justinian from fleeing Constantinople. Catherine of Siena almost single-handedly restored the papacy to Rome in the 1300s and navigated the brutal and male-dominated world of Italian politics. Joan of Arc completely reversed the fortunes of France in the Hundred Years War and commanded assaults on English fortresses despite being an illiterate 17-year-old peasant. 

This book will look at the lives of the ten most powerful women in the Middle Ages. Whether it is the famed scholar Anna Komnene, who wrote the first narrative history, or Ottoman Queen Mother Kösem Sultan, who ruled the Islamic empire through three of her sons – all these women held extraordinary levels of power at a time when women were thought to not have any. 

It will explore how they managed to ascend the throne, what made their accomplishments so notable, and the impact they had on their respective societies after their deaths. It will also describe the historical background of these women, their cultures, and what about it helped or hindered their rise. 

Genre: HISTORY / General

Secondary Genre: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / General

Language: English


Word Count: 32,000

Sales info:

This book has sold thousands of copies and peaked above 5,000 in the Amazon rankings. 

Sample text:

Chapter 7:


Joan of Arc (1412-1431): The Maiden of Orléans and History's Most Lethal 'Heretic'

“The character of Joan of Arc is unique. It can be measured by the standards of all times without misgiving or apprehension as to the result. Judged by any of them, judged by all of them, it is still flawless, it is still ideally perfect; it still occupies the loftiest place possible to human attainment, a loftier one than has been reached by any other mere mortal.” And so Mark Twain described the character of the legendary French commander in 1908 as the bravest soul in human history.

But is it true? More specifically, are the tales of her heroic deeds in fact tales, or the remarkable factual accounts of a hero remembered to this day? Much of Joan of Arc's story is so fantastic that it approaches the outer limits of plausibility. A 17-year-old French peasant marches up to the king and demands that she be given the right to command his forces. He agrees, despite her having no education or military experience. She cuts her hair short and wears armor to appear as a man to her enemies on the battlefield.

Against all odds, she leads the army in a string of victories against the English, among the most elite fighting forces in the world. And this is an army composed of French soldiers, no less. These victories follow decades of French defeat in the Hundred Years War in which France is on the brink of annihilation. She turns the momentum of the war completely around and pushes the English off the continent. Joan is then captured and executed under trumped-up charges of witchcraft. Decades later she is declared innocent by a papal court, and centuries later canonized to become one of France's five patron saints. 

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