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House of Lilies. The Dynasty that Made Medieval France

Justine Firnhaber-Baker

FIRNHABER-BAKER Justine, House of Lilies. The Dynasty that Made Medieval France, Londres, Penguin Books, 2024.

ISBN : 978-0-24155-277-3.

The sweeping story of one of the great epics of Europe’s history : the rise and rise of the dynasty that dominated the Middle Ages

Starting in the tenth century from an insecure foothold around Paris, the Capetians built a nation that stretched from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and from the Rhône to the Pyrenees. They founded practices and institutions that endured until the Revolution, transformed Paris from a muddy backwater to a splendid metropole, and popularized the fleur-de-lys, the lily, as the emblem of France. Time and again, their opponents woefully misjudged who they were up against, as through guile, ruthlessness, luck and marriage the Capetians disposed of them all.

This is the story of the most powerful kingdom in Christendom. It is a tale of religious upheaval, heroism, adulterous affairs, holy wars, pogroms and persecution. From Hugh Capet to Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Capetians were men and women of vision and ambition, who considered themselves chosen by God to fulfil a great destiny. They did not simply rule France : they created it.

House of Lilies is a highly enjoyable account of this extraordinary sequence of events, set against one of the great eras in the history of western Europe. Justine Firnhaber-Baker brilliantly conveys not only the cultural effervescence of the French court, but also the intellectual achievements, the battles and the religious fervour, as well as the series of catastrophes that led to the dynasty’s ultimate demise.

Justine Firnhaber-Baker is Professor of History at the University of St Andrews. She is the author of The Jacquerie of 1358 and Violence and the State in Languedoc, 1250-1400.