Birth of the Chess Queen
By Marilyn Yalom
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780060090654, 320pp.)
Publication Date: May 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
Everyone knows that the queen is the most dominant piece in chess, but few people know that the game existed for five hundred years without her. It wasn't until chess became a popular pastime for European royals during the Middle Ages that the queen was born and was gradually empowered to become the king's fierce warrior and protector.
Birth of the Chess Queen examines the five centuries between the chess queen's timid emergence in the early days of the Holy Roman Empire to her elevation during the reign of Isabel of Castile. Marilyn Yalom, inspired by a handful of surviving medieval chess queens, traces their origin and spread from Spain, Italy, and Germany to France, England, Scandinavia, and Russia. In a lively and engaging historical investigation, Yalom draws parallels between the rise of the chess queen and the ascent of female sovereigns in Europe, presenting a layered, fascinating history of medieval courts and internal struggles for power.
Marilyn Yalom is a former professor of French and presently a senior scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. She is the author of widely acclaimed books such as A History of the Breast, A History of the Wife, and Birth of the Chess Queen, as well as The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History Through our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds, which includes a portfolio of photographs by her son Reid S. Yalom. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, the psychiatrist and author Irvin D. Yalom.
“Both chess fans and those unfamiliar with the game will enjoy this absorbing look at the evolution of chess.”
“An enticing portal into the past…. Yalom writes passionately and accessibly about this esoteric topic.”
-Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A well-researched and enjoyable book.”
“Marilyn Yalom has written the rare book that illuminates something that always has been dimly perceived but never articulated.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer