A history of the chess queen's symbolism of Western female power discusses how the game was played prior to the piece's creation one thousand years ago, the changes to the queen's mobility over the course of five hundred years, and the piece's reflection of female royalty in medieval Europe.
Marilyn Yalom has written the rare book that illuminates something that always has been dimly perceived but never articulated.
Marilyn Yalom was a former professor of French and a senior scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. She was the author of widely acclaimed books such as A History of the Breast, A History of the Wife, Birth of the Chess Queen, and, most recently, How the French Invented Love. She lived in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, psychiatrist and author Irvin D. Yalom.
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.