Before France became France its territories included Occitania, roughly the present-day province of Languedoc. The city of Narbonne was a center of Occitanian commerce and culture during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. For most of the second half of the twelfth century, that city and its environs were ruled by a remarkable woman, Ermengard, who negotiated her city's way through a maze of everchanging dynastic alliances. Fredric L. Cheyette's masterful and beautifully illustrated book is a biography of an extraordinary warrior woman and of a unique, vulnerable, doomed society. Throughout her long reign, viscountess Ermengard roamed Occitania receiving oaths of fidelity, negotiating treaties, settling disputes among the lords of her lands, and camping with her armies before the walls of besieged cities. She was born into a world of politics and warfare, but from the Mediterranean to the North Sea her name echoed in songs that treated the arts of love.