Friday, August 7, 2015

Beginning with a dream — or is it a nightmare?

Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Di ~ by Kris Waldherr, 2008, history

Opening lines:
Welcome to your favorite dream and worst nightmare.  You are cosseted in silk, crowned with gold, and bowed to.  Courtiers laugh at your jokes and compliment your beauty, even when you know you're having a bad hair day.  All envy you, but things change.  Just years later, even those who admired you steer clear of your path.  Your influence is on the wane for any number of reasons.  The fault could be yours . maybe you aren't as clever as you thought in the scheming department.  Or it could be that others are scheming against you.
A new acquaintance handed me this book, saying she was sure I'd like it.  Um, nope, I don't think so.  It tries very hard to be quirky and fun, but it isn't one that interests me.  I'd rather read some of the other books on my shelves, on my bedside table, on my Kindle.  But maybe it's right up your alley.  Here's a summary of the book:
Illicit love, madness, betrayal it isn't always good to be the queen.  Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, and Mary, Queen of Scots.  What did they have in common? For a while they were crowned in gold, cosseted in silk, and flattered by courtiers.  But in the end, they spent long nights in dark prison towers and were marched to the scaffold where they surrendered their heads to the executioner.  And they are hardly alone in their undignified demises.  Throughout history, royal women have had a distressing way of meeting bad ends dying of starvation, being burned at the stake, or expiring in childbirth while trying desperately to produce an heir.  They always had to be on their toes and all too often even devious plotting, miraculous pregnancies, and selling out their sisters was not enough to keep them from forcible consignment to religious orders.  From Cleopatra (suicide by asp), to Princess Caroline (suspiciously poisoned on her coronation day), there's a gory downside to being blue-blooded when you lack a Y chromosome.  Kris Waldherr's elegant little book is a chronicle of the trials and tribulations of queens across the ages, a quirky, funny, utterly macabre tribute to the dark side of female empowerment.  Over the course of fifty irresistibly illustrated and too-brief lives, Doomed Queens charts centuries of regal backstabbing and intrigue.  We meet well-known figures like Catherine of Aragon, whose happy marriage to Henry VIII ended prematurely when it became clear that she was a starter wife the first of six.  And we meet forgotten queens like Amalasuntha, the notoriously literate Ostrogoth princess who overreached politically and was strangled in her bath. While their ends were bleak, these queens did not die without purpose.  Their unfortunate lives are colorful cautionary tales for today's would-be power brokers a legacy of worldly and womanly wisdom gathered one spectacular regal ruin at a time.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Odd-looking cover, but I guess it matches with the content.


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