New Books about Royals and Their Relatives

  March 18, 2009 at 7:57 pm by

Doomed Queens

Click the image to see the reviews at Amazon

When I made my last visit to the library, I grabbed a copy of Book Page, “America’s Book Review.” And there’s a few new books that might be of interest to members of the Royal Forums. I haven’t read them and must rely on BP’s reviews, but three might be of interest to you.

Uppity Women of the Renaissance

Click the image to see the reviews at Amazon

If you’re in the mood for humor and would like to broaden your knowledge of royal women, take a peek at Kris Waldherr’s Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends from Cleopatra to Princess Di. She tells the women’s life stories in brief and provides a lesson at the end of each. After Princess Diana she advises “Avoid men with cameras and Camillas.” If you enjoy this, you might enjoy the Uppity Women series (by Vicki Leon) which I have enjoyed.

In Triumph's Wake

Click the image to see the reviews at Amazon

Next is a three-part look at regnant queens and their less fortunate daughters who married royals in other countries. Julia P. Gelardi has written In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory. In each case, the mothers ruled while their husbands played supporting roles. The daughters were all married off as part of the diplomatic process, with sad results. The heroine pairs are Isabella of Castile and Catherine of Aragon; Empress Maria Theresa and Marie Antoinette; and Queen Victoria and Princess Vicky, briefly the Empress Frederick.

Wedlock

Click the image to see the reviews at Amazon

I really want to read this next book, which looks at an ancestress of the Queen Mother. Wedlock is written by Amanda Foreman, who authored Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire. Maybe another movie is in the offing? I think this would be a great film and possibly one that would interest feminists. Wedlock is the story of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore (back in the eighteenth-century before the Bowes hyphenated their name with Lyon). Apparently, the Countess’ ill-treatment at the hands of her second husband was a shocking matter and caused a drastic change in divorce law.

Born in 1749, Mary Eleanor fell in love with the hard-drinking, spendthrift Earl of Strathmore whose only real interest was renovating his run-down castle, Glamis, with her money. (As part of their marriage agreement, the Earl, John Lyon, changed his name to Bowes. Some of their children, including the Queen Mother’s direct ancestor, hypenated their family names.) But Mary Eleanor was a tough character, who engrossed herself in botany, writing dramas, and taking lovers. By the time the Earl died in 1776 they were the parents of five children. Unfortunately Mary Eleanor was a fertile lady and kept getting into trouble (she wrote one of the first first-hand accounts of abortion before it was legalized). Eventually she was trapped into marrying one of her lovers who had claimed he was on his deathbed after being injured in a duel over her reputation. The countess was subjected to humiliation and abuse of all types; among other things, her new husband, Stoney Bowes (who also took her name) was a rapist who attacked their household servants. And unhappiness ensued for years. This story eventually became the basis for the book The Luck of Barry Lyndon. Mary Eleanor was recognized for her literary work. She was buried in Westminster Abbey and has a memorial in Poets Corner.

Happy reading!

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