Saturday, April 3, 2010

Notorious Royal Marriages

Notorious Royal Marriages
By Leslie Carroll
New American Library, 2010
498 pages
Non-fiction; European

Summary: An examination of notorious royal marriages from Henry and Eleanor to Henry and his six wives to Charles and Diana.

Why I Read: My mom read it and passed it on to me.

My Thoughts: This is a delightfully gossipy history that is far more interesting than every other book I've been assigned to read this semester for history. I was surprised at how many of the couples were love matches! The big thing is that most of the ladies are repurposed from traditional portrayals into thinking, acting feminists in large part. I'm going to talk a little bit about most of the couples mentioned:

Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII and Henry II: I had seen the Katharine Hepburn film The Lion in Winter (and you know the character is awesome if Kate plays her!) but I didn't know all that much about her. Now I very much want to read more both non-fiction and historical fiction about her.

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: I read about this couple in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' The Founding, where the characters were decidedly negative toward them but they were in love and seem to have been generally happy.

FerdinandandIsabella: He is such a tool (as will be explained more in his daughter's chapter) but they seem to have been very much in love and together were powerful Catholic monarchs.

Joanna and Philip: Philip and Joanna's father Ferdinand were such jerks; it got me thinking about portrayals of women through history (she's known as Joanna the Mad).

Arthur and Katherine of Aragon: Not much to say about this couple other than did they or didn't they?

Henry VIII and his wives: Apparently four of them had auburn hair so I guess he had a type and he seems to have been as much in love with five of them as he had the capacity to be (Anne of Cleves alas was not pretty enough to tempt him)

Henri II and Catherine de Medici: Not a love match on his side but she loved him and her role in ruling France was very impressive. She was the daughter of no one important who was then queen and mother of three kings!

Mary, Queen of Scots and her three husbands: Wow, was she in a crappy position.

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette: Apparently her spendthrift ways began before she gave brith and set her reputation for the rest of her life. They also ended up having quite a kind and intimate relationship especially once they were deposed.

George IV, the bigamist, and Maria Fitzherbert and Caroline of Brunswick: I completely understand Jane Austen's antipathy to this man because he is not honorable.

Napoleon and Marie Louise: She was kind of weird. Read it

Victoria and Albert: Obviously this was a love match but one fraught with conflict as Victoria sought to be a traditional wife who submits to her husband (WHY?!) yet cannot submit to anyone besides God as the British monarch.

Franz Joseph and Elisabeth: I read the story of her youth in those Royal Diaries series (Check those out for the 8-10 year old girl in your life.)

Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra: Another love match! I didn't know! Their story is also tragic, I mean beyond their end.

Edward VIII and Wallis: I did not know that they were fascists! I'm actually really glad that he abdicated. What if Edward and Hitler had made some kind of an alliance?!

Overall: 4 out of 5.

Cover: Not sure who that is supposed to be but it fits the style and tone.

Can anyone recommend any enjoyable books, nonfiction or historical, about any of the couples?

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