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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review: Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr


Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Di by Kris Waldherr
Paperback, 176 pages
Broadway
October 28, 2008
★★★★★

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Personal Collection

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” (from Amazon.com).

Kris Waldherr’s book of “royal women who met bad ends” is a witty, fun look at the downside of being a female royal. I read the whole book in one sitting. This is a nice summary book of these 50 women. There are usually 2 pages devoted to each royal woman – and accordingly you don’t get an in-depth look at their lives – but you do get to know the important backstory that lead to their death. And their deaths are really what the whole book is about anyway.

This isn’t just a book for you to read, but also to look at. There are gorgeous drawings throughout that correspond with the different women. I really loved that some of these were renditions of famous artworks but there has been something sinister added to them that foreshadows their end. It was beautiful. A word of caution – I have heard many people say that these images do not transfer to the e-book versions. So if you want to get this one, I would recommend avoiding the e-book, or you will lose half of the experience. Beyond the narrative and the images, there is a cautionary moral at the end of each story as well as quizzes at the end of each chapter.

I also appreciated that there was a wide selection of royal women included. There were the famous that everyone knows about and then there were those that most have never heard of. It was interesting to see how many of these women were connected to each other in some way – these tragedies tended to run in families.

I would recommend this book to anyone that is new to the genre for a light introduction and to those who have been reading historical for a long time for a little something different.
Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).
 
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
 
And if you want more fun:

• Doomed Queens: Royal Playing Cards – your standard playing card deck with each card featuring a different doomed queen – with some essential facts
• Ask the Queen: Advice Card Deck – The answers to your everyday questions provided by these famous royal women
• Take the Doomed Queens Facebook Quiz
• Read an excerpt of the book
• Visit Kris Waldherr’s blog
• Watch the book teaser






Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

5 comments:

  1. Such a lovely review! I will definitely put this book on my wishlist, as I really like doomed queens. Not in a morbid sense, but these women led very exciting lives, that's why.

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  2. This looks absolutely delightful -- and sounds to me like a wonderful holiday gift as well, no?

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  3. This looks so interesting -- I love books like this! I have two of Leslie Carroll's books (Notorious Royal Marriages and one other about royal mistresses) and I might need to add this one to the list! Thanks for the review!

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  4. I love Kris Waldherr's work so much -- been dying to see this book in person!

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  5. Irena - I understand your fascination, believe me.

    Coffee and a Book Chick - I think it would be a great gift for a history lover.

    Joanne - It reminds me very much of Leslie Carroll's books - which I loved too!

    Audra - I loved her drawings!

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