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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book Review: Notorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll

Notorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll
ARC, Paperback, 464 pages
NAL Trade
January 5, 2010

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Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: From author Leslie Carroll for Review during the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table Kick-Off Event (thanks Leslie!)

"A funny, raucous, and delightfully dirty 900-year history of the royal marriages of Europe's most famous-and infamous-monarchs.
Since time immemorial, royal marriages have had little to do with love- and almost everything to do with diplomacy and dynasty. Clashing personalities have joined in unholy matrimony to form such infamous couples as Russia's Peter II and Catherine the Great, and France's Henri II and Catherine de Medici-all with the purpose of begetting a male heir. But with tensions high and silverware flying, kings like England's Henry II have fled to the beds of their nubile mistresses, while queens such as Eleanor of Aquitaine have plotted their revenge... 
Full of the juicy gossip and bad behavior that characterized Royal Affairs, this book chronicles the love-hate marriages of the crowned heads of Europe-from the Angevins to Charles and Di-and ponders how dynasties ever survived at all."
Non-fiction can be dry and stuffy – just a pile of facts laid out across the page; not so with Leslie Carroll’s new book! The way Leslie presents each royal couple it is like having a conversation with her. She is funny, witty, and gives great passing commentary. Here is an example of what I mean, from the section on Arthur Tudor and Katherine of Aragon:
“The bishop blessed the couple and wished them many years of fruitful life together, then departed and left the newlyweds to nature. Or not – depending on whom you asked. And depending on the circumstances in which you asked, and how many days, weeks, or years it was from the wedding night itself.” (pg 68)
There are 32 royal couples that are discussed in this book and they are arranged by date of marriage: from the earliest to the most recent. This makes it easier to go back to for quick reference if there is a piece of trivia you want to remember – and there are a lot of fun facts throughout. No book on royal marriages would be complete without Henry Tudor and all of his many brides – I learned a few things, which goes to show you can never know everything about the Tudors. There were couples that I knew nothing about, or had ever heard of – such as George I and Sophia Dorothea of Celle. This book also discussed more modern royal couples – such as Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco and Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Some of the stories/couples that turned out to be my favorites really surprised me. My favorite couple would have to be Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia. I knew the obligatory already: they were the parents of Anastasia and were executed in the Bolshevik Revolution. What I didn’t know is that they were one of the few royal couples (at least of those in the book) that loved each other and loved spending time together. They didn’t have affairs or bastard children – they were just a great couple, and that was cut short.

I really enjoyed how every several pages you advanced a few years, changed locations, and changed the cast of characters. It was a great book if you only have a little bit of time to read here and there. It always kept your attention with the little details and anecdotes from letters and other primary sources.

A great introductory book for anyone who is new to the royal scene as well as those who are looking for a little more in depth details about their favorite couples.

You can read an excerpt from Notorious Royal Marriages here.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia
Also by Leslie Carroll:
Leslie Carroll's other non-fiction titles include:
royal affairs
Royal Affairs: A Lusty Romp Through the Extramarital Adventures That Rocked the British Monarchy
royal pains

Royal Pains: A Rogues' Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds
[My Review]

royal romances

Royal Romances: Titillating Tales of Passion and Power in the Palaces of Europe

inglorious royal marriages

Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millennium of Unholy Mismatrimony
[My Review]

the royals

The Royals
[My Review]

Find Leslie Carroll: Website | Blog | Twitter

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I saw this book in my college's bookstore when I was waiting in line to buy books today and got really excited. I'm going to have to go back and get it now!

  2. I went to the store today to get this..and they didn't have it (at least anywhere that I looked). They had Royal Affairs though...but I want to get both of them together.

  3. I so agree that this is a great "introductory book" for those who are maybe new to historical royal scandals and want to learn a some interesting tidbits about royals. I think it is the perfect start off for our event because you can read about the couples in Leslie's books and then find historical fiction on your favorite couples. I really recommend it as well! Such a great, entertaining read. Loved your review, Heather!

  4. I am looking forward to reading this.. I love the fact that I'll be learning about so many different people in one book.
    Thanks for your great review!

  5. Great review Heather! I knew you'd love it- how can one not? I loved the section on the Romanovs too- even though I chose Victoria and Albert as my favourites; I think it's more like a tie:)

    It's so true that most non-fiction can be stuffy- NRM is so refreshing in how entertaining it actually is! Thanks!

  6. Great review Heather! If I don't win it in the giveaway, I will definitely be buying it...if I can wait, that is!

  7. Excellent review Heather!

    Oh wait! And AWESOME tabs. How did you get those colors? From that thing I sent you?

  8. Great review. I love the sound of this book and the cover! Indeed a great book to learn more about the couples in history! :)

  9. Fabulous review Heather! A great novel on Sophia Dorothea is The Princess of Celle by Jean Plaidy... Lucy and I have both reviewed it and you can get link on royal-intrigue.net under Book Reviews. I also really enjoyed Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra, though I read The Kitchen Boy last year and it was so awful what happened to them. Notorious Royal Marriages will spark so much interest in different people!


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