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November 23, 2008

A Book for us Fortunate Queens, and Duchesses


Check out DOOMED QUEENS...

The holidays are approaching, soon the weather will cool down, and there will be nothing you want to do more than lay around in your best gown, your necks and fingers dripping with opulence as you sip exotic hot teas and cocoas. When you find this time for yourself this month you need to have a copy in-hand of Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Di . It is the type of book that, as you approach those last pages you think, "oh my! How can I possibly make these last six pages last longer! How can it be over so soon!" Well that is basically the basis of Doomed Queens. Author Kris Waldherr has presented us with 50 fabulous Queens, who may have found themselves asking -"oh my! How can I possibly make these days last longer! How can it be over so soon!"

If you enjoyed the exciting ride through history in Black Adder V - Back and Forth, and the juicy bits of history on both Marie Antoinette’s and Georgiana's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century, I know you will stay seated for the tour through the lives of Doomed Queens. For a moment you will dip into the life of a Queen. You do not stay for long, but long enough to know her. Each Queen you visit is fascinating in her own way and her story is capped off with a humorous 'Cautionary Moral' to help us make better informed decisions in our own fabulous lives. On top of that Waldherr has illustrated the book, and the imagery and "Graphics Key" are excellent. Oh *bonus* the front and back cover are designed with miniature paper dolls of select Queens. Idea for using as classy bookmarks!

Entrevue!
I had a few fun questions for Kris Waldherr, and I have a feeling you will enjoy her answers as much as I did!

Which of the queens in your book would best fall under these titles: Rock and Roll Queen
―Princess Diana, though she was a queen of hearts, rather than a full-fledged queen if you will. I love the image of her bopping on her walkman to Dire Straits while Prince Charles has his nose stuck in a Laurens van der Post tome.

Evil Queen
―Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great. She was like something out of a Grimm's fairy tale. She even roasted her rival's children to death -- pretty gruesome stuff.

Fas
hion Queen
―Well, obviously Marie Antoinette, n'est pas? Even if Marie was unfairly accused in the Affair of the Necklace, she was still awfully fond of diamonds, feathers, and fashion. Also, believe it or not, Anne Boleyn. She imported continental fashions with her when she returned to the English court from her time serving Queen Claude in France. Jane Seymour, her successor, quickly came out against the French hoods Anne was so fond of, and forbid her ladies in waiting from wearing them. They weren't too thrilled, since French hoods were more comfortable than the gable hood (those heavy headdresses that are shaped like a house).


Warrior Queen
―Oooh, easy one. Boudicca, the Celtic warrior queen who took on the Romans and lost. Variety magazine referred to a film about her as "Braveheart with a Bra." Zenobia would come in a close second, though.

Faux Queen
―Hmmm, that could be Arsinoe, Cleopatra's sister who tried to grab the throne from her. When she was in exile, she encouraged others to address her as queen, which was asking for trouble. And she got it: Cleopatra convinced Mark Antony to arrange for her sister's assassination not long after.

Bohemian Queen
―I would have to cite Caroline of Brunswick, who ended up living a rather scandalous life on the continent after her marriage to England's George VI went south. She was especially fond of dancing topless for her guests during wild dinner parties.
Scholarly Queen
―There are a number of well-educated queens in DOOMED QUEENS. However, if I was to choose one whose intellectual predilections led to her demise, that crown would go to Amalasuntha, the Ostrogoth queen of the Dark Ages. When she became regent for her son, she decide to import the best of Roman culture to the Goths, who weren't too thrilled with her decision. As I write in DOOMED QUEENS, "the public outcry was as if Amalasuntha had switched channel from WWE to PBS mid-match."

Beauty Queen
―In terms of personal obsession with beauty, Elisabeth of Bavaria, the fin de siecle empress of Austria and queen of Hungary, would take that title. In her youth, Elisabeth (better known as Sisi) was noted as the world's most beautiful woman and led an unhappy life of unwilling celebrity. Perhaps in response, she became preoccupied with her looks to the point of mental disease. For example, Sisi would wash her famously long hair — think of a Viennese Rapunzel —in expensive French cognac and egg yolks and subsist on broth to preserve her figure.

Man-eater Queen
―Without a doubt, Queen Anula of the south Indian kingdom of Sri Lanka. She was like something out of Basic Instinct: Many men who slept with her did not survive too long afterward. Her favorite mode of dispatching them to the great beyond? Poison.

What is your favorite Queen movie?
―At first I was going to say Lady Jane, which is about Jane Grey, England's teenage queen for nine days. Besides being an old-fashioned weepie depicting innocent idealism getting slammed by cruel fate, I love anything with Helena Bonham Carter. But, after thinking it over, I'd have to say Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett. Though I'd hardly call Elizabeth I a doomed queen, this is an incredibly powerful movie depicting the dangers and intrigues of royal life. Just thinking of the film's finale sends a shiver up my spine. Elizabeth makes the decision to sacrifice her humanity (symbolized by the cutting of her hair) in order to transform herself into a royal symbol worthy of worship by her subjects.

Book?
―I love Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: The Journey. It's a very nuanced biography of a polarizing queen. The details of Marie Antoinette's final imprisonment and execution are just heartrending -- you get a sense of how far she'd fallen from grace. This is the book which inspired Sofia Coppela's film Marie Antoinette (which I liked a lot). Also, when I was a child there was a series of beautifully illustrated YA biographies of royal women that I loved. I've looked for them in antiquarian bookstores without luck. I remember first reading about Jane Grey in this series.

Are there any doomed queens who got away?
―Some queens did get to keep their heads, though they lost their thrones. One of my favorite doomed queens-with-a-second-act is Zenobia, the queen of Palmyra. She waged war against the Roman Empire when they got too interested in her territories. After Zenobia was captured in battle, she pragmatically decided that if you can't beat them, join them. So she married a Roman senator and lived the rest of her life in bourgeois comfort.
Scattered throughout the book are quotes from the Queens called "Out of the Mouths of Babes." Some ladies that you have quoted are Cleopatra, Jane Grey, and Anne Boleyn. How did you choose which Queens to quote and which queenly quote of theirs to write?
―It wasn't an easy to decide which quotes to include, since there are so many great ones out there. Ultimately, I chose quotes which best furthered the theme of my book. It was also important to me to show a balance throughout history. This became tricky, since some eras abound more in more quotes than others; the Tudors and their relatives are very chatty in that respect. In some cases, I had to get creative. For example, for Cleopatra, I used a quote from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, since there aren't surviving letters from the queen of the Nile (at least none that I'm aware of).
I could not stop reading the lives of these Doomed Queens and I wonder, is there a possibility for a work on Fortunate Queens? Or even Undistinguished Queens?
―I'm hoping to do another royally-themed book, though I suspect it may not be queens. But it will probably be equally dark and feminist and elaborately designed. Right now, I'm working out the details.
We love gossip here! I understand that a lot of editing information is involved as you write. Did you come across any interesting bits of gossip/history in your research that you loved but did not include in the book? If so you must divulge it with us!

―Early on, I decided that DOOMED QUEENS would feature fifty queens, which allowed for a great expanse of history sometimes at the expense of detail. So there were a lot of tales that I would have loved to include, but simply didn't have room for. One story which shocked me was that Jane Grey's body was left uncollected for several hours after she was beheaded. The reason for this? With Mary Tudor now on the throne, the Catholic church was back in power. So no one knew what to do with Jane's Protestant remains -- talk about adding insult to injury.

Thank you Kris! If you have any questions for the author of Doomed Queens, you can reach her via her website.

.......Surprise!! A Give Away!

In my possession is one mint copy of Doomed Queens, signed by Kris Waldherr,… and I am giving it away to one lucky reader! (yes that means you!) To enter, please leave a comment on this post telling me who your all-time favorite Queen is by Friday 28 November. The winner will be drawn out of a beautiful green hat with pink striped satin ribbon and white lace. Seriously!

Waldherr, Kris. 2008. Doomed queens. New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 9780767928991
Available on Amazon

21 comments

  1. My all time fave queen... i would have to say Marie Antoinette. She's feisty and sexy, and wacky all rolled into one. If she happens to be living today, she's gonna put hollywood scandals to shame, haha!!!

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  2. Another book I must put on my to read list. I have a book of shelves and a box of books to read as well. I will get through it.

    My fav is Marie Antoinette. Ever since the movie with Kirsten Dunst came out, I have become a little obsessed with her. One of the many reasons why I like your blog, Lauren!

    Though, I knew about Lady Jane Grey, I did not know about her forgotten body. How sad.

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  3. I have three favourite queens: Marie Antoinette, Mary Queen of Scots, and Catherine of Aragon.

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  4. Obviously, Marie Antoinette

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  5. My fave is Elisabeth, aka Sissi, for sheer crazy power!

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  6. I have to say my favorite queen is Marie Leszczinska, poor thing. I feel sorry for her! She is totally forgotten, always in the shadow of her husband's mistress, Mme de Pompadour. But she was a good queen in her own right, she really never caused any scandal. She commissioned a lot of important art at Versailles, including her famous portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier. I love her!

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  7. This sounds like a great book...wow to have all these queens into one volume...a must read, I'm sure.

    As for me, I'm always intrigued by Mary Queen of Scots...but truly, my heart is with Josephine- just everything about her!

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  8. How about our very own Princess Grace? Lovely to look at and lovely within. Horribly doomed to an early death.

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  9. This book is on my christmas list.
    My favorite queens are Catherine the Great of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria. Love those enlightened women. So much more then arm candy.

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  10. mine would be....

    england's queen elizabeth the first.

    this book is already on my list of to buys so maybe i can win it first!

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  11. I have been fascinated with Zenobia for a while- she accomplished so much in a short period of time.

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  12. All time favorite?

    Does Joesphine count? I love her personality and her whole relationship with Napoloen, and she's got this really awesome quote about how when she moved into the Tuileries, the ghost of Marie Antoinette kept looking over her shoulder. Also, her rose gardens...!

    If not, then definitely Marie Antoinette. She was thoroughly unprepared for the life she was sort of shoved into, but she pulled it off with totally fashionable aplomb. :D

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  13. Not only would I love to read this book, I want the hat!

    I really enjoyed the interview. She's so snappy and engaging. I imagine her books would have a similar flavor.

    As for favorite queens, that's a hard call. I like Marie Antoinette for her sheer star quality and exquisite taste, but I also like Catherine of Aragon. She stuck to her guns (though it did little good) and was a good queen and well-liked. And since I think Henry VIII was a cretinous toad, I like to root for her. (She was kind a of Jennifer Aniston to Anne Boleyn's Angelina Jolie.) And let's not forget Catherine of Braganza. It must have been quite a ride living with Charles II, but at least he didn't drop her like a hot coal because she didn't have children.

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  14. Though normally people would think with my obsession with the late 18th Century it would be our dear Antoinette (and in truth, I do love her, but it is her dear late husband who fascinates me more,) it is, in actuality the most wonderful Joanna the Mad! She's quite a character...though perhaps not doomed in the "off with your head," sense, but quite an interesting character. :)

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  15. Marie Antoinette, most definitely. Eleanor of Aquitaine comes in second.

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  16. my favorite queen is Anne Boleyn! Marie Antoinette is a close second though, followed by Mary, Queen of Scots. It's hard to beat those Tudor girls.

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  17. if i enter twice does that greaten my chances????

    my second choice would be catherine of aragon because of how enduring and faithful to her cause that she was....

    :) come on...it's worth a try

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  18. Marie Antoinette, of course! She was just so young and unprepared for the French court. The aunts, the King, and her mother's letters, oy!

    Then, of course, Anne Boleyn. She too was unprepared...or maybe she prepared too much - no wait - that was Catherine Howard who rehearsed putting her head on the block...

    Love this blog, Thanks!

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  19. England's Elizabeth the First-what an amazing life!

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  20. I've always loved Elizabeth I, she's untouchable and iconic but so human at the same time.

    Anne Boleyn is fascinating to me as well-so ambitious and feisty!

    I've also been on a Marie Antoinette kick lately (natch)!

    ...oh, and Tsarina Alexandra (Nicolas II's consort)!

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  21. Catherine the Great!
    What an amazing woman!!

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