Book News May 2020




The Habsburgs: To Rule the World

Hardcover – 12 May 2020 (US & UK)

In The Habsburgs, historian Martyn Rady tells the epic story of the Habsburg dynasty and the world it built — and then lost — over nearly a millennium, placing it in its European and global contexts. Beginning in the Middle Ages, the Habsburgs expanded from Swabia across southern Germany to Austria through forgery and good fortune. By the time a Habsburg duke was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III in 1452, he and his clan already held fast to the imperial vision distilled in its AEIOU motto: Austriae est imperare orbi universe, “Austria is destined to rule the world.” Maintaining their grip on the imperial succession of the Holy Roman Empire for centuries, the Habsburgs extended their power into Italy, Spain, the New World, and the Pacific, a dominion that Charles V called “the empire on which the sun never sets.” They then weathered centuries of religious warfare, revolution, and transformation, including the loss of their Spanish empire in 1700 and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. In 1867, the Habsburgs fatefully consolidated their remaining lands the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, setting in motion a chain of events that would end with the 1914 assassination of the Habsburg heir presumptive Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, World War I, and the end of the Habsburg era.

Cleopatra: Fact and Fiction

Paperback – 15 December 2019 (UK) & 1 May 2020 (US)

Cleopatra is one of the greatest romantic figures in history, the queen of Egypt whose beauty and allure is legendary. We think we know her story, but our image of her is largely gleaned from the film starring Elizabeth Taylor or from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Shakespeare himself was inspired by Plutarch, who was only sixteen years old when Cleopatra died. So her story was never based purely on fact.

In the middle of the first century BC, Cleopatra caught the attention of Rome by captivating the two most powerful Romans of the day, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. She outlived both and attempted to suborn a third, her mortal enemy, Octavius Caesar, the first of the Roman Emperors. Having failed to do so she destroyed herself.

We can tell that Cleopatra was highly intelligent and politically astute and that she wielded great power. But Roman histories heaped opprobrium upon her. Cleopatra’s detractors claimed that she used her feminine wiles to entrap Caesar and Antony. She came to symbolise the danger of female influence to the safety of Rome – and indeed to the male-dominated world.

Plutarch observed that Cleopatra’s actual beauty was apparently not in itself so remarkable. It was the impact of her presence that was irresistible. Cleopatra: Fact and Fiction sheds fascinating light on the woman behind the image.

The fact that Cleopatra’s legend still burns bright today is proof of Shakespeare’s description of her as a lady of infinite variety whom custom cannot stale.

 

Edward II’s Nieces: The Clare Sisters: Powerful Pawns of the Crown

Hardcover – 3 May 2020 (US) & 22 January 2020 (UK)

The de Clare sisters Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth were born in the 1290s as the eldest granddaughters of King Edward I of England and his Spanish queen Eleanor of Castile, and were the daughters of the greatest nobleman in England, Gilbert ‘the Red’ de Clare, earl of Gloucester. They grew to adulthood during the turbulent reign of their uncle Edward II, and all three of them were married to men involved in intense, probably romantic or sexual, relationships with their uncle.

When their elder brother Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, was killed during their uncle’s catastrophic defeat at the battle of Bannockburn in June 1314, the three sisters inherited and shared his vast wealth and lands in three countries, but their inheritance proved a poisoned chalice. Eleanor and Elizabeth, and Margaret’s daughter and heir, were all abducted and forcibly married by men desperate for a share of their riches, and all three sisters were imprisoned at some point either by their uncle Edward II or his queen Isabella of France during the tumultuous decade of the 1320s. Elizabeth was widowed for the third time at twenty-six, lived as a widow for just under forty years, and founded Clare College at the University of Cambridge.

Queen Victoria and The Romanovs: Sixty Years of Mutual Distrust

Hardcover – 15 February 2020 (UK) & 1 May 2020 (US)

Despite their frequent visits to England, Queen Victoria never quite trusted the Romanovs. In her letters she referred to horrid Russia and was adamant that she did not wish her granddaughters to marry into that barbaric country. Russia I could not wish for any of you, she said. She distrusted Tsar Nicholas I but as a young woman she was bowled over by his son, the future Alexander II, although there could be no question of a marriage. Political questions loomed large and the Crimean War did nothing to improve relations.

This distrust started with the story of the Queen s Aunt Julie , Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and her disastrous Russian marriage. Starting with this marital catastrophe, Romanov expert Coryne Hall traces sixty years of family feuding that include outright war, inter-marriages, assassination, and the Great Game in Afghanistan, when Alexander III called Victoria a pampered, sentimental, selfish old woman . In the fateful year of 1894, Victoria must come to terms with the fact that her granddaughter has become Nicholas II s wife, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Eventually, distrust of the German Kaiser brings Victoria and the Tsar closer together.

Permission has kindly been granted by the Royal Archives at Windsor to use extracts from Queen Victoria’s journals to tell this fascinating story of family relations played out on the world stage.

Female Monarchs and Merchant Queens in Africa (Ohio Short Histories of Africa)

Paperback – 15 May 2020 (US & UK)

In this unapologetically African-centered monograph, Nwando Achebe considers the diverse forms and systems of female leadership in both the physical and spiritual worlds, as well as the complexities of female power in a multiplicity of distinct African societies. From Amma to the goddess inkosazana, Sobekneferu to Nzingha, Nehanda to Ahebi Ugbabe, Omu Okwei, and the daughters or umuada of Igboland, Female Monarchs and Merchant Queens in Africa documents the worlds and life histories of elite African females, female principles, and (wo)men of privilege.

Chronologically and by theme, Achebe pieces together the worlds and experiences of African females from African-derived sources, especially language. Achebe explores the meaning and significance of names, metaphors, symbolism, cosmology, chronicles, songs, folktales, proverbs, oral traditions, traditions of creation, and more. From centralized to small-scale egalitarian societies, patrilineal to matrilineal systems, North Africa to sub-Saharan lands, Female Monarchs and Merchant Queens in Africa offers an unparalleled history of the remarkable African women who occupied positions of power, authority, and influence.

The Creation of the French Royal Mistress: From Agnès Sorel to Madame Du Barry

Hardcover – 1 May 2020 (US & UK)

Kings throughout medieval and early modern Europe had extraconjugal sexual partners. Only in France, however, did the royal mistress become a quasi-institutionalized political position. This study explores the emergence and development of the position of French royal mistress through detailed portraits of nine of its most significant incumbents: Agnès Sorel, Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly, Diane de Poitiers, Gabrielle d’Estrées, Françoise Louise de La Baume Le Blanc, Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Françoise d’Aubigné, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, and Jeanne Bécu.

Beginning in the fifteenth century, key structures converged to create a space at court for the royal mistress. The first was an idea of gender already in place: that while women were legally inferior to men, they were men’s equals in competence. Because of their legal subordinacy, queens were considered to be the safest regents for their husbands, and, subsequently, the royal mistress was the surest counterpoint to the royal favorite. Second, the Renaissance was a period during which people began to experience space as theatrical. This shift to a theatrical world opened up new ways of imagining political guile, which came to be positively associated with the royal mistress. Still, the role had to be activated by an intelligent, charismatic woman associated with a king who sought women as advisors. The fascinating particulars of each case are covered in the chapters of this book.

Thoroughly researched and compellingly narrated, this important study explains why the tradition of a politically powerful royal mistress materialized at the French court, but nowhere else in Europe. It will appeal to anyone interested in the history of the French monarchy, women and royalty, and gender studies.

Lust, Lies and Monarchy: The Secrets Behind Britain’s Royal Portraits

Paperback – 1 May 2020 (US)

People have long been fascinated by the stories behind royal portraits. This volume takes readers inside royal families by way of great paintings, like Holbein’s Henry VIII, van Dyck’s Charles I, Millais’ The Princes in the Tower, Freud’s Elizabeth II, and more. Featuring incredible, little known stories of the royals and illustrates, this beautiful collection is illustrated with color paintings, photos, family trees and Royal London walking tours with maps.

Medieval Women on Film: Essays on Gender, Cinema and History

Paperback – 12 May 2020 (US) & 30 January 2020 (UK)

In this first ever book-length treatment, 11 scholars with a variety of backgrounds in medieval studies, film studies, and medievalism discuss how historical and fictional medieval women have been portrayed on film and their connections to the feminist movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. From detailed studies of the portrayal of female desire and sexuality, to explorations of how and when these women gain agency, these essays look at the different ways these women reinforce, defy, and complicate traditional gender roles.

Individual essays discuss the complex and sometimes conflicting cinematic treatments of Guinevere, Morgan Le Fay, Isolde, Maid Marian, Lady Godiva, Heloise, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Joan of Arc. Additional essays discuss the women in Fritz Lang’s The Nibelungen, Liv Ullmann’s Kristin Lavransdatter, and Bertrand Tavernier’s La Passion Beatrice.

sophia hanover

Sophia – Mother of Kings: The Finest Queen Britain Never Had

Paperback – 30 May 2020 (UK) & 2 September 2020 (US)

When Sophia Dorothea of Celle married her first cousin, the future King George I, she was an unhappy bride. Filled with dreams of romance and privilege, she hated the groom she called pig snout and wept at news of her engagement. In the austere court of Hanover, the vibrant young princess found herself ignored and unwanted. Bewildered by dusty protocol and regarded as a necessary evil by her husband, Sophia Dorothea grew lonely as he gallivanted with his mistress under her nose. When Sophia Dorothea plunged headlong into a passionate and dangerous affair with Count Phillip Christoph von K nigsmarck, the stage was set for disaster. This dashing soldier was as celebrated for his looks as his bravery, and when he and Sophia Dorothea fell in love, they were dicing with death. Watched by a scheming and manipulative countess who had ambitions of her own, it was only a matter of time before scandal gripped the House of Hanover and tore the marriage of the heir to the British throne and his unhappy wife apart. Divorced and disgraced, Sophia Dorothea was locked away in a gilded cage for 30 years, whilst her lover faced an even darker fate. The story of Sophia:Mother of Kings haunted George I to his dying day.

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

Paperback – 29 May 2020 (UK) & 28 April 2020 (US)

In 1611, thirty-four-year-old Nur Jahan, daughter of a Persian noble and widow of a subversive official, became the twentieth and favourite wife of the Emperor Jahangir who ruled the Mughal Empire. An astute politician as well as a devoted partner, she issued imperial orders; coins of the realm bore her name. When Jahangir was imprisoned by a rebellious nobleman, the Empress led troops into battle and rescued him. The only woman to acquire the stature of empress in her male-dominated world, Nur was also a talented dress designer and innovative architect whose work inspired her stepson’s Taj Mahal. Nur’s confident assertion of talent and power is revelatory; it far exceeded the authority of her female contemporaries, including Elizabeth I. Here, she finally receives her due in a deeply researched and evocative biography.

The Crown in Focus: Two Centuries of Royal Photography

Hardcover – 15 May 2020 (UK & US)

The Crown in Focus traces the remarkable relationship between the British Royal Family and photography over the course of nearly 200 years, from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s enthusiastic adoption of the emerging technology in the mid-19th century to the use of Instagram by the modern monarchy. Today, photographs of the British Royal Family remain some of the most widely distributed images across the world. Featuring iconic formal portraits alongside little-known pictures from private collections, this fascinating book explores how each new development of the medium has been embraced to record royal life. Since its invention almost two centuries ago, photography has created an unprecedented intimacy between monarch and subject. Where previously royal painted portraiture allowed a degree of control and an element of creative licence and negotiation between artist and sitter, the development of the photographic image provided the public with a more personal window on to the lives of the people behind the pageantry. Over the years, the medium has helped to shape the role and purpose of the Royal Family – to the point where, in a rapidly changing society, the close connection between Crown and camera has ensured the continued survival and popularity of the British monarchy.

The Crown Dissected: An Analysis of the Netflix Series the Crown Seasons 1, 2 and 3

Paperback – 1 May 2020 (UK) & 7 February 2020 (US)

The Crown is one of North America’s favorite series. Hugo Vickers, however, has something to say about the popular series’ accuracy. All three seasons of it.

Called “the most knowledgeable royal biographer on the planet,” particularly on the period the series covers, Vickers has commented on the British Royal Family on television and radio since 1973, authored numerous books about the Royals, and acted as historical adviser on a number of films.

In his previous books on seasons one and two of The Crown, Vickers separated fact from fiction to tell readers what really happened and what certainly did not happen. Now adding the most recent season, The Crown Dissected: Seasons 1, 2 and 3 features Vickers’ same episode-by-episode approach analyzing the plot, characterization and historical detail in each storyline. He describes how the series continues to distort the facts, and refers back to previous seasons whenever needed.

Vickers writes that he does not approve of The Crown because “it depicts real life people in situations which are partly true and partly false, and unfortunately most viewers take it all as gospel truth.” He accepts that fiction can be a device to illuminate true events, but artistic license can create false, dangerous and lasting impressions as well what he calls a “perversion of what is true.”

Undoubtedly there will continue to be debate on the accuracy of The Crown‘s storylines, but that is what makes historical dramas so compelling. The Crown Dissected: Seasons 1, 2 and 3 is a must-read for any fan of the show, as well as for all TV critics.

Lucrezia Borgia: Daughter of Pope Alexander VI (Vita Histria)

Hardcover – 1 May 2020 (UK) & 2 June 2020 (US)

Lucrezia Borgia is among the most fascinating and controversial personalities of the Renaissance. The daughter of Pope Alexander VI, she was intensely involved in the political life of Italy during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. While her marriage alliances helped advance the political objectives of the papacy, she also held the office of Governor of Spoleto, a role normally reserved for Cardinals, making her one of the most powerful and dynamic female figures of the Renaissance. Among the first books to employ historical method to move beyond myth and romance that had obscured the fascinating story of Lucrezia Borgia was the biography written by the noted German historian Ferdinand Gregorovius. Ferdinand Gregorovius (1821-1891) was one of the preeminent scholars of the Italian Renaissance. His biography of Lucrezia Borgia reveals the atmosphere of the Renaissance, painting a portrait of Lucrezia and her relationships with her father Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI, her brother Cesare, her mother Vanozza, her father’s mistress, Giulia Farnese, her husband Duke Alfonso D’Este of Ferrara, and many others, including important artists and writers of the time. All are vividly portrayed against the colorful background of Renaissance Italy. Gregorovius separates myth from documented fact and his book remains a key reference work on the life and times of the Borgia princess.

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England 

Hardcover – 19 August 2020 (US) & 30 May 2020 (UK)

Including the royal families of England and Scotland, the Marshals, the Warennes, the Braoses and more, Ladies of Magna Carta focuses on the roles played by the women of the great families whose influences and experiences have reached far beyond the thirteenth century.






About Moniek 1937 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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