Book News October 2020

Queen of Versailles: Madame de Maintenon, First Lady of Louis XIV’s France 

Hardcover – 22 October 2020 (US & UK)

The rise to power of Françoise d’Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon (1635-1719), a queen in all but name, was nothing short of extraordinary. Born into poverty and ignominy, she used her intellect, charisma, and connections to join the ranks of fashionable society, eventually establishing herself at the French Court as governess to the legitimized children of Louis XIV. Her relationship with the Sun King gradually flourished, and after the death of the queen in 1683, the couple secretly married. Although their marriage was never made public, Maintenon came to wield unparalleled influence as Louis XIV’s closest confidante and most trusted political adviser. The ageing king required her daily presence in governmental meetings and relied on her for advice on crown appointments, state business, and policymaking. Her modest suite of apartments at Versailles became the heart of the Court, and she was pursued by officials and dignitaries, popes and princes from across Europe, all anxious to appropriate her influence. She used her expansive social network to intervene in a range of political, religious, and royal family affairs, but not always with the king’s knowledge, and her successes were often outweighed by controversy and failure. In Queen of Versailles, Mark Bryant explores the remarkable life and court career of Madame de Maintenon. A study in queenship, it reveals how the dynamics of power and gender operated within the realms of early modern high politics, church-state affairs, and international relations while providing unique insights into the Sun King and his Court.

Agrippina: The Most Extraordinary Woman of the Roman World 

Paperback – 13 October 2020 (US & UK)

Sister of Caligula. Wife of Claudius. Mother of Nero. The story of Agrippina, at the centre of imperial power for three generations, is the story of the Julio-Claudia dynasty—and of Rome itself, at its bloody, extravagant, chaotic, ruthless, and political zenith.

In her own time, she was recognized as a woman of unparalleled power. Beautiful and intelligent, she was portrayed as alternately a ruthless murderer and helpless victim, the most loving mother and the most powerful woman of the Roman empire, using sex, motherhood, manipulation, and violence to get her way, and single-minded in her pursuit of power for herself and her son, Nero.

This book follows Agrippina as a daughter, born in Cologne, to the expected heir to Augustus’s throne; as a sister to Caligula who raped his sisters and showered them with honours until they attempted rebellion against him and were exiled; as a seductive niece and then wife to Claudius who gave her access to near unlimited power; and then as a mother to Nero—who adored her until he had her assassinated.

Through senatorial political intrigue, assassination attempts, and exile to a small island, to the heights of imperial power, thrones, and golden cloaks and games and adoration, Agrippina scaled the absolute limits of female power in Rome. Her biography is also the story of the first Roman imperial family—the Julio-Claudians—and of the glory and corruption of the empire itself.


She is But a Woman: Queenship in Scotland 1424–1463 

Paperback – 6 October 2020 (US) & 6 August 2020 (UK)

She is But a Woman, the first in-depth study of medieval Scottish queens, investigates the relationship between gender and power in the medieval Scottish Court by exploring the art of queenship as practised by Joan Beaufort and Mary of Guelders, queens of James I and James II. These women were excluded from authority but clearly possessed power as wives and mothers of kings. They established and cultivated relationships with members of the Court, learned about Scottish political life and supported their husbands in the business of government. The book examines for the first time the arrivals of Joan and Mary in Scotland, their social and political status, their relationships with their husbands and families, and their roles in international diplomacy.

This modern re-evaluation of the role and power of the medieval queen is a thematic exploration rather than a biographical study. It situates the experiences of Joan and Mary within a broader European context and provides a new perspective on Scotland’s political, social and cultural links with Europe in the fifteenth century.

The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure: Catherine the Great, a Golden Age Masterpiece, and a Legendary Shipwreck 

Hardcover – 1 September 2020 (US) & 15 October 2020 (UK)

On October 1771, a merchant ship out of Amsterdam,  Vrouw Maria, crashed off the stormy Finnish coast, taking her historic cargo to the depths of the Baltic Sea. The vessel was delivering a dozen Dutch masterpiece paintings to Europe’s most voracious collector: Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Among the lost treasures was The Nursery, an oak-panelled triptych by Leiden fine painter Gerrit Dou, Rembrandt’s most brilliant student and Holland’s first international superstar artist. Dou’s triptych was long the most beloved and most coveted painting of the Dutch Golden Age, and its loss in the shipwreck was mourned throughout the art world.

Princess Mary, Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood

Hardcover – 7 October 2020 (Worldwide)

Born in 1897, Princess Mary was the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. Despite her Victorian beginnings, she strove to make a princess’ life meaningful, using her elevated position to help those less fortunate and defying gender-based conventions about a woman of her standing should be able to do. From her heavy involvement in the war effort, visiting wounded soldiers and training as a nurse, to her role in many of the 20th century’s key events in royal history, Mary was one princess who paved the way for the modern age.

Nefertiti, Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt: Her Life and Afterlife 

Hardcover – 6 October 2020 (US) & 10 October 2020 (UK)

During the last half of the fourteenth century BC, Egypt was perhaps at the height of its prosperity. It was against this background that the “Amarna Revolution” occurred. Throughout, its instigator, King Akhenaten, had at his side his Great Wife, Nefertiti. When a painted bust of the queen found at Amarna in 1912 was first revealed to the public in the 1920s, it soon became one of the great artistic icons of the world. Nefertiti’s name and face are perhaps the best known of any royal woman of ancient Egypt and one of the best-recognized figures of antiquity, but her image has come in many ways to overshadow the woman herself.

Nefertiti’s current world dominion as a cultural and artistic icon presents an interesting contrast with the way in which she was actively written out of history soon after her own death. This book explores what we can reconstruct of the life of the queen, tracing the way in which she and her image emerged in the wake of the first tentative decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs during the 1820s–1840s, and then took on the world over the next century and beyond.

All indications are that her final fate was a tragic one, but although every effort was made to wipe out Nefertiti’s memory after her death, modern archaeology has rescued the queen-pharaoh from obscurity and set her on the road to today’s international status.

The Windsor Diaries: A Childhood with the Princesses 

Kindle Edition – 8 October 2020 (US)

Hardcover – 8 October 2020 (UK)

Alathea’s home life was an unhappy one. Her parents had separated, and so during the war, she was sent to live with her grandfather, Viscount Fitzalan of Derwent, at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. There Alathea found the affection and harmony she craved as she became a close friend of the two princesses, visiting them often at Windsor Castle, enjoying parties, balls, cinema evenings, picnics and celebrations with the Royal Family and other members of the Court.

Alathea’s diary became her constant companion during these years as day by day she recorded every intimate detail of life with the young Princesses, often with their governess Crawfie, or with the King and Queen.

Written from the ages of sixteen to twenty-two, she captures the tight-knit, happy bonds between the Royal Family, as well as the aspirations and anxieties, sometimes extreme, of her own teenage mind.

These unique diaries give us a bird’s eye view of Royal wartime life with all of Alathea’s honest, yet affectionate judgments and observations – as well as a candid and vivid portrait of the young Princess Elizabeth, known to Alathea as ‘Lilibet’, a warm, self-contained girl, already falling for her handsome prince Philip, and facing her ultimate destiny: the Crown.

The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by Her Nanny, Marion Crawford 

Paperback – 27 October 2020 (US & UK)

Originally published in 1950, The Little Princesses was the first account of British Royal life inside Buckingham Palace as revealed by Marion Crawford, who served as governess to princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

A twenty-two-year-old teacher recruited to look after the Duke and Duchess of York’s young daughters in 1931, Marion Crawford―affectionately known as “Crawfie” by her charges―spent sixteen years with the Royal family as the children’s governess. From King Edward VIII’s abdication of the throne in order to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson and King George VI’s subsequent crowning, through World War II, and all the way to Elizabeth’s courtship and marriage to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Crawfie’s memoir offers an intimate and revelatory perspective of Elizabeth and Margaret’s childhood during one of the most momentous eras in British history.

Diaries of an Egyptian Princess 

Hardcover – 15 October 2020 (UK) & 14 April 2020 (US)

Princess Nevine Halim is a direct descendant of the royal family that ruled Egypt from 1805 until the abdication of King Farouk in the wake of the Free Officers coup in 1952. The eldest of three children, she was born in Alexandria on 30 June 1930, the great-great-granddaughter of Muhammad Ali Pasha on her father’s side and the great-granddaughter of Khedive Ismail on her mother’s side.
Drawing on her own diary, as well as those of her mother and grandmother, she takes us on a journey from the First to the Second World War, from Egypt to Europe and the United States, from a world of glamour, wealth, and privilege to the fugitive existence of the exile and social outcast after 1952. We also meet her father, Abbas Halim, the charming rebel prince who clashed with King Fuad for championing the rights of workers, as well as many other members of the Egyptian royal family and a glittering host of international royals, politicians, and film stars.
Packed with royal gossip and political intrigue, with tales of young love and fashionable society, and of princes and princesses dancing perilously close to the edge of a way of life that would one day fall apart and then vanish, Diaries of an Egyptian Princess is an event-filled account of an endlessly fascinating epoch in modern Egyptian history.

Domina: The Women Who Made Imperial Rome 

Paperback – 20 October 2020 (US) & 22 September 2020 (UK)

Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero—these are the names history associates with the early Roman Empire. Yet, not a single one of these emperors was the blood son of his predecessor. In this captivating history, a prominent scholar of the era documents the Julio-Claudian women whose bloodline, ambition and ruthlessness made it possible for the emperors’ line to continue.

Eminent scholar Guy de la Bédoyère, author of Praetorian, asserts that the women behind the scenes—including Livia, Octavia, and the elder and younger Agrippina—were the true backbone of the dynasty. De la Bédoyère draws on the accounts of ancient Roman historians to revisit a familiar time from a completely fresh vantage point. Anyone who enjoys I, Claudius will be fascinated by this study of dynastic power and gender interplay in ancient Rome.

About Moniek Bloks 2749 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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