Book News September 2020

Forbidden Wife: The Life and Trials of Lady Augusta Murray 

Hardcover – 1 September 2020 (US) & 3 February 2020 (UK)

On the night of 4 April 1793, two lovers were preparing to compel a cleric to perform a secret ceremony. The wedding of the sixth son of King George III to the daughter of the Earl of Dunmore would not only be concealed—it would also be illegal. Lady Augusta Murray had known Prince Augustus Frederick for only three months, but they had fallen deeply in love and were desperate to be married. However, the Royal Marriages Act forbade such a union without the King’s permission, and going ahead with the ceremony would change Augusta’s life forever. From a beautiful socialite, she became a social pariah; her children were declared illegitimate, and her family was scorned. Forbidden Wife uses material from the Royal Archives and the Dunmore family papers to create a dramatic biography set in the reigns of Kings George III and IV against the background of the American and French Revolutions.

Royal Witches: Witchcraft and the Nobility in Fifteenth-Century England 

Hardcover – 1 September 2020 (US) & 4 May 2020 (UK)

Until the mass hysteria of the seventeenth century, accusations of witchcraft in England were rare. However, four royal women, related in family and in court ties―Joan of Navarre, Eleanor Cobham, Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Elizabeth Woodville―were accused of practising witchcraft in order to kill or influence the King.

Some of these women may have turned to the “dark arts” in order to divine the future or obtain healing potions, but the purpose of the accusations was purely political. Despite their status, these women were vulnerable because of their gender, as the men around them moved them like pawns for political gains.

In Royal Witches, Gemma Hollman explores the lives and the cases of these so-called witches, placing them in the historical context of fifteenth-century England, a setting rife with political upheaval and war. In a time when the line between science and magic was blurred, these trials offer a tantalizing insight into how malicious magic would be used and would later cause such mass hysteria in centuries to come.


The Family Medici: The Hidden History of the Medici Dynasty 

Paperback – 8 September 2020 (US & UK)

Having founded the bank that became the most powerful in Europe in the fifteenth century, the Medici gained massive political power in Florence, raising the city to a peak of cultural achievement and becoming its hereditary dukes. Among their number were no fewer than three popes and a powerful and influential queen of France. Their influence brought about an explosion of Florentine art and architecture. Michelangelo, Donatello, Fra Angelico, and Leonardo were among the artists with whom they were socialized and patronized.

Thus runs the “accepted view” of the Medici. However, Mary Hollingsworth argues that the idea that the Medici were enlightened rulers of the Renaissance is a fiction that has now acquired the status of historical fact. In truth, the Medici were as devious and immoral as the Borgias―tyrants loathed in the city they illegally made their own. In this dynamic new history, Hollingsworth argues that past narratives have focused on a sanitized and fictitious view of the Medici―wise rulers, enlightened patrons of the arts, and fathers of the Renaissance―but that in fact their past was reinvented in the sixteenth century, mythologized by later generations of Medici who used this as a central prop for their legacy.

Hollingsworth’s revelatory re-telling of the story of the family Medici brings a fresh and exhilarating new perspective to the story behind the most powerful family of the Italian Renaissance.

Queen of the World: Elizabeth II: Sovereign and Stateswoman

Paperback – 8 September 2020 (US)

On today’s world stage, there is one leader who stands apart from the rest. Queen Elizabeth II has seen more of the planet and its people than any other head of state and has engaged with the world like no other monarch in modern history.

The iconic monarch never ventured further than the Isle of Wight until the age of 20 but since then has now visited over 130 countries across the globe in the line of duty, acting as diplomat, hostess and dignitary as the world stage as changed beyond recognition. It is a story full of drama, intrigue, exotic and sometimes dangerous destinations, heroes, rogues, pomp and glamour, but at the heart of it all a woman who’s won the hearts of the world.

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.

The Crown in Focus: Two Centuries of Royal Photography 

Hardcover – 1 September 2020 (US & UK)

Crown on Camera 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.

Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England 

Hardcover – 19 September 2020 (US) & 10 June 2020 (UK)

From seventh-century Northumbria to eleventh-century Wessex and making extensive use of primary sources, Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England examines the lives of individual women in a way that has often been done for the Anglo-Saxon men but not for their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters. It tells their stories: those who ruled and schemed, the peace-weavers and the warrior women, the saints and the sinners. It explores and restores their reputations.

Sex and the City of Ladies: Rewriting history with Cleopatra, Lucrezia Borgia and Catherine the Great 

Kindle Edition – 3 September 2020 (US)

Hardcover – 3 September 2020 (UK)

In 1450 Christine de Pisan took up the pen to defend her maligned sex. Her book, The City of Ladies, was built around preserving women’s reputations from the slights and misunderstandings of history. In it, the author is visited by three spirits – Justice, Rectitude and Reason – who guide her in sifting through countless lives, in search of worthy citizens.

Nearly 600 years later, the historian and novelist Lisa Hilton picks up the book and promptly falls asleep, only to be visited by three great women from history: Cleopatra, Lucrezia Borgia and Catherine the Great. And they aren’t happy. Having found themselves barred from the original ‘City of Ladies’, they want to know why. And isn’t it time, they ask, for a new author to take up the pen?

What follows is a reassessment of the past, in which deeds and reputations, rumours and reality are held up to the light, and history is wrested back from the distortions of misogyny.

Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort, Tudor Matriarch 

Paperback – 17 September 2020 (UK)

As the battle for royal supremacy raged between the houses of Lancaster and York, Margaret Beaufort, who was descended from Edward III and proved to be a critical threat to the Yorkist cause, was forced to give up her son – she would be separated from him for fourteen years. Surrounded by conspiracies in the enemy Yorkist court, Margaret remained steadfast, only just escaping the headman’s axe as she plotted to overthrow Richard III and secure her son the throne. Against all odds, in 1485 Henry Tudor was victorious on the battlefield at Bosworth. Margaret’s unceasing efforts and royal blood saw her son crowned King Henry VII, and Margaret became the most powerful woman in England.

Nicola Tallis unmasks the many myths that have attached themselves to Margaret and reveals the real woman: an independent and vibrant character, who would risk everything to become Queen in all but name.

Fabulously Feisty Queens: 15 of the brightest and boldest women who have ruled the world 

Hardcover – 3 September 2020 (UK)

From ancient empresses and warrior queens to fearsome pirates and modern-day monarchs, Fabulously Feisty Queens explores the lives and legacies of history’s most powerful women.

Made of stronger stuff than beauty and grace, discover just how bright, brave, brilliant and clever the world’s female rulers have been throughout the centuries.

With a foreword by historian and Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, Lucy Worsley and illustrations by Pauline Reeves.

Plantagenet Queens & Consorts: Family, Duty and Power 

Paperback – 1 August 2020 (US) & 15 September 2020 (UK)

Plantagenet Queens and Consorts examines the lives and influence of 10 figures, comparing their different approaches to the maintenance of political power in what is always described as a man’s world. On the contrary, there is strong evidence to suggest that these women had more political impact than those who came later—with the exception of Elizabeth I—right up to the present day. Beginning with Eleanor of Provence, loyal spouse of Henry III, the author follows the thread of queenship: Philippa of Hainault, Joan of Navarre, Katherine Valois, Elizabeth Woodville, and others, to Henry VII’s Elizabeth of York. These are not marginal figures. Arguably, the “She-Wolf'”, Isabella of France, had more impact on the history of England than her husband Edward II. Elizabeth of York was the daughter, sister, niece, wife, and mother of successive kings of England. As can be seen from the names, several are ostensibly “outsiders” twice over, as female and foreign. With specially commissioned photographs of locations and close examination of primary sources, Steven Corvi provides a new and invigorating perspective on medieval English (and European) history.

Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia: Brother and Sister of History’s Most Vilified Family 

Hardcover – 30 September 2020 (UK) & 19 December 2020 (US)

Myths and rumour have shrouded the Borgia family for centuries – tales of incest, intrigue and murder have been told of them since they themselves walked the hallways of the Apostolic Palace. In particular, vicious rumour and slanderous tales have stuck to the names of two members of the infamous Borgia family – Cesare and Lucrezia, brother and sister of history’s most notorious family. But how much of it is true, and how much of it is simply rumour aimed to blacken the name of the Borgia family? In the first-ever biography solely on the Borgia siblings, Samantha Morris tells the true story of these two fascinating individuals from their early lives, through their years living amongst the halls of the Vatican in Rome until their ultimate untimely deaths. Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia begins in the bustling metropolis of Rome with the siblings ultimately being used in the dynastic plans of their father, a man who would become Pope, and takes the reader through the separate, yet fascinatingly intertwined, lives of the notorious siblings. One tale, that of Cesare, ends on the battlefield of Navarre, whilst the other ends in the ducal court of Ferrara. Both Cesare and Lucrezia led lives full of intrigue and danger, lives which would attract the worst sort of rumour begun by their enemies. Drawing on both primary and secondary sources Morris brings the true story of the Borgia siblings, so often made out to be evil incarnate in other forms of media, to audiences both new to the history of the Italian Renaissance and old.

Joan, Lady of Wales: Power and Politics of King John’s Daughter 

Hardcover – 30 September 2020 (UK) & 19 December 2020 (US)

The history of women in medieval Wales before the English conquest of 1282 is one largely shrouded in mystery. For the Age of Princes, an era defined by ever-increased threats of foreign hegemony, internal dynastic strife and constant warfare, the comings and goings of women are little noted in sources. This misfortune touches even the most well-known royal woman of the time, Joan of England (d. 1237), the wife of Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd, illegitimate daughter of King John and half-sister to Henry III. With evidence of her hand in thwarting a full-scale English invasion of Wales to a notorious scandal that ended with the public execution of her supposed lover by her husband and her own imprisonment, Joan’s is a known, but little-told or understood story defined by family turmoil, divided loyalties and political intrigue. From the time her hand was promised in marriage as the result of the first Welsh-English alliance in 1201 to the end of her life, Joan’s place in the political wranglings between England and the Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd was a fundamental one. As the first woman to be designated Lady of Wales, her role as one a political diplomat in early thirteenth-century Anglo-Welsh relations was instrumental. This first-ever account of Siwan, as she was known to the Welsh, interweaves the details of her life and relationships with a gendered reassessment of Anglo-Welsh politics by highlighting her involvement in affairs, discussing events in which she may well have been involved but have gone unrecorded and her overall deployment of royal female agency.

Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia: The Philosopher Princess 

Paperback –15 September 2020 (US & UK)

Elisabeth of Bohemia (1618-1680) was the daughter of the Elector Palatine, Frederick V, King of Bohemia, and Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of King James VI and I of Scotland and England. A princess born into one of the most prominent Protestant dynasties of the age, Elisabeth was one of the great female intellectuals of seventeenth-century Europe. This book examines her life and thought. It is the story of an exiled princess, a grief-stricken woman whose family was beset by tragedy and whose life was marked by poverty, depression, and chronic illness. It is also the story of how that same woman’s strength of character, unswerving faith, and extraordinary mind saw her emerge as one of the most renowned scholars of the age. It is the story of how one woman navigated the tumultuous waters of seventeenth-century politics, religion, and scholarship, fought for her family’s ancestral rights, and helped establish one of the first networks of female scholars in Western Europe. Drawing on her correspondence with René Descartes, as well as the letters, diaries, and writings of her family, friends, and intellectual associates, this book contributes to the recovery of Elisabeth’s place in the history of philosophy. It demonstrates that although she is routinely marginalized in contemporary accounts of seventeenth-century thought, overshadowed by the more famous male philosophers she corresponded with or dismissed as little more than a “learned maiden,” Elisabeth was a philosopher in her own right who made a significant contribution to modern understandings of the relationship between the body and the mind, challenged dominant accounts of the nature of the emotions, and provided insightful commentaries on subjects as varied as the nature and causes of illness to the essence of virtue and Machiavelli’s The Prince.

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.

Banished Potentates: Dethroning and Exiling Indigenous Monarchs Under British and French Colonial Rule, 1815-1955 (Studies in Imperialism) 

Paperback – 1 September 2020 (UK) & 8 September 2020 (US)

Though the overthrow and exile of Napoleon in 1815 is a familiar episode in modern history, it is not well known that just a few months later, British colonisers toppled and banished the last king in Ceylon. Beginning with that case, this volume examines the deposition and exile of indigenous monarchs by the British and French – with examples in India, Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, Madagascar, Tunisia and Morocco – from the early nineteenth century down to the eve of decolonisation. It argues that removal of native sovereigns, and sometimes abolition of dynasties, provided a powerful strategy used by colonisers, though European overlords were seldom capable of quelling resistance in the conquered countries, or of effacing the memory of local monarchies and the legacies they left behind.

About Moniek Bloks 2728 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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