December 13, 2013

Off With Her Head!

Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr

Release Date: October 28, 2008
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Pages: 176 pages
Source & Format: Library; Paperback
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Illicit love, madness, betrayal - it isn't always good to be the queen.

Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, and Mary, Queen of Scots. What did they have in common? For a while they were crowned in gold, cosseted in silk, and flattered by courtiers. But in the end, they spent long nights in dark prison towers and were marched to the scaffold where they surrendered their heads to the executioner. And they are hardly alone in their undignified demises. Throughout history, royal women have had a distressing way of meeting bad ends - dying of starvation, being burned at the stake, or expiring in childbirth while trying desperately to produce an heir. They always had to be on their toes and all too often even devious plotting, miraculous pregnancies, and selling out their sisters was not enough to keep them from forcible consignment to religious orders. From Cleopatra (suicide by asp) to Princess Caroline (suspiciously poisoned on her coronation day), there's a gory downside to being blue-blooded when you lack a Y chromosome.

Kris Waldherr's elegant little book is a chronicle of the trials and tribulations of queens across the ages, a quirky, funny, utterly macabre tribute to the dark side of female empowerment. Over the course of fifty irresistibly illustrated and too-brief lives, Doomed Queens charts centuries of regal backstabbing and intrigue.

Thoughts on Doomed Queens
After watching the movie A Royal Affair (amazing!) a few weeks ago, I got on a major royalty kick. Within a few hours I had a spreadsheet to track what books I wanted to request and/or check out from the library. This is why I named my blog what I did! I ended up with a huge stack of books on royalty and then got down to business and decided which ones I actually wanted to read.

One of the first to make the cut was Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr. This slim paperback is packed to the brim with really cool details. Waldherr not only wrote the book, but she illustrated it too! The illustrations and overall design of the book was really impressive. That's one thing I love about seeing a book in person that you've only found online - I would never have expected all the little details I found inside! It was also slimmer than I'd anticipated and focused only on the highlights for the fifty queens featured inside.

Waldherr spends only 2-3 pages on each queen - giving a brief overview of the major events in their lives and focusing on what led to their downfall. I honestly had no idea that there were so many queens who lost their lives over their crown! In most cases, they were killed by men who wanted them out of power. Whether it was to make way for a new wife or to take over their position, being queen wasn't without its risks! I found it interesting how many of the queens died really young - and how they were truly treated as pawns by the men in their lives. From parents sending their daughters off to marry insane kings to sons killing their mothers to take over the throne, this book shows the grim reality behind the often romanticized notion of being queen.

I love history, but non-fiction books can often be written in a really dry or boring tone. Doomed Queens is definitely a fun and entertaining read! It moves quickly from queen to queen so you never get bogged down in too many details, and the book has a lot of dark humor in it so the tone is never depressing. Waldherr's writing style is slightly irreverent, which made it a really enjoyable read.

While I enjoyed learning about really well-known queens (Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, etc.), my favorite part was learning about so many royals that I'd never heard of before this book! I loved that this book was like an appetizer - a brief peek at their lives that left me excited to learn more about them. I even jotted a few names down so that I could look into reading full-length biographies of these fascinating and ultimately doomed women.

If you like history or royalty, I'd recommend this book to you! Moving quickly and packing a punch, I loved that this book made history seem relatable and accessible. One word of caution: don't read this as an ebook or you'll miss half the fun (all of the illustrations and design details). The women in Doomed Queens come alive on the page, even though you're ultimately reading about their deaths. Read and beware!

So Quotable
"No matter how your end finally arrives, one truth remains: Your fall from grace is not your call, though your actions may encourage it. It is your fate. After all, you are a doomed queen - and, if one is to go by the lessons of history, the only good queen is a dead one."

4 comments:

  1. I like reading historical books about royals - and I like everything with Anne Boleyn in it. It will be interesting to see how many actually lost their heads too!

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    1. Yeah I love books about royals, too! And it was so interesting what a variety of ways there were to kill off a queen.

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  2. I like reading about royalty! This book sounds like it'd be a great non-fiction read, mostly because it'd be fascinating to learn about all the "doomed queens" in question. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

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    1. I love reading about royalty! This was a great non-fiction read, especially since it had very short chapters/tidbits about each queen so you could easily pick it up in between other books, etc.

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