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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 49.
- Review Date: 2008-10-06
- Reviewer: Staff
Historian Gelardi (Born to Rule) focuses on the fates of three pairs of royal mothers and daughters: Isabella of Castile and Catherine of Aragon, Maria Theresa and Marie Antoinette, and Queen Victoria and Empress Frederick. The unusual melding of Spanish, English, Austrian, French and Prussian history into one sweeping project is done with remarkable clarity and verve. Excerpts of her subjects' letters are integrated flawlessly into the sequence of events. Gelardi is also skilled in placing actions within the larger historical framework of international relations, as well as genetics—Gelardi traces the devastating effects of hemophilia on royal families in one of her most interesting tangents. The personal relationships portrayed are layered and complex, and tidbits regarding fashion and Queen Victoria's childhood love of dolls are not to be missed. Gelardi's incessant need to justify connecting the three monarchs and their daughters through similarities in personality, political accomplishments and unusually loving relationships is annoying, but she still produces an excellent, comprehensive study of six fascinating women and the troubled times that shaped their lives. 16 pages of color photos. (Dec.)
Regal lives and royal pain
Julia P. Gelardi is more serious in her book, In Triumph's Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory. Gelardi profiles three pairs of royal mothers and daughters: Queen Isabella of Castile and her daughter Catherine of Aragon; Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Queen Marie Antoinette; and Queen Victoria and the Empress Frederick (Princess Vicky). Despite the centuries separating these pairs, they had two key things in common. The mothers ruled in their own right with husbands who supported them in their rule. The daughters, on the other hand, were all groomed to be consorts, married off to establish or solidify relationships with another country. Each of the daughters suffered.
Catherine of Aragon was the first wife of Henry VIII. She was loyal to her new country and beloved by her subjects, but couldn't fulfill the first responsibility of a royal wife: having a son to inherit the throne (or in this case, one who lived long enough to inherit the throne). Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine hated by the French people. Princess Vicky was thwarted in any attempt to bring reforms to Prussia. She persevered through the hatred of her subjects for decades only to have her husband die a mere 99 days after becoming king. Despite their tragic ends, Gelardi shows there is much to admire in the lives of these women, whether in their battles to hold on to a kingdom or in learning to be patient in the face of hatred and lies.