Monday, December 2, 2013

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History without the Fairy-Tale Endings - Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Summary:  You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders—but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers minibiographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating read for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story. (Image and summary from  I was provided a copy of Princesses Behaving Badly in return for my honest opinion.)

My Review:  Amidst the business of the year, that goal I had set way back in January to read more classic or nonfiction books kind of got shelved, and I've found myself missing the challenge!  This was a perfect book to bridge back into the non-fiction genre - the subject material is not only dealing with historical events I'm familiar with, it also introduced me to a few new stories.  However, McRobbie has provided only an overview of the real stories of these princesses/queens/impostors, which has been good for my stagnating brain.

This really was a fun read.  McRobbie had a difficult job ahead of her.  She didn't limit her subject matter to European royalty, instead searching for notorious princesses worldwide.  Most historians have not paid any attention to the female side of royal matters, so some of the stories had actually become legend.  That being said, it was clear that McRobbie had done her homework.  The amount of research she has completed is extensive, although her style of writing makes her findings accessible to anyone.  Her tongue-in-cheek writing style added some much-needed levity to some of the accountings, allowing me to truly enjoy what could have been quite a difficult read.

When I'm not reading, I really enjoy listening to one particular podcast that has told some of these same stories.  It was so much fun comparing what I had learned from the podcast with McRobbie's writing, and left me wishing that the podcasters would perhaps take on some of the princesses that McRobbie had introduced.

My Rating: Four stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Wow, royal life is messed up.  Although McRobbie deals with the subject matter delicately, there are affairs, murder, war, intrigue ... it made me glad I come from good, solid peasant stock!

1 comment:

Jillian said...

This book is really intriguing, I haven't even heard of it before. I just read the synopsis from this review. I might have to check it out. I love anything related to fairy tales that we used to know so well as children.


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