The Duke and Duchess of Windsor have been showing up all over the media recently, in the Academy Award-winning movie The King’s Speech and Madonna’s upcoming movie W.E., in auctions of jewellery and letters, and in a couple of new biographies of the Duchess. One of the most unusual contributions to the Windsor story is the biography Behind Closed Doors by Hugo Vickers, author of several books on royalty including a highly acclaimed biography of the Duchess of Windsor’s nemesis, the Queen Mother.
In “She Wolves,” Helen Castor, author of “Blood and Roses,” has successfully attempted something rather ambitious: a thoroughly researched and factual yet highly accessible account of the evolution of female rule in medieval England, culminating in the acceptance of Mary I and Elizabeth I as Queens Regnant, a book that’s aimed at the general reader but is also a very rewarding experience for readers already familiar with the subject matter. From our perspective of living during the reign of Elizabeth II, and with the examples of the reigns of Victoria and Elizabeth I, it can be hard to appreciate the degree of resistance in the past to women in positions of authority, yet that resistance was so fierce that on more than one occasion it led to civil war.
After reviewing “Sex with Kings” by Eleanor Herman, reader Sophie pointed out that the author had also written a book called “Sex with Queens”. Since I had enjoyed the first book, I was delighted to find the second one in the library a few weeks ago, and curiously started reading.
The new movie The King’s Speech, directed by Tom Hooper, an account of how Prince Albert Duke of York (later George VI and father of Elizabeth II) finally overcame a crippling speech defect with the help of the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue and the unflagging support of his Duchess, is a fascinating look back at a period of 20th century royal history that’s usually remembered for the affairs and abdication of Edward VIII rather than the much less glamorous life of his younger brother.
Mark Hichens has written a couple of previous royal biographies concentrating on the wives of English and British kings. In “Queens and Empresses: from Cleopatra to Queen Victoria” he branches out into other countries and comes up with an interesting mix of British and foreign queens and empresses regnant, regent, and consort.
Over the years we’ve been used to Prince Charles airing his opinions on topics as diverse as organic farming, education, medical science, architecture, religion, and philosophy. In “Harmony” he weaves all these together into an integrated overview of the past, present, and future of humanity and our relationship with nature.
Today is the 105th birthday of Queen Astrid of Belgium. In honour of this day, I have written a book review about one of the biographies written about her: Vännen Min (My Friend) by Anna Sparre. In this touching and warm biography and autobiography, Anna Sparre talks of her friendship with Queen Astrid, the fourth Queen of the Belgians.
I have to admit, when I read the title of this book I blinked not once but twice. For a moment I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Reading the back, however, my initial curiosity – yes, I admit, I was expecting some sleazy “I slept with King X and now I want my 15 minutes of fame” book – changed into interest. The book claimed to describe the history of the royal mistress, a woman scorned and at the same time admired by society. So I started reading.
I’d heard good things about this book, and I must say it lived up to expectation. Lucy Worsley is the chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that manages several ex-royal residences including Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London, Banqueting House, and Kew Palace. She is responsible for the Enchanted Palace exhibition at Kensington Palace, a creative attempt to bring royal history alive (blog), and her enthusiasm for the human side of royalty is very much in evidence in this book.