From Publishers Weekly
This lively page-turner covers the 100-year period between the birth of Queen Maud of Norway in 1869 and the death of Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain in 1969. Suffering only from the inevitable repetition and melodramatic foreshadowing caused by the five-in-one setup of this biography, Gelardi's book features liberal quotations from fascinating correspondence and diaries that reveal both the intimate and the public faces of the women featured. Tales of the girls' romances and weddings spice up the early pages, followed by descriptions of marital relationships, childbirths and the early seeds of conflict-both personal and political. World War I and the Bolshevik revolution dominate the third part of the book, after which Gelardi describes the poignant twilight years of the four granddaughters who lived past the end of the Great War. Lurking behind these stories is the legacy of Queen Victoria, the cruelty of Kaiser Wilhelm in Germany and the specter of hemophilia. It is Marie, "Missy," who plays the favorite in the book, just as she did as Queen of Romania. More than the others, she inherited her grandmother's will, charisma, generosity and political acumen, along with the ability to adapt to changing times and circumstances. The granddaughters were "raised in an era where responsibility, commitment, sacrifice and duty before self were elevated as the highest ideals and embodied admirably by their grandmother," but the era that encompassed their rule would see the decline in monarchy throughout Europe as citizens of various countries came to believe that it was not the divine will of God that appointed their leaders, but the will-wise or foolish-of the people.
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"Five cousins. Five fascinating lives. Julia Gelardi writes about her subjects with verve and passion."
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- Dr. Amanda Foreman, author of Georgina: Duchess of Devonshire
"This fascinating story of five princesses ends with one murdered, two in exile, one in distress, and one content. They all made sacrifices to fulfill dynastic demands, and unlike Ambassadors who move about, they were committed for life."
- Hugo Vickers, author of the critically acclaimed biography Alice and The Unexpurgated Beaton
"Julia Gelardi has mastered well the complex craft-within-craft of writing dynastic history. Her multi-stranded story moves smoothly, presenting vivid pictures not only of the momentous and tragic lives of five women, but also of the extraordinary privileged but confined world of doomed European monarchy."
- Derek Wilson, author of All the King's Women and In the Lion's Court: Power, Ambition, and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII
"A wonderful story, and an enormously impressive piece of research. Julia Gelardi has drawn together the stories of these five queens and kinswomen to give fresh perspective on the turbulent early decades of the twentieth century."
- Sarah Gristwood, author of the critically acclaimed Arbelia: England's Lost Queen and Perdita
"Gelardi tells a compelling story of five of Queen Victoria's granddaughters who became queens themselves. Alongside the oft-told and tragic story of Alexandra, the last Tsarina of Russia, are skillfully woven the tales of Maud of Norway, Sophie of Greece and Ena of Spain, each of whom led remarkable lives. Most fascinating, though, were the adventures of Marie of Romania, the archetypal romantic royal beauty. The author takes us on a tumultuous and enjoyable journey through the lives of five royal women, as they each in their own way attempted to survive 'the Era of the Fall of Eagles.' "
- Leonie Frieda, author of Catherine de Medici
"Julia Gelardi has brought these 5 queens to vivid life, using much fascinating contemporary material and the voices of the women themselves. At the heart of the convulsions of early 20th century Europe, this interwoven story is a rollercoaster of human tragedy and spirited renewal. All five women repay Gelardi's extensive research and affectionate narrative but Marie of Romania stands out as remarkably heroic; compassionate to the impoverished, diseased and dying, courageous in everything, she was nevertheless determined to fill her own life to the brim with adventure and love."
- Jane Dunn, author of Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens