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Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria Hardcover – February 24, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

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."
- 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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1St Edition edition (February 23, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312324235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312324230
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Julia P. Gelardi is an independent historian, currently specializing in European royal history mainly encompassing the Victorian era to the present. Julia grew up in Florida and has lived in Miami, London, Toronto, Phoenix, Vancouver, B.C. and now resides in Minnesota. After receiving her M.A. in History from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Julia has has embarked on a writing career with a focus on royalty. Julia's researches have taken to her to several countries including England, France, Italy and Switzerland. Her books are Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria (St. Martin's Press, 2005), In Triumph's Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters and the Price They Paid for Glory (St. Martin's Press, 2008) and From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847-1928 (St. Martin's Press, 2011).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 69 people found the following review helpful By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Born to Rule is a joint biography of five royal consorts, all first cousins and granddaughters of Queen Victoria, who reigned over their countries during the early to mid twentieth century. Although Maud of Norway (called Harry in the family), Sophie of Greece, Victoria Eugenie of Spain (Ena), Alexandra of Russia (Alix), and Marie of Rumania (Missy) were cousins who knew each other fairly well, their personalities and ultimate fates were very different.

Most readers will be at least somewhat familiar with Alix's story, which has been told and retold many times on paper and on film, but Ena's struggles with the same hereditary disease of hemophilia, which she passed on to at least two of her sons, are less well known than those of her Russian cousin. Similarly, while the story of Alix's overthrow in the 1917 Revolution and her subsequent death with her family has been described at length, few readers will be as familiar with Ena's long exile from Spain and Sophie's on again off again career as Queen of Greece. Harry's great success as the democratically chosen monarch of Norway and Missy's extensive struggles on behalf of Rumania deserve to be remembered as well.

One of the most interesting achievements of this joint biography are the numerous parallels and comparisons that can be drawn between the five women. We can see, for example, how Harry's natural modesty and informality made the Norwegians fall in love with her, and how Missy's beauty and elegance endeared her to the Rumanians. On the other hand, Sophie, Alix, and Ena's shyness and natural reserve were not well received by their husband's subjects and helped lead to the downfalls of the monarchies in their countries. The cousins' origins outside of the countries they eventually ruled were also worthy of comparison.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Arturo Beeche on April 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a specialist royalty bookseller and publisher of a royalty journal, I receive many royalty-themed books for review every year. Many are middle of the road productions on the same over-studied topics. Then and again comes a book such Ms. Gelardi's, a marvelous first book by a tremendously promising author.

I am not a stranger to the story of Queen Victoria's five granddaughters who sat on European thrones. However, Ms. Gelardi's research brought many episodes to light and considerably expanded my own knowledge about these amazing women. Not only did she research extensively, but she was fortunate enough to be able to personally interview children and grandchildren of these royal ladies. That alone makes BORN TO RULE a must have for anyone interested in European royalty. Five huge stars must be granted to Ms. Gelardi...KUDOS!

Arturo Beéche @
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Ponette on March 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is a must-have for any fan of royalty. It profiles the lives of five granddaughters of Queen Victoria, four of whom suffered greatly in the name of duty, either by their spouse's infidelity, the betrayal by their children or the instability of their country. The life and death of the tragic Alexandra is, of course, well known, but this chronicles four other queens as well -- Sophie of Greece, Maud of Norway, Marie of Roumania and Victoria Eugenie of Spain -- who may not be so well known. The effect Queen Victoria had on all these women could not be underestimated. Julia Gelardi did a great job bringing all these women to life. I can't recommend this book enough.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Frost77 on April 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
The unifying factor in this work is the fact that these five women, all granddaughters of Queen Victoria, became queens of the countries they married into. Some chose their husbands for love, others for duty.

While this work is ambitious in the sense that Gelardi wants to discuss these women comparitively, it is somewhat hard to follow as she jumps from cousin to cousin within the chapters - with very little to unify other than a phrase to transition the reader over.

She spends very little time with Alexandra, who, in death, becomes notorious. I did like that she shows how these women, and their influence, have bled into the current political structure of modern Europe.

It is a well researched book, but it is also hard to follow.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Leftwich on June 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a good book to read if you are extremely familar with Queen Victoria. There are two problems with this book, (1) The author did not focus or give enough information about Queen Maud's life as she did with the other grandaughters. (2) It's lacking information in certain places.

Here are some books I would recommended before/after reading this book:

(1)Northern Crowns: The Kings of Modern Scandinavia by John Van Der Kiste.

(2)Victoria's Daughters by Jerrold M. Packard.

(3) An Uncommon Woman - The Empress Frederick: Daughter of Queen Victoria, Wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Mother of Kaiser Wilhelm by Hannah Pakula.

(4)Queen Victoria in Her Letters and Journals by Christopher Hibbert.

(5)Ask Sir James: Sir James Reid, Personal Physician to Queen Victoria and Physician-In-Ordinary to Three Monarchs
by Michaela Reid.

(6)A Royal Family, The Story of Christain IX and His European Desendants by Anna Lerche and Marcus Mandal (Very hard to find, there are only two places I know where you can find an English translation of this book, Denmark and the Majesty Magazine website; however, I do not know if they are still offering this book on their website).
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