From Publishers Weekly
Waller (Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown) highlights the triumphs and travails of England's six female monarchs: Anne, the two Marys, the two Elizabeths and Victoria. In Waller's view, Mary II and Victoria colluded in their own diminishment by domineering husbands. Elizabeth II, portrayed as passive and unimaginative, indulged her mother while wounding her husband by keeping the Windsor name, and surrendered her prerogative to choose a midterm prime minister. Often wrongly dismissed as a fat, sickly dullard, says Waller, Anne was politically shrewd and ambitions to be queen, instigating malicious rumors that her Catholic half-brother was a changeling. Waller says that the burning of Protestant Archbishop Cranmer for heresy was a propaganda disaster for Mary I, while image-conscious Elizabeth I promoted her own association with the Virgin Mary. Separate chapters for each sovereign make for repetitious reading on the Stuart sisters; other stories—like Mary I's phantom pregnancy and Elizabeth II's blunders after Princess Diana's death—are familiar. Yet revelations about the less frequently dissected Mary and Anne Stuart are welcome, and Waller's vigorous, substantive prose takes no prisoners, whether calling Edward VI a cold, imperious little prig or Prince Charles and siblings arrogant, spoilt and selfish. 16 pages of color illus. (Aug.)
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*Starred Review* Six women have sat on the English throne as sovereigns in their own right, not simply as consorts of kings. Waller cogently and perceptively prepares a sequence of profiles of Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II, in which she imparts, in professional but eminently clear prose, these half-dozen women's essential personal qualities, at the same time linking their stories by the thread of their common dilemma: having to, as a female sovereign, reconcile womanhood with performing on the "job" as would a male ruler. Henry VIII's eldest daughter, Mary I, was the first queen regnant, and her limitations as personality and politician did not establish a sturdy precedent for female sovereignty. However, King Henry's second daughter, Elizabeth I, eschewed attempting to be both woman and ruler ("married" only to England and thus never an actual wife and mother) and succeeded in being the country's best monarch of either gender. Of the two Stuart sister-queens, Mary II proved an intelligent monarch whose competence revealed itself in time, and Anne was an ordinary person reigning over dynamic times. Despite some rough patches, the long reigns of Victoria and her great-great-granddaughter, the present sovereign, Elizabeth II, brought them great personal respect. History at its most readable. Brad Hooper
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