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Sovereign Ladies: Sex, Sacrifice, and Power--The Six Reigning Queens of England Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312338015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312338015
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,311,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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You might call it a tale of the good, bad, ugly and beautiful!
C. M Mills
All in all, I greatly enjoyed this book that gave wonderfully readable stories of the queens that were more than regents.
Maria Beadnell
Yet even in the most modern of societies we still long for pomp & circumstance that royalty are so good at.
Eve Galewitz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on December 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
History is one of those subjects that endlessly fascinates me. And one of my favourite times and places is England. So it was pretty much a given that I would pick up Maureen Waller's latest study on the six women who have ruled as monarchs in their own right.

The six women here enjoy a unique position in history, ruling alone (with one exception) and helping to shape what we now know as England. Each one had a very different personality and would help to provide plenty of legend and mythology to what we think of as a Queen. One of them is still living, and several have become icons in the modern mind.

Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria and Elizabeth II, are probably better known than their male counterparts. They have been the subjects of innumerable books and films, and have inspired the arts, social custom and were often the catalysts for change in the time that they ruled.

I have to say, I was not that impressed by this book. Each queen is covered in a series of vignettes, most of them rather scanty and feeling rushed, despite the attempt of the author to provide some historical and personal details. If that wasn't enough, Waller also tries to include some psychological insights, and also some medical theories as to why each woman behaved the way she did. The result is a thin narrative that doesn't really satisfy.

Technically, the stories are written in a bland, matter-of-fact way that left me feeling rather bored by the stories, despite quite a bit of drama that occurs in each life. What I was hoping for was something new -- after all, how many more biographies of Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria can the market handle? And Waller has already written an outstanding book about Mary II and Anne titled <a href="[...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Maria Beadnell on October 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Seven personalities, not six, are on display here, the reigning queens' and Ms. Waller's.

She doesn't condescend to the reader or get too lofty either; she assumes you're pretty educated, anyway, if you're reading this work, but not an expert on this subject. I loved her "voice;" it was friendly, highly personal--yet her research was impressive. I can't imagine trying to make sense of the huge amounts of often conflicting information.

Like Antonia Fraser, Waller assumes the reader has a good command of foreign languages, so if, like me, you last opened a Latin book sometime in the 80's be prepared to miss a point here and there.

In some places, I noticed sparks of startling misogyny. For example, Edward, son of Henry VIII was dying and his caretakers dismissed his physicians and brought in "a female quack." Well, maybe she was a quack and maybe she wasn't, but Edward was dying anyway and Ms. Waller didn't criticize the males who failed to save him. (Frankly, I wouldn't want to be treated by a medieval or Ren doctor of either sex.) In another section, she praises Elizabeth II for thinking "like a man." Hardly words I'd expect from a woman writing about comparatively powerful women!

Waller succeeds in finding the personalities of all the queens, and since I never found anything interesting about either Anne or Mary II it was fascinating to feel them in particular come alive.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed this book that gave wonderfully readable stories of the queens that were more than regents.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Myrna Zach on October 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
AN EXCELLENT BOOK THAT IS INFORMATIVE AND EXTREMELY INTERESTING. ALTHOUGH I AM FAMILIAR WITH EACH SOVEREIGN I LEARNED MUCH MORE THAN I EXPECTED TO. THE INSIGHT INTO THE TIMES MADE EACH SEGMENT RELEVANT. A VERY WORTHWHILE READ.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marilynn T. Doore on February 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
Sovereign Ladies scrutinizes the six reigning queens of England: Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. The idea of a regnant female is one that through the ages has proved an uncomfortable topic. Questions have been raised time and time again of the fitness of a woman to rule in a man's world tied as they are to their physical bodies and the expectations of females in marriage and childbearing.

The six queens in this book vary in how they coped with the accident of history which put them on the throne. Although England does not have the Salic Law of France which prohibits women from ruling it was never a comfortable prospect. It was felt that women were to provide heirs and that their minds and intellect were not capable of handling matters of state. The lives of these six incredible women bely as well as refute some of these beliefs. Their lives were a constant struggle to rule amongst men and to fulfill their function as women to provide an heir-male.

Mary I failed in statesmanship and the provision of an heir, undeniably Elizabeth I was one of the greatest monarchs in English history but she too failed to provide an heir, Mary II let her husband William III rule in their joint names, Anne ruled well and efficiently but could not give England an heir despite the fact she gave birth to seventeen children, Victoria provided the heir but during her reign the monarchy devolved into the constitutional monarchy England has today, and Elizabeth II fulfilled her mission to provide an heir and continues to serve as a figurehead and an example to her people and reigns without actually ruling.
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