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Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Di Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 28, 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"It isn't often that one encounters a book that invites the reëmergence of childhood fantasies, then eviscerates them in a few words. Even less common is the book that manages to make the process utterly satisfying. Such is the rush I got from Kris Waldherr's deliciously perverse Doomed Queens.... Doomed Queens is also a concise, humorous, and keenly observed history of women and power."--The New Yorker

"If you need an antidote to the Disney-fied princess culture popular among young girls today, this dishy, irreverent book is it."--Atlanta Journal Constitution

"A smart, sassy overview of the 'dark side' of the crown and scepter. It makes a girl glad she was born a commoner."
--Robin Maxwell, bestselling author of Mademoiselle Boleyn

"A fascinating journey through thousands of years of the world's most dangerous job -- being queen!"
--Eleanor Herman, author of Sex with the Queen

From the Author

Welcome to your favorite dream--and worst nightmare. You are cosseted in silk, crowned with gold, and bowed to. Courtiers laugh at your jokes and compliment your beauty, even when you know you're having a bad hair day. All envy you, but things change. Just years later, even those who admired you steer clear of your path. 

Your influence is on the wane for any number of reasons. The fault could be yours--maybe you weren't as clever as you thought in the scheming department. Or it could be that others are scheming against you. When the end finally comes, it arrives with the stroke of an ax at noon-- a topsy-turvy Cinderella tale--or with a drumrolled march to the scaffold. The battlefield may provide you with a convenient grave. Or you might lose your crown as you labor to bring forth an heir to the kingdom. Biology becomes destiny. Best case scenario: You will survive a coup and be allowed to live out your days in awkward exile, where opportunistic stragglers will still suck up to your royal majesty, just in case. 

No matter how your end finally arrives, one truth remains: Your fall from grace is not your call, though your actions may encourage it. It is your fate. After all, you are a doomed queen--and, if one is to go by the lessons of history, the only good queen is a dead one. 

For too many royal women throughout history, the scenario I've sketched here was their dark reality. The members of the doomed queens club--a club I suspect few would care to join--are legion, stretching from biblical times to the present day. Their names range from the infamous--Cleopatra, Anne Boleyn, Marie Antoinette--to those whose deaths are hidden within footnotes, such as Blanche of Bourbon and Thessalonike.

Within Doomed Queens I've presented fifty of these lives from around the globe and throughout the ages. While each queen's final destiny may differ, one fact remains consistent: Despite the perks of royalty, it's usually not good to be the queen. 

Remember, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. May you read and beware.

My very best,

Kris Waldherr 
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (October 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767928997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767928991
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bonnie Cehovet VINE VOICE on November 4, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As usual with Kris Waldherr's work, this book is thoroughly researched, and presented with a certain panache. Each of these queen's stories has been thoroughly researched, and presented with enough detail to keep the reader interested. Each story is personal ... we are not reading one story ad nauseum, with different names attached.

The toen of the writing is a tad bit tongue in cheek, with a small cautionary moral at the end of each presentation. (For instance, with Eva Peron the cautionary moral is "You can't rule fromt he grave.")

The pages themselves are made to look "old", and the graphics on the front cover simply draw you in without your knowing why.

There is a bonus in that a flap on both the front and back covers contains three "paper doll" figures of different queens, with background available from the Doomed Queens Internet site.

Can we as women learn from this book? Yes - this book reflects not only the history of the queens, but the history of the world - with all of its political, religious, and paternalistic overtones.

A good read, and food for thought.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a history buff and I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up "Doomed Queens" by Kris Waldherr. But I loved it and really found it hard to put down--the profiles of these women were humorous, well-researched and informative. The writing is rich with queenly anecdotes and the kind of detail that I love.

The overarching theme of how women were often pawns in the power struggles of men becomes a scenario of sadness, so beyond the humor there are other points that are made. Doomed in that they often were caught up in forces beyond their control, Waldherr covers the big names like Anne Boleyn and comes up with a whole roster of fascinating figures not often mentioned in history books.

But this book also has a "guilty pleasure" quality to it with the icons of death and the pithy morals at the end of each vignette. I can recommend this enthusiastically and I'm sure it would make a fine gift for the history, historical fiction or "Tudors" fan on your holiday list!
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Format: Paperback
For those guilty pleasure seekers, this book is for you!

Talk about a good, fun read, Waldherr's collection of "royal women who met bad ends" is packed with enticing tidbits that reveal the dark side of royalty and privilege in an ever volatile world. Waldherr does an excellent job choosing her queens carefully, with the inclusion of monarchs from across time and cultures; some readily identifiable (i.e., Jane Seymour, Eva Peron, Princess Diana), and some lost in the abstract vaults of long lost empires. The poignancy lies within their stories and the universal nature of their fascinating experiences. No one is spared in this assembly of matriarchs, whose untimely deaths are often as pathetic as their supposed fortunate circumstances. It's not good to be the queen is the underlying message that binds these ill-fated royal women together.

Waldherr presents each queen in a concise format that is compelling, entertaining and never boring. In fact, you will have a hard time putting this book down. You can retrieve nougats of tantalizing information by poring over the many eye-catching sidebars, anecdotes, accurate-looking illustrations, easy to read icons indicating manner of death (oooh, I loved these little death symbols!) along with a fun end-of-book quiz and even Doomed Queen paper dolls. The stories end with cautionary morals: these summations effectively inject humor and enable the reader to identify with the very human foibles/limitations that were precursors to the queens' demise. Despite their status, leadership and often rich and opulent surroundings, they could not escape the grim reaper and the equalizing swing of his scythe, or guillotine!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For the little that is here, it is entertaining - if highly abbreviated - reading. Cover to cover was read in an hour or two: more like an appetizer than a meal. While I appreciated the eclectic variety of the doomed royal women selected here, the passages pertaining to each read like little more than photographic captions. The author's style is intentionally flip, although she seems to have pretentions of a "feminist" slant that is never developed in any more depth than the individual bios of the women "discussed" (and I used the term loosely). This would be ideal airplane reading when a few pages at a time with no plot or complexities to manage is totally appropriate. As to anything beyond the briefest thumbnails of name, country of origin and manner of demise, the reader is left to further investigate on their own. I wasn't expecting much, so was not disappointed, but this is totally a work of popular, not scholarly, history.
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Format: Paperback
We have all probably heard the sermon: "those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it." Kris Waldherr exposes this truism with biting candor in her appropriately titled Doomed Queens. Part cautionary tale, part biography, Doomed Queens is chock full of regal queens meeting not-so enviable ends. Readers will find all their favorite femme fatales like Anne Boleyn, Marie Antoinette, and Mary Queen of Scots, but also lesser known figures such as Empress Wang and Theodora of Trebizond. Waldherr reminds us, "too often history is written by the victors." So true. For this reason, readers will be captivated by Arsinoe IV, the Jan Brady of history--pushed aside by her more cunning sister, Cleopatra. Then there is Juana of Castile who emerges from the shadow of her powerful parents, Ferdinand and Isabella to show how things really went down in the power struggle for the throne. hint: it doesn't end pretty. In each biography, Waldherr shows how herstory doesn't always end as happily as history.

There are so many doomed queens included that you might have a hard time keeping their deaths straight. No worries. Waldherr offers handy icons to accompany each tale symbolizing everything from death by child birth to a date with the executioner. Each biography ends with an irreverent "cautionary moral" that may especially appeal to teens tired of pedantic conclusions in their history lessons. What can we learn from Sophia Alekseyevna, the disaffected, half-sister of Peter the Great? Perhaps it is as simple as, "the best candidate doesn't always get the job." What does Marie Antoinette's bucolic stint as a milkmaid tell us? "When you play at being a peasant, you risk being killed by one.
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