A new historian of Mary Queen of Scots draws on new sources to shatter various myths surrounding this odd monarch and uncover some of the scandals and political machinations underpinning, and undermining, her throne. Winner of the Whitbread Award for Biography. Reprint.
The Prussian king Frederick II is today best remembered for successfully defending his tiny country against the three great European powers of France, Austria, and Russia during the Seven Years' War. But in his youth, tormented by a spectacularly cruel and dyspeptic father, the future military genius was drawn to the flute and French poetry, and throughout his long life counted nothing more important than the company of good friends and great wits. This was especially evident in his longstanding, loving, and vexing relationship with Voltaire. An absolute ruler who was allergic to pomp, a non-hunter who wore no spurs, a reformer of great zeal who maintained complete freedom of the press and religion and cleaned up his country's courts, a fiscal conservative and patron of the arts, the builder of the rococo palace Sans Souci and improver of the farmers' lot, maddening to his rivals but beloved by nearly everyone he met, Frederick was--notwithstanding a penchant for merciless teasing--arguably the most humane of enlightened despots.In Frederick the Great, a richly entertaining biography of one of the eighteenth century's most fascinating figures, the trademark wit of the author of Love in a Cold Climate finds its ideal subject.
"This is a substantial, detailed biography of a fascinating woman who lived her extraordinary life to the full, taking desperate chances for love and for ambition. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in the powerful women of the Tudor period."--Philippa Gregory, The Washington Post
"Tackling the family from an unexpected angle, Weir offers a blow-by-blow account of six decades of palace intrigue. . . . Weir balances historical data with emotional speculation to illuminate the ferocious dynastic ambitions and will to power that earned her subject a place in the spotlight."--The New York Times Book Review
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory, the little-known story of three Tudor women who are united in sisterhood and yet compelled to be rivals when they fulfill their destinies as queens.As sisters they share an everlasting bond; as queens they can break each other's hearts... When Katherine of Aragon is brought to the Tudor court as a young bride, the oldest princess, Margaret, takes her measure. With one look, each knows the other for a rival, an ally, a pawn, destined--with Margaret's younger sister Mary--to a unique sisterhood. The three sisters will become the queens of England, Scotland, and France. United by family loyalties and affections, the three queens find themselves set against each other. Katherine commands an army against Margaret and kills her husband James IV of Scotland. But Margaret's boy becomes heir to the Tudor throne when Katherine loses her son. Mary steals the widowed Margaret's proposed husband, but when Mary is widowed it is her secret marriage for love that is the envy of the others. As they experience betrayals, dangers, loss, and passion, the three sisters find that the only constant in their perilous lives is their special bond, more powerful than any man, even a king.
"Helen Castor has an exhilarating narrative gift. . . . Readers will love this book, finding it wholly absorbing and rewarding." --Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall
In the tradition of Antonia Fraser, David Starkey, and Alison Weir, prize-winning historian Helen Castor delivers a compelling, eye-opening examination of women and power in England, witnessed through the lives of six women who exercised power against all odds--and one who never got the chance. Exploring the narratives of the Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Margaret of Anjou, and other "she-wolves," as well as that of the Nine Days' Queen, Lady Jane Grey, Castor invokes a magisterial discussion of how much--and how little--has changed through the centuries.
A comprehensive view of the mythical and historic significance of the great medieval queen- Explains that courtly love was not a platonic and intellectual affectation but an initiatic process of male transcendence akin to Tantra - Shows that Eleanor's embodiment of divine power undermined the pattern of patriarchy - Reveals how Eleanor inspired the powerful influence of the Arthurian cycle's figures Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) has been long noted for her political and cultural achievements that profoundly shaped twelfth-century Europe. Culturally, beyond her role as wife of kings Louis VII of France and Henry II of England and mother of kings Richard and John, she inspired the huge diffusion of the Arthurian cycle and the Celtic myths underpinning it. Without Eleanor, figures such as Merlin, Arthur, and Guinevere (for whom Eleanor served as model) would never have assumed the enormous symbolic value they now possess. Politically, she embodied divine power that ended the dark age of patriarchy, playing a crucial role not only in the development of the Plantagenet Empire, but also in the granting of charters to merchants and craftsmen that led to the birth of the modern middle class. But her greatest influence, still shaping modern sensibilities, was her role as the symbol of courtly love, which was not a mere diversion of the aristocracy but a process of male initiation and transcendence that bore a close resemblance to Indian Tantra. While the Virgin Mary was restoring a feminine face to medieval religious life, Eleanor embodied the adulterous queen who incarnates sovereignty--the woman who shares authority with the men who act in her name, but only after that power has been transmitted to them through an initiatory process leading to sexual union.
Baroness Maria Ignatievna Zakrevskaya Benckendorff Budberg hailed from the Russian aristocracy and lived in the lap of luxury--until the Bolshevik Revolution forced her to live by her wits. Thereafter her existence was a story of connivance and stratagem, a succession of unlikely twists and turns. Intimately involved in the mysterious Lockhart affair, a conspiracy which almost brought down the fledgling Soviet state, mistress to Maxim Gorky and then to H.G. Wells, Moura was a woman of enormous energy, intelligence, and charm whose deepest passion was undoubtedly the mythologization of her own life.Recognized as one of the great masters of Russian twentieth-century fiction, Nina Berberova here proves again that she is the unsurpassed chronicler of the lives of Soviet migr s. In Moura Budberg, a woman who shrouded the facts of her life in fiction, Berberova finds the ideal material from which to craft a triumph of literary portraiture, a book as engaging and as full of life and incident as any one of her celebrated novels.
Despite five centuries of investigation by historians, the sinister deaths of the boy king Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York, remain two of the most fascinating murder mysteries in English history. Did Richard III really kill "the Princes in the Tower," as is commonly believed, or was the murderer someone else entirely? Carefully examining every shred of contemporary evidence as well as dozens of modern accounts, Alison Weir reconstructs the entire chain of events leading to the double murder. We are witnesses to the rivalry, ambition, intrigue, and struggle for power that culminated in the imprisonment of the princes and the hushed-up murders that secured Richard's claim to the throne as Richard III. A masterpiece of historical research and a riveting story of conspiracy and deception, The Princes in the Tower at last provides a solution to this age-old puzzle.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones. Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the "benevolent despot" idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for thirty-four years the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as "the Messalina of the north." Catherine's family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies--all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her "favorites"--the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement. The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives. History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.
Written with an exciting combination of narrative flair and historical authority, this interpretation of the tragic life of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, breaks new ground in our understanding of the very young woman who became queen at a time of unprecedented social and political tension and whose terrible errors in judgment quickly led her to the executioner's block.On the morning of July 28, 1540, as King Henry's VIII's former confidante Thomas Cromwell was being led to his execution, a teenager named Catherine Howard began her reign as queen of a country simmering with rebellion and terrifying uncertainty. Sixteen months later, the king's fifth wife would follow her cousin Anne Boleyn to the scaffold, having been convicted of adultery and high treason. The broad outlines of Catherine's career might be familiar, but her story up until now has been incomplete. Unlike previous accounts of her life, which portray her as a na ve victim of an ambitious family, this compelling and authoritative biography will shed new light on Catherine Howard's rise and downfall by reexamining her motives and showing her in her context, a milieu that goes beyond her family and the influential men of the court to include the aristocrats and, most critically, the servants who surrounded her and who, in the end, conspired against her. By illuminating Catherine's entwined upstairs/downstairs worlds as well as societal tensions beyond the palace walls, the author offers a fascinating portrayal of court life in the sixteenth century and a fresh analysis of the forces beyond Catherine's control that led to her execution--from diplomatic pressure and international politics to the long-festering resentments against the queen's household at court. Including a forgotten text of Catherine's confession in her own words, color illustrations, family tree, map, and extensive notes, Young and Damned and Fair changes our understanding of one of history's most famous women while telling the compelling and very human story of complex individuals attempting to survive in a dangerous age.