Illicit love, madness, betrayal.
It is not good to be the queen.
“Utterly satisfying.” — The New Yorker
Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, and Mary, Queen of Scots. What did they have in common? For a while they were crowned in gold, cosseted in silk, and flattered by courtiers. But in the end, they spent long nights in dark prison towers and were marched to the scaffold where they surrendered their heads to the executioner. And they are hardly alone in their undignified demises.
Throughout history, royal women have had a distressing way of meeting bad ends—dying of starvation, being burned at the stake, or expiring in childbirth while trying desperately to produce an heir. They always had to be on their toes and all too often even devious plotting, miraculous pregnancies, and selling out their sisters was not enough to keep them from forcible consignment to religious orders. From Cleopatra (suicide by asp), to Princess Caroline (suspiciously poisoned on her coronation day), there’s a gory downside to being blue-blooded when you lack a Y chromosome. Kris Waldherr’s elegant book is a chronicle of the trials and tribulations of queens across the ages, a quirky, funny, utterly macabre tribute to the dark side of female empowerment.
Over the course of fifty irresistibly illustrated and too-brief lives, Doomed Queens charts centuries of regal backstabbing and intrigue. We meet well-known figures like Catherine of Aragon, whose happy marriage to Henry VIII ended prematurely when it became clear that she was a starter wife—the first of six. And we meet forgotten queens like Amalasuntha, the notoriously literate Ostrogoth princess who overreached politically and was strangled in her bath. While their ends were bleak, these queens did not die without purpose. Their unfortunate lives are colorful cautionary tales for today’s would-be power brokers—a legacy of worldly and womanly wisdom gathered one spectacular regal ruin at a time.
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praise and reviews
“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: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends from Cleopatra to Princess Di…. Doomed Queens is also a concise, humorous, and keenly observed history of women and power…. With all the inane princess stories out there, a collection that highlights the historical downside is a welcome corrective.”
—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
“It’s refreshing to read history from a distinctly female point of view…. And to make the book more universally charming, Waldherr has included paper dolls you can cut out and assassinate over and over and over again. Just pick your poison or bonfire or whatever morbidity strikes your fancy.”
“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
“Doomed Queens covers just about 3,000 years of queens who met unfortunate ends. The tales of 50 unfortunate queens’ lives are retold with sassy panache and humorous commentary. To make the book even more fun Waldherr includes a graphics key that alerts readers to the method of doom…. Oh, and did I mention, the book comes with its own paper dolls?”
–The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide
“Lavishly illustrated by the author herself, it contains brief biographies (two or three pages per queen) from all eras and continents…. I found the compilation fascinating and was struck by the quality and evocative power of Kris’s artwork.”
–Catherine Delors, author of Mistress of the Revolution
“A wonderful, entertaining non-fiction book for those curious about royalty, or a perfect sidekick for a fairy tale or royal novel.”
—Jennifer Rummel, Teens Read Too
“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 new book appropriately titled Doomed Queens. Part cautionary tale, part biography, Doomed Queens is chock full of regal queens meeting not-so enviable ends… at the heart of Doomed Queens is not how queens died, but how they lived. Did Joan the I of Naples deserve the same fate as her husband? Why was the deposed Irene of Byzantium a candidate for sainthood? It’s these types of questions that will have book clubs, classrooms, royalty aficionados and modern-day divas talking.”
—Carlyn Beccia, author of The Raucous Royals
“Waldherr brings wry humor and funny anecdotes for each tale, as well as artwork throughout. It’s a great, short read that will keep you engaged, while providing some very interesting little tidbits of knowledge. Highly recommended to all lovers of history!”
—Passages to the Past
“Extremely fun to read. Waldherr writes like a savvy history buff… with Waldherr’s engaging writing style, I found myself wanting to read more. The illustrations in the book are a mix of historical paintings and original drawings by the author, and each story is topped off with a clever moral, most of which made me smile. Recommended for the history nerd, the feminist, or anyone at all who wants to know more about famous royal women in history.”
—Sacremento Book Review
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