This edition offers true tales of these take-charge princesses plus dozens more in a fascinating read that’s perfect for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.
You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, and you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But real princesses didn’t always get happy endings. Sure, plenty were graceful and benevolent leaders, but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their majestic closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elisabeth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev slaughtered her way to sainthood. And Princess Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield with her toddler strapped to her back.
London-based McRobbie flirts with real controversy only to evade it in this collection of rotten royal behavior, and her book suffers for it. During her unhappy marriage to society photographer Earl Snowdon, Queen Elizabeth II's younger sister Margaret notorious for her poor choice in men and being a spoiled, aimless, and ill-tempered alcoholic allegedly enjoyed a threesome that was captured in photos so compromising that Britain's MI5 staged an elaborate heist in 1971 to steal them back. Banished to Constantinople to marry a Roman senator, 5th-century Honoria wrote to Rome's worst enemy, Attila the Hun, for help, sending her ring, which the barbarian chose to interpret as a marriage proposal and used as his excuse to invade Rome. Although Sarah Winnemucca lectured to thousands of whites as a "civilized" Indian princess and agitated on behalf of her Piute tribe to President Rutherford Hayes, Native Americans saw "her as a pawn in the pay of the U.S. government." McRobbie mostly ignores the escapades of contemporary royals like Norwegian Crown Princess Mette-Marit, who has an illegitimate son with a convicted drug dealer; Sarah Ferguson, who sold access to Britain's Prince Andrew; or Monaco's Stephanie, lately divorced from a circus performer. Unfortunately, while McRobbie has the subject matter, her prose is sloppy, her attempts at cleverness fall flat, and her thumbnail portraits are shallow. Illus.