Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Royal Roundup

Juan Soto.

Summer is nearly over, which means baseball is moving rather quickly toward the post-season and my beloved Nats hold the first Wildcard spot -- fingers crossed.

I have a half-season plan (40) games.  By the end of the regular season on September 29, I will have attended about 50-55 games.  If I am not at the game, I am watching the Nats on TV or I was traveling (to the UK, to NYC to see The Treasures of Chatsworth exhibit at Sotheby's  and the Nats at Citifield, to -- Pittsburgh -- 6.5 hours on a bus -- to see the Nats play the Pirates) or I was at the pool.

I am now finding time to sit down and write about the books that I have been reading this summer.   The royal books, of course, but I do read non-royal books as well.

One of my Twitter followers, who was visiting Buckingham Palace in August to see the Queen Victoria's Buckingham Palace exhibit (which opened in July), sent me a copy of the companion book. (Thank you so much).

  Queen Victoria's Buckingham Palace was written by Amanda Foreman and Lucy Peter (Royal Collection Trust.)  This is a 130-page book that also functions as the catalog to the exhibit.   The exhibit focuses on Victoria's life at the Palace - as a wife, mother, grandmother, and, of course, queen, as Buckingham Palace was a home and the primary seat of the official life of the monarchy.

Foreman and Peter are excellent writers - and their research is impeccable.  The illustrations are excellent .. almost as good as being at the exhibit.


 Last December, I reviewed three books on the Danish sovereigns that were published by Historika with the support of the Danish Royal Collection.  These concise biographies were published in English and are sold at the royal palaces in Denmark.

The only book that I had not seen was Christian IX and Queen Louise, which was not in stock when I ordered the other three books.   I now have a copy.

Jens Gunni Busck wrote the text of the book, which focuses on Christian and Louise's lives and the political and constitutional issues that led to Christian's succession to the throne.  This book is not an in-depth study of Christian's life, but it is a competent and precis accounting of the primary events of their lives.  Unfortunately, there are few books in English on the Danish royal house

For time being these little but well-written books will have to suffice.  The book does include a bibliography, but most of the sources that the author consulted are in Danish.

I have also discovered a new royal historian, whose books are entertaining and well-researched, strong popular histories with excellent bibliographies, too.

Melanie Clegg focuses on royal women.  Two of her most recent books are Scourage of Henry VIII The Life of Marie de Guise and Margaret Tudor The Life of Henry VIII's Sister.  Both books were published by Pen & Sword.


 Henry VIII had briefly considered Marie of Guise as a wife, but she chose his nephew, James V of Scotland, the son of his older sister, Margaret.   The marriage lasted for only four years as the king died four days after Marie had given birth to a daughter, Mary.

This is the first biography in English on Marie for more than forty years.  It would be a difficult life in Scotland as the mother of an infant queen.  Marie would have to straddle the uniqueness of Scotland's political life, trying to balance motherhood and raising a young queen in Scotland.

Scotland's political tensions were tinged with the rising tide of Protestantism which had the support of Elizabeth I.  In her final hours of life, John Knox was"preaching against her" in the streets of Edinburgh, while his assistant prayed with Marie during the final hours of her life.

Melanie Clegg gives a voice to Marie, a woman, widowed twice, first at age 21, who had to use her intellect and charm, at times, to straddle the different factions in Scotland and the fear of an English invasion, as Regent for her daughter, who would be sent off to France as the bride of the future King Francois II of France, who died after only two years of marriage.

I was even more impressed with Clegg's most recent book, Margaret Tudor The Life of Henry VIII's Sister.  Margaret, not Henry, is an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II as the British Royal family descends from Margaret through both surviving children:  King James V and his half-sister, Lady Margaret Douglas, as their children, Mary and Henry, Lord Darnley, married and became the parents of James VI, who succeeded his kinswoman, Queen Elizabeth I, as King of England, thus reigning in two countries.

Margaret's marriage to King James IV of Scotland was arranged by her father, King Henry VII, as a proposed alliance between the two kingdoms.  But that is not how the marriage would turn out.  James was killed in the Battle of Flodden Field after only ten years of marriage, leaving Margaret with a 17-month-old son, a toddler king,

It was far from an easy life for Margaret, the daughter of the English king, and she found quickly that she had to depend on Archibald Douglas for protection.  She married him within a year of James' death.

Margaret was a truly tragic figure.  Her second marriage ended in divorce and she married for the third time  She had no support from her son nor her brother.  She careened from one poor choice to another, desperate for financial and emotional support.

Clegg has a strong foundation in history and this appreciation is on view in her books.  She is popular, rather than a scholarly, historian, focusing on the personality and the narrative.  This is not a bad thing, of course.  Scholarly biographies are appreciated, especially for the depth of the research,

A popular historian focuses on the subject and the events and other people that shaped the subject's life.

I look forward to reading more of Melanie Clegg's books.  I recommend you read them as well.  You might also check out Melanie's blog, Madame Guillotine

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