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Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories From History – Without the Fairy Tale Endings
by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
In fairy tales, the princess always finds a “happily ever after” by the end of her story. Real life doesn’t always work out so cleanly, and in Princesses Behaving Badly Linda Rodriguez McRobbie digs through history to find some of those less fortunate princesses. Some of these princesses meet bad ends after a life of folly, while others are merely thrust into unfortunate situations. Sometimes the “bad behavior” was for the good of the kingdom, while at other times it’s motivated by greed or madness. While perhaps not all of these women would have considered themselves to be princesses, their behavior is royally outrageous!
The princesses are divided up into several categories: warriors, usurpers, schemers, survivors, partiers, floozies and madwomen. The women really run the gamut from a Dark Age pirate to a few bloodthirsty murderers and even pretenders without a drop of royal blood in them! It’s probable that the reader has encountered some of the princesses before – Hatshepsut’s name pops up in any introductory lesson on Egypt and Lucrezia Borgia is a popular figure in historical fiction – but many of these princesses will be new faces.
One of the things I really liked about Princesses Behaving Badly is that the book has a global focus, with stories about princesses outside of Europe. This doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should! From the warrior princess Pingyang of China, who helped lead her father’s army and found the Tang Dynasty, to Njinga of Ndongo, an African princess who declared herself king and negotiated with Europeans while seated upon a human throne. While the majority of the women featured are still from European kingdoms, it was nice to have some variety.
As I mentioned, not everyone is technically a princess. Malinche was called an Aztec princess by the Spanish, but there’s no proof of her royal birth and the title may have been merely propaganda. Caraboo was a fraud; her country of origin didn’t even exist. Franziska Schanzkowska was an imposter claiming to the Grand Duchess Anastasia. But the stories are interesting regardless if the crown is real or fake.
The stories are told in a very breezy, gossipy style that reminds me of celebrity-obsessed magazines. It really helps make the stories lively and accessible for an audience that may not want the dry, scholarly tone of a full biography. They tantalize and tease, and hopefully will inspire readers to read more about these women.
3.5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Lost Adventures edited by Mike Richardson
2012: Stoneheart (Stoneheart Trilogy #1) by Charlie Fletcher
2011: Shadow of the Sword by Kamran Pasha
2010: News: James Patterson Inc.
2009: Black Ships by Jo Graham