Thursday, January 13, 2011

Queens and Empresses: From Cleopatra to Queen Victoria by Mark Hichens



Queens and Empresses: From Cleopatra to Queen Victoria
by Mark Hichens


If you love biographies about famous women throughout history, then this is a fabulous book to have on your bookshelf. The author, Mark Hichens, has put together a collection of biographies gathered from many different eras and numerous countries. Presented in chronological order according to era, the book opens with Cleopatra and ends with Queen Victoria.

Each biography is surprisingly thorough with plenty of detail, well-researched, and written in a pleasing voice and good pace. I found the biographies to be historically accurate and with enough detail so as to keep the reader interested without overwhelming them. All of the women presented, have previously had their lives recreated in popular fiction, and although many readers will be familiar with each woman’s story, it’s a pleasant change to read about their lives, from start to finish, in one succinct chapter.

The eleven women are:

Cleopatra

Catherine de Medici

Mary Queen of Scots

Elizabeth I

Maria Theresa of Austria

Christina of Sweden

Catherine I of Russia

Catherine II of Russia

Marie Antoinette

Empress Josephine Bonaparte

Queen Victoria

The thread of commonality between each woman is their ability to overcome adversity in worlds where women were of lesser importance. Each woman managed to strengthen their seats of power and leadership based on a combination of shrewd wit, wild luck, or profound sacrifice. Some were most beloved, but others were greatly detested. Several, courageously faced execution. Whether they loved their husbands or were forced into marriages of political convenience, each woman’s story is compelling.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I hope the author produces more such books in the future with lesser known royal women. I, for one, found this book fascinating and I look forward to more.