Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie: A Book Review

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings
Author: Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
Genre:  Nonfiction, History, Biography
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: 2013
Pages: 303
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many 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 royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers minibiographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating read for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.

     My Review: Princesses Behaving Badly is a compilations of biographies of real-life princesses. Linda McRobbie uses these biographies to criticize the Disney and fairy tale myth that all princess live happily ever after (though if you’ve read the actual Brothers Grimm fairy tales, a lot of them are dark and gruesome-far from the happily ever after). She also argues that Kate Middleton is not a very lucky woman when she married Prince William as the public easily assumed and believed. These selected princesses that McRobbie uses are not the conventional, dutiful, and by the book good princesses but rather princesses that have stepped out of their conventions and rules of society and caused a great scandal to the shock of the people of their time. Because of this, they made choices that prevented them having a happy life, and some even to be ridiculed among their peers.

     McRobbie groups these princesses into seven categories: warriors, usurpers, schemers, survivors, partiers, floozies, and madwomen. Some of them were strong. Some of them are mythical. Some were imposters, and others were comical. Some of the ones that I liked were Pinyang, the Tang princess who led an army, Hatshepsut, and Khutulun, the Mongol Princess who were very good at wrestling. I also thought a few other princesses stories were very interesting like Wu Zetian, the only Female Emperor of China, Queen Isabella of England, known as the She-Wolf of England, and Malinche, the Aztec who betrayed her own people to Hernan Cortez. I also thought that she undermined great women like Njinga of Ndongo, the king who helped her people. There were other princesses like Clara Ward, Sophia Dorothea, and Sofka Dolgorouky that I really did not care at all about and were very bored of their stories.

     Overall, these princesses were very human. Most made bad choices that they would regret for their lives and had many flaws. This is not a scholarly book. McRobbie uses basic sources, mostly newspaper articles from gossip magazines, internet articles, and a biography or two. Yet the book is very witty and engaging, and it is a great introduction into the princesses’ lives. I recommend this for anyone who loves to read about royalty or for anyone who is looking to read a good juicy, gossipy, tale looking to satisfy their guilty pleasure.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Comments

  1. It sounds like fun, Lauralee - the type of book that would fit in very nicely between two 'heavier' books. Like the fairy tales it is obviously emulating, it is doubtlessly entertaining and, at times, possibly a little confronting. I would guess that it is most probably filled with moral advice - both obvious and not so obvious. I really enjoyed your review, and I will definitely keep an eye out for the book itself.

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  2. Thank you. Yes it is filled with moral advice.

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