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Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings,…
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Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate…

by Eleanor Herman

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I don't know about you, but when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a princess when I grew up. There was the influence of Disney, but there was also the influence of Prince William (this was obviously before he grew up and started to look a lot more like his dad). From what you see on the outside, as a young girl, being a princess looks wonderful. You're rich, famous, and you get to wear a tiara. As a 13 year-old, I was pretty sure I'd found my future.

As it turns out, not so much. Also as it turns out, being royalty kind of sucks. There's plenty of speculation that Prince Harry's trouble in finding a steady girlfriend is (at least in some measure) the pressure of becoming a member of the royal family. As an adult, the idea of trading living under a microscope, with public interest in your private life extending not just to juicy stories, but to snooping on your phone and long-lens photography hoping to catch you taking off your top to tan more evenly, is a devil's bargain for getting to wear some pretty headgear once in a while.

But as much as there are significant downsides to being royalty today, it used to be much worse, especially for women. Author Eleanor Herman details the very real drawbacks being a princess or a queen. Royal women weren't people, they were bargaining chips in international diplomacy. They were married off to princes and kings who were old and fat, who were impotent, who were gay. They were expected to tolerate their husband's infidelity without doing anything that would cast doubt on the true parentage of their children. Those children were frequently unceremoniously confiscated from them and raised according to the wishes of others. Their lush castles were drafty and dirty, and their expensive physicians were as likely to kill them as help them. Their access to funding was usually controlled by other people and so they were slaves to the whims of those who held the purse strings. They were often deprived of the company of those to whom they could speak their native languages...their ladies-in-waiting from their home countries could be dismissed without their consent and seeing their family members required long, complex negotiations that fell through more often than not.

Some princesses and queens, though, didn't follow the rules. They took lovers at great risk to themselves...and even greater risks for the men in question. It is those women (and their men) who Herman's Sex with the Queen is about. After detailing how awful it actually was (and still is, on a certain level) to be a princess, Herman moves into the good stuff: dishy gossip. From the Tudor queens Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard all the way to Princess Diana (it's not just English queens, there are stories from all over Europe), we're regaled with tales of forbidden passion and courtly intrigue. It covers the expected subjects (the aforementioned Tudor queens, Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great) as well as some lesser-known stories, like that of Sophia Dorothea of Celle and Queen Maria Francisca of Portugal. There's not a lot of substance here, it's mostly well-written soap opera, but it's fun and frothy and easy to read.
  ghneumann | Jun 29, 2016 |
Eleanor Herman's non-fiction book "Sex With the Queen" covers roughly 900 years of sexual escapades and adultery by queens and princesses. I had always known that kings had many adulterous liaisons, but I had assumed that queens had little opportunity to be anything but faithful to their husbands.

Although many ordinary people envied royalty's beautiful attire, rich surroundings and fabulous jewels, the fact is that queens had little freedom and led lonely, boring lives. They lived in foreign countries, far from their native languages and customs, and in most cases never saw family and friends for the rest of their lives. Servants did their work and took care of their children, leaving the queens to do little but embroider all day.

In order to avoid inbreeding and create international liaisons, princes and princesses where betrothed to royalty from other countries, often sight unseen. In some cases, the kings or princes were fat, ugly, uncouth, unfaithful, insane, gay, cold, or even impotent.

Frustrated women turned to other men for affection with varying results. Some queens were beheaded, imprisoned, exiled, or sent to convents, and some were tolerated and a few queens even thrived despite their illicit behaviors.

Many of the stories are quite funny, like the unfortunate woman who married an impotent king who was so fat that he had his servants roll him through his palace's corridors and insisted that priests say mass in his bedroom but were not allowed to awaken him. Many stories had tragic endings. But whatever the outcomes, the queens' stories made fascinating reading.

The first two chapters of this book give examples of so many kings and queens, some of whom I had never heard of, that my head was spinning. But starting with chapter three, Herman goes into depth about the love affairs of the wives of Henry VIII, as well as Catherine the Great, and many other queens, up to and including Princess Diana of England who was so desperate for love that her life was vastly more pathetic than I ever imagined.

If your prurient interests may be aroused by the funny, sad, uplifting and tragic tales of historical women who desperately sought love and sex despite potential consequences, I highly recommend this well-researched and very readable book. ( )
1 vote TeachArt1 | Mar 12, 2014 |
Silly, salacious and about as meaningful as People Magazine, this book is compulsively readable. It's well-written, engaging and pruriently interesting. It appeals to all of the same trash receptors in one's brain that fuel the National Enquirer, Star and the other weekly mags featuring vapid celebrities. The big difference is that the vapid celebrities in the book are royal and dead. A fun read nonetheless.
( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
My lil' sis gave me this one. It's basically about various queens love affairs. The chapter on Marie Antoinette and Fersen, which was sufficiently romantic for my sensibilities, having been raised on BeruBara.

I have learned though, that while it may have been good to be the King (and even that's really debatable: The last King I read about was pretty much tortured into insanity by his tutors in their attempts to make him a 'real man') it was not good to be the Queen. Married off in your early teens to a man who was often cruel, insane or at best neglectful, without any friends, the slave to the whims of your husband and a pawn to political factions? And if you did find love with a handsome courtier, you and he could be exiled, tortured or executed? No thank you. ( )
  shojo_a | Apr 4, 2013 |
My lil' sis gave me this one. It's basically about various queens love affairs. The chapter on Marie Antoinette and Fersen, which was sufficiently romantic for my sensibilities, having been raised on BeruBara.

I have learned though, that while it may have been good to be the King (and even that's really debatable: The last King I read about was pretty much tortured into insanity by his tutors in their attempts to make him a 'real man') it was not good to be the Queen. Married off in your early teens to a man who was often cruel, insane or at best neglectful, without any friends, the slave to the whims of your husband and a pawn to political factions? And if you did find love with a handsome courtier, you and he could be exiled, tortured or executed? No thank you. ( )
1 vote shojo_a | Apr 4, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060846747, Paperback)

In royal courts bristling with testosterone—swashbuckling generals, polished courtiers, and virile cardinals—how did repressed regal ladies find happiness?

Anne Boleyn flirted with courtiers; Catherine Howard slept with one. Henry VIII had both of them beheaded. Catherine the Great had her idiot husband murdered and ruled the Russian empire with a long list of sexy young favorites. Marie Antoinette fell in love with the handsome Swedish count Axel Fersen, who tried valiantly to rescue her from the guillotine. Princess Diana gave up her palace bodyguard to enjoy countless love affairs, which tragically led to her early death.

In this impeccably researched, scandalously readable follow-up to her New York Times bestseller Sex with Kings, Eleanor Herman reveals the truth about what has historically gone on behind the closed door of the queen's boudoir.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:54 -0400)

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"In this follow-up to Sex with Kings, Eleanor Herman reveals the truth about what goes on behind the closed door of a queen's boudoir. Sex with the Queen explores the sexual lives of some of our most beloved and infamous female rulers."--BOOK JACKET.

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