Over the last couple of weeks, all my Amazon book orders have been coming in, and my “to read” stack is reaching new heights. Book mail is the best mail (save perhaps for shoe mail, and we all know how I feel about that). I had a tough time deciding which of the many new, delicious reads to pick first, but that’s definitely the kind of problem I like to have — no complaints. I ended up going the historical route again, this time with a non-fiction biography of Catherine de’ Medici and her daughter, Marguerite de Valois (Rival Queens by Nancy Goldstone). The book is well written, and just the right mix of scholarship and (historical) gossip. The Valois were France’s answer to the Tudors, and matched them for familial drama, religious strife, and sexual and political intrigue step for step. Catherine was a contemporary of Elizabeth I’s, in fact; it was her youngest son, Francois, who was Elizabeth’s (much younger) French suitor. The book does a good job of exploring the personalities of each queen in an even-handed manner; both are characters that have been much maligned over the centuries, particularly by male historians (no surprise).
For anyone interested in a fictional take on the Valois women, I would recommend Jean Plaidy’s trilogy about Catherine de’ Medici (The Italian Woman/Madame Serpent/Queen Jezebel) and Alexander Dumas’ La Reine Margot. Both provide sympathetic portrayals of their (flawed) protagonists, although in the latter case, Marguerite’s political acumen and intelligence is ignored in favour of turning her into a somewhat prototypical tragic princess. And for anyone looking for more biographies of royal women, I would also recommend Nancy Goldstone’s Four Queens (which tackles the 13th century story of the four sisters who married, respectively, the Kings of France, England, Sicily, and Germany) and The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily (which involves a trial in front of the Pope, to give you a sense of the notoriety involved). And stay tuned to this channel … there is a biography of Queen Victoria in my reading queue.
Speaking of, what else, but Victoria, I have to admit that I was underwhelmed with last episode’s royal wedding sequence. I continue to have complicated feelings about Albert, which are not helped by the fact that Lord M is bowing out of the show, seemingly to pine away, all alone, forever. I volunteer as tribute to keep him company in his political retirement, but in the meantime … more V&A canoodling, less domestic squabbling, please. (Sigh, I know that’s unlikely. The Baroness Lehzen/Albert showdown is still coming, for one.)
Also, I had an epiphany this week:
My hair? All Albert. Sorry, Lord M.
Onwards. Articles of note … well, it’s slim pickings this week. I’ve been doing a lot of book reading lately, and consequently I haven’t spent as much time as before browsing online. This article from The Fashion Law on the return of the New Look (and what it means) was a brief but intriguing glimpse into a topic I’ve always found fascinating — the sociology of fashion. It’s given me a hankering for a good fashion history book, so throw all your recommendations my way.