Title: Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History – Without the Fairy-Tale Endings
Author: Linda Rodriquez McRobbie
Publisher: Quirk Books
Check this book out on Goodreads.
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. (Source: Goodreads)
This book details the lives of several princesses through history trying to present a more realistic view of who and what princesses are. The stories range across the world, and are broken down by theme. The stories don’t hold back including the good, the bad, and the ugly details of the princesses lives.
This book was a fast and enjoyable read but I had a lot of problems with it. Which range from the mode of story telling to the actual research process for this book which seems to be largely lacking. The tone and intended goals of the book are also pretty annoying and poorly done. The book had lots of interesting stories but it didn’t make up for the rest of the problems.
To start off with the good. The stories. The stories in this book and super interesting. A lot of these were ones I hadn’t actually heard, or was only vaguely aware of. I don’t think there was any where I knew all of the details of the story. This made reading the stories themselves very fun because it’s very interesting history, there’s not a dull moment in this book. A lot of the stories are really entertaining and funny. The book definitely ends on a high notes by talking about famous last words, as the final princesses just seemed really cool. The last official story in the book as well was a good one to end with – the imposter Anastasia Romanov.
Unfortunately, that’s where the positives of this book end. The book is essentially “pop” history. It’s basically stuff that would get people’s attention in a newspaper or on the internet but has little else in substance. There’s no point to this book beyond relating some stories. McRobbie tries to make a point, a sort of feminist mission to create realistic images of princesses. She really fails at this, largely abandoning any notion of this throughout the book, and only discussing it in the preface of the book. Throughout the book she really only works to counter her so-called feminist mission by putting down women for the looks and talking about them in terms of their contemporaries (she takes on their attitudes, instead of separating herself from their voices). She applies the same current standards of beauty she mocks in the preface to every princesses, no matter what time period of country they’re from, which is just a huge mistake.
Another problem with this book is the tone that it’s written in. It basically comes across as a gossip column more than anything else. The way McRobbie writes is as though she is dishing some hot gossip rather than treating the subject of her own book as serious. This made the book very difficult to take serious, especially in the face of the preface which was overly serious by comparison. This is made worse because the book lacks evidence and research. There are limited sources for each story, with no citations of actual references used in the text of the book. The lacking research made it hard to take the stories seriously or to believe they are entirely true…because there isn’t enough evidence to suggest they are.
I found the book enjoyable, but I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who thinks they’ll be getting some serious history out of it. I would say this is more on the level of an Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader and is basically something I’d say pick up and read bits and pieces, but don’t take it as an authority on the subject.
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