Saturday, 11 February 2012

A Different Take - Born to Rule by Julia Gelardi

I've just finished reading this week, Julia Gelardi's - Born to Rule.  The book, as you may have gathered from the picture is about the Granddaughters of Queen Victoria or to be precise five of the Granddaughters.  She has selected these five as they went on to be Queens in their own right.  

The one that always stands out is, of course the Tsarina Alexandra of Russia.  The turmoil of the country she lived in, coupled with the tragedy of how the whole family met their deaths is a story that we all know.  I have read a number of books on the subject and wondered how Julia would present this differently.  

Instead of spending a number of chapters on each individual, she intertwines their stories, providing a much wider look on Europe in the early days of the 20th Century.  Tsarina Alexandra's story is therefore seen in the context of four of her cousins:

Queen Maud of Norway, daughter of Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark
Queen Marie of Romania, daughter of Alfred Duke of Edinburgh and Marie of Russia
Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain, daughter of Henry Prince of Battenburg and Beatrice
Queen Sophie of Greece, daughter of Frederick III of Germany and Victoria, The Princess Royal, sister to Kaiser Wilhelm II

I found this particularly interesting as I've not read much on the history of Romania, Greece, Spain or Norway before, but the telling of the story together showed just what a volatile place Europe was during the periods that they reigned.  

I was struck firstly at how intertwined the Royal Families across Europe of the period was.  Of course I was aware that before had that they all intermarried, but reading the book really brought it home.  Especially the case of Queen Sophie stuck between a rock and a hard place with her brother Kaiser Wilhelm, but yet quite a British outlook on life, trying to do her best for her adopted country of Greece.  I found it quite interesting to see Queen Victoria's influence on the women, even after her death.  Although not all were brought up in Britain, there appears to be a very British influence in each of their life's.  

The other thing that struck me was the expectations on these women from an early age.  I've come across this theme again and again reading accounts of Royal Women.  Whilst their brothers were likely to remain in the home country, it is the women that are sent abroad to face a foreign country and culture.  If they are fortunate they are blessed with good relations between the home country and their adopted one.  However for some the ordeal of having the country's at war, and being seen by your people as an evil representation, with conspiracy plots abound must be heart wrenching.  The women within this book were granted an element of choice about their unions, unlike the Royal women before who's marriage was used to seal a political deal.  However their position as a foreigner is still none the less a difficult one.

I always have a simple way of deciding if a book was good.  If it is good it stays on my shelf, if it is bad it is sent to the charity shop (although I don't know if it is charity to inflict bad books on people).  This one I am glad to say will be granted leave to reside on my book shelf.  

I hope you will continue to join the Rambling Wee Lassie as she takes a walk through life.

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