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

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

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by Eleanor Herman
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The author of Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge returns with her next catchy title. It was not easy being a royal princess, as Herman makes clear with tale after tale of weeping brides being forced to marry extraordinarily unappetizing princes. Sixteen-year-old Sophia Dorothea of Celle fainted when she met her bridegroom, "a dolt, unprepossessing in appearance, intelligence, and character. George Louis was known as `the pig snout' in Hanover." Other brides faced grooms variously described as "impotent," "an alcoholic imbecile," "a whoremonger," "a transvestite," or worse. Most of these women were humiliated and many were abused by their husbands. Small wonder, then, that they fell in love with the first man who was kind to them and didn't drool, but such liaisons rarely turned out well for the unfortunate princesses or their lovers. Only those women lucky enough to reign in their own right were generally able to get away with numerous affairs (e.g., Catherine the Great) or intense platonic friendships (e.g., Queen Victoria). While not an essential purchase, this is a fascinating and witty read, sure to be enjoyed by those interested in the private lives of Royals.-Elizabeth Mellett, Brookline P.L., MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060846749
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/26/2007
Series:
P.S. Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
435,903
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.79(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sex with the Queen

900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics
By Eleanor Herman

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright ©2006 Eleanor Herman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060846739

Chapter One

Life Behind Palace Walls

In love the heavens themselves do guide the state;
Money buys lands, and wives are sold by fate.

-- William Shakespeare

Princesses were raised to be devout, obedient, and faithful. When sent to meet their new husbands, they set off with every intention of retaining these vital qualities in their new lives. What happened over the years that made so many of them lose their religion, their obedience, and their fidelity?

When imagining the life of a princess bride, we envision opulent rooms boasting every comfort, efficient servants carrying out her every whim, a wardrobe of luxurious gowns, and a jewel box bursting with sparkling gems. We can hear the sweet strains of violins at a candlelit ball, smell the aroma of succulent roasted meats at the banquet table. We picture her handsome loving husband, her growing brood of healthy children, and envy her.

And yet the queen was often chained to a husband who didn't want her, didn't even want to sleep with her. Her children were taken out of her control and raised by palace officials as property of the state. She was forced to stand by patiently while doctors killedher children by bleeding them to death.

Her servants were often spies in the pay of her enemies. Nor was her life what we would call physically comfortable, let alone luxurious. For several months a year, drafts sliced through palace rooms like knives. Rats and insects nested behind gilded walls. Nor was the queen consort necessarily rolling in money; she possessed only the funds which her husband chose to bestow upon her -- in some cases, nothing.

Until the mid-nineteenth century when travel became easier, the princess sent off to wed a foreign monarch would likely never see her family again. The childhood friends and devoted servants she brought to her new country caused jealous intrigues and were often sent home as meddling intruders, leaving the princess alone and friendless.

Perhaps we will begin to comprehend why a decent God-fearing woman, cast upon a foreign shore bereft of family and friends, might jump into an adulterous affair, might seek a little love and understanding in the midst of her misery.

Palatial Luxury

The beauty of royal lodgings increased with the centuries. The medieval queen spent most of her time in the great hall, a large dark chamber with slits for windows and an enormous hearth. Meals were served here, and in between meals the queen sewed with her ladies and met with subjects seeking mercy or justice. But she was not alone in the hall; also present were the rest of the royal family, the entire court, bustling servants, and flea-bitten dogs hunting for food scraps on the rush-covered floor. There was scant furniture, and that was uncomfortable -- tables, benches, and, for the queen, a stiff high-backed chair. Vivid tapestries covered the stone walls but did little to dispel the gloom.

By the Renaissance, a European queen had her own suite of small, cozy wood-paneled rooms with large windows and heavy ornately carved furniture. In the baroque period, royal rooms boasted high ceilings painted with mythological scenes, gilded walls, silver-framed mirrors, and gleaming parquet floors. The dainty furniture was covered in silk or satin. Yet despite the ever-increasing grandeur of royal suites, life in the palace remained profoundly uncomfortable.

Catherine the Great, who arrived in Russia in 1744 as a German bride for Empress Elizabeth's nephew and heir, suffered terribly from the cold. Russian winters, so hard on peasants, were often not much easier on royalty. Churches were unheated, and many of the palace rooms were drafty and cold despite the presence of a crackling fire. Windows did not close properly, letting icy arctic winds howl through the rooms. Many days Catherine was "blue as a plum" and numb from the cold.1 She frequently suffered colds and fevers.

At night she was often kept awake by the sounds of rats scuttling behind the walls. Once, when a palace caught fire, Catherine stood outside in the street watching thousands of black rats evacuating the palace in an orderly fashion, followed by thousands of gray mice. She was not sorry to see that palace go; in addition to the rats and mice it had been "filled with every kind of insect."2

In the 1660s, utilizing daring feats of engineering, experts transformed a hunting lodge in a swamp into glorious Versailles Palace with an impressive system of fountains and canals. Yet for all the engineering advances of the time, no one had come up with the simple idea of window screens. Open windows allowed in a pleasant breeze, to be sure, as well as birds, squirrels, bats, and insects.

"The confounded gnats here do not let me have an hour's sleep," opined Elizabeth Charlotte, duchesse d'Orléans, from her gilded Versailles apartments in 1702. "They have chewed me up so much that I look as if I had smallpox again. We are also plagued with wasps," she added. "Not a day goes by that someone is not stung. A few days ago there was tremendous laughter: one of these wasps had flown under a lady's skirt; the lady ran around like mad because the wasp was stinging her high up on the thigh, she pulled up her skirt, ran around, and cried, 'Help! Close your eyes and take it off!' "3

Elizabeth Charlotte also suffered from the extremes of weather. "The heat is so great that the oldest people cannot say they have ever experienced anything like it," she reported in July 1707. "Yesterday everyone kept to his room in his shirt until seven at night; one constantly had to change shirts; I changed mine eight times in one day, and it was as if they had been dipped into water. At table too people keep mopping their faces."4 "The cold here is so fierce that it fairly defies description," she wrote in January 1709. "I am sitting by a roaring fire . . . and still I am shivering with cold and can barely hold the pen. . . . The wine freezes in the bottles."5

Continues...


Excerpted from Sex with the Queen by Eleanor Herman Copyright ©2006 by Eleanor Herman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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