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

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

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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.

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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061120756
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/24/2006
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 504

Meet the Author

The author of Sex with Kings and Sex with the Queen, New York Times bestselling historian Eleanor Herman has hosted episodes for the National Geographic Channel and the History Channel's Lost Worlds. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, she is married and lives in McLean, Virginia.

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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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 54 )
Rating Distribution

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(24)

4 Star

(18)

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(11)

2 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Much better than Sex With Kings

    I read Sex with the King first, and while I wasnt disappointed, I felt that the work was disjointed and hard to follow at times. She seemed to skip around, witbout coherency, and new characters appeared in the storyline that were either not explained, or not important. However, I didnt feel this way at all with Sex with Queens. It was better written. I was saucier. I mean, who doesnt love historical smut? This book was a great read, you do learn a lot about life from the medieval times to the present...and you realize, not much has actually changed. Political intrigue and sex are omnipresent in history, and oft go hand in hand. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in women's studies or any that loves to read magazines but insists that they dont like books. If people only knew that such fascinating history was actually out there, rather than the dull stuff they focus on in school, people would probably know a lot more about it.

    If I were a history teacher, I'd make sure to thrown in at least SOME of these juicy tidbits to keep my students apt!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2007

    History that is entertaining

    Wow, I picked up this book and I loved it from start to finish. Its all the intresting facts that make characters in history come to life. At times I felt sad at how certain events turned out, others I would be quoting my new intresting fact to friends for a week. A great summer read, or read anytime you feel like learning about women who made history exciting.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2008

    A fun romp through history

    Sex with the Queen is a fun look into what happend behind royal doors. Herman does an excellent job describing what life was really like in a royal palace--it was no fairy tale. A must for anyone who is intreseted in royal history.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    Review for Sex With The Queen

    Sex With The Queen is very well-researched and more importantly, is extremely interesting. I'm not a huge non-fiction fan, so when I choose to read one, I'm picky. This book proved to be a good choice for me! Also, the book is not just a general history of the queens of Europe. It really goes into detail, which in my opinion, is what made the book so fascinating. I recommend this to anyone who is interested in the royal families of Europe or to anyone who just wants to learn a few fun facts!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2008

    It's not gossip...it's history!

    From page one, you really get pulled in and can't put the book down. It is interesting to read about 'the other side of the hen house' and how these women were portrayed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2014

    Great stories, very well done.

    This book was very interesting. Even centuries later, their lives are very intriguing.

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  • Posted June 19, 2013

    Very Entertaining - and sad at the same time

    The book was very quick, and witty, and covered a vast period of time. Some of the princesses/queens and their relations were a bit difficult to discern, but that's understandable when the people you are writing about are related to nearly every noble house in Europe. Her sense of humor and quips kept me laughing, while the reality of the life of these prisoners (for lack of a better phrase)was heartbreaking. I already knew going in that marriages were more about property and accumulation of wealth versus love when it came to noble families, but the depravity in which these matriarchs married off their daughters and sisters for personal gain to men who were mentally challenged, mentally unstable, repulsive, cruel and sometimes all of the above and then some was astounding. The wide ranging spectrum of Queens who can wield power as masterly as men, to those who are doomed victims from birth. In either case, Sex with the Queen actually made me feel sorry for any woman who holds the title of princess or Queen. My only disappointment is that it did not cover other nobility, such as the Ancient Egyptians, or the Romans, or even dive in to an area that is much less discussed like India, China, Japan or Africa.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    Interesting

    It is a good book overall but really dull in places.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    Loved it!

    If you enjoy juicy gossip and history this is the book for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2013

    Interesting

    The r human

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  • Posted August 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A great book!

    I really enjoyed this book. The author's research brought the lives of the women discussed to life. Her writing style is very open and engaging...as if a longtime friend were telling a story one afternoon. In addition to the politics and romantic relationships talked about, I found the socal responsibility discussions fascinating too. Out of all the ladies discussed, Sophia Dorothea of Celle's story was the one I remembered the most. I would highly recommend this book!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 12, 2011

    Deeply sexy

    If history doesn't intrigue you with this bit of literature, nothing will!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 30, 2011

    eBook Review: Extremely well-formatted, full page pictures re-sized

    Because B&N doesn't support line breaks in reviews, my lengthy review for the (5-star) content of this book can be found elsewhere online. This review will focus on the formatting of the eBook at time of writing (03/25/2011). This eBook is extremely well-formatted - the only errors I noted were 3 places where a "page break" seemed to be hard-coded into the text, regardless of the text size, so there was a good deal of "white space" on the page where the page break took place. I also never noticed any errors in the table of contents links. However, the paperback copy of this book has several full page color pictures of the queens and their lovers, whereas in the eBook format the pictures have been re-sized to small "thumbnail" pictures, which was disappointing. Otherwise, this is an extremely well-formatted eBook with no major flaws.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2006

    Those Racy Royals!

    Eleanor Herman, author of SEX WITH KINGS, returns with her second triumphant foray into the sexual lives of royals. Her sparkling narrative sweeps through history like a breath of fresh air, placing flesh and blood back onto the dusty bones of history. In this sure-handed and entertaining volume, Ms. Herman spotlights the lusty lives of queens, who were often quite miserable in their arranged marriages and therefore sought passion and solace outside of the royal marriage bed. Some queens lost their heads--literally--over their romantic dalliances, while others ruled as beloved monarchs while indulging in countless passionate affairs. With impeccable research and an engaging style that makes an immediate connection with the reader, SEX WITH THE QUEEN is as enjoyable as it is informative. A perfect book for beach or boudoir!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted April 11, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted July 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews

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