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

by Eleanor Herman

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

In this follow-up to her bestselling Sex with Kings, Eleanor Herman reveals the truth about what goes on behind the closed door of a queen's boudoir. Impeccably researched, filled with page-turning romance, passion, and scandal, Sex with the Queen explores the scintillating sexual lives of some of our most beloved and infamous female rulers.

She was the queen, living in an opulent palace, wearing lavish gowns and dazzling jewels. She was envied, admired, and revered. She was also miserable, having been forced to marry a foreign prince sight unseen, a royal ogre who was sadistic, foaming at the mouth, physically repulsive, mentally incompetent, or sexually impotent—and in some cases all of the above.

How did queens find happiness? In courts bristling with testosterone—swashbuckling generals, polished courtiers, and virile cardinals—many royal women had love affairs.

  • 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.

  • Empress Alexandra of Russia found emotional solace in the mad monk Rasputin. Her behavior was the spark that set off the firestorm of the Russian revolution.

  • Princess Diana gave up her palace bodyguard to enjoy countless love affairs, which tragically led to her early death.

When a queen became sick to death of her husband and took a lover, anything could happen—from disgrace and death to political victory. Some kings imprisoned erring wives for life; other monarchs obligingly named the queen's lover prime minister.

The crucial factor deciding the fate of an unfaithful queen was the love affair's implications in terms of power, money, and factional rivalry. At European courts, it was the politics—not the sex—that caused a royal woman's tragedy—or her ultimate triumph.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061751561
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 129,411
File size: 2 MB

About 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.

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


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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Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
PiggityPig More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
klmeyer4 More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
bookwormteri on LibraryThing 3 days ago
A fascinating look at a woman's role throughout history as royalty. Women were treated as political pawns and often married to horrible men that cheated on them as well. Queens took pleasure where they could and it often cost them everything. Absolutely fascinating.
claudiabowman on LibraryThing 3 days ago
A fun read about queens, their affairs, and their consequences. More fun than Sex with Kings.
hlselz on LibraryThing 3 days ago
Herman's second book about the royal love affairs in Europe and Russia was much better then the first. An amazing collection of letters, quotes, and historical evidence show the infidelty of past queens.
MarmotandWombat on LibraryThing 3 days ago
Companion to Sex with Kings, Sex with the Queen examines the other side of the royal marriage bed. This work has a tighter structure than Sex with Kings and benefits from that over the earlier work. It is a very good overview of how the Queen, often ignored, frequently stuck with a husband of no great distinction (aside from a crown), made due and met her own needs, and sometimes paid the price.
Meggo on LibraryThing 3 days ago
Having read Herman's Sex with the King, I had high hopes for this book. In reality, it was a disappointingly voyeuristic look at the extra-marital affairs of queens regnant. Since the king was a personage who wielded power and authority, those having affairs with the king were in a position to influence. People having sex with the queen only had power and authority only if the king allowed it, or if the queen ruled in her own right and permitted it, like Catherine the Great. The vast majority of queens fell into the "powerless" group, rather than the "powerful" group, and as a result, the book quickly became tedious. A disappointment, except for the section on Catherine the Great, which was titillating.
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This book was very interesting. Even centuries later, their lives are very intriguing.
Amanning007 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a good book overall but really dull in places.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy juicy gossip and history this is the book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The r human
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Ber1212 More than 1 year ago
If history doesn't intrigue you with this bit of literature, nothing will!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago