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A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories History's Wickedest Weirdest MostWanton Kings Queens

A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories History's Wickedest Weirdest MostWanton Kings Queens

4.3 46
by Michael Farquhar

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From Nero's nagging mother (whom he found especially annoying after taking her as his lover) to Catherine's stable of studs (not of the equine variety), here is a wickedly delightful look at the most scandalous royal doings you never learned about in history class.

Gleeful, naughty, sometimes perverted-like so many of the crowned heads themselves-A Treasury of


From Nero's nagging mother (whom he found especially annoying after taking her as his lover) to Catherine's stable of studs (not of the equine variety), here is a wickedly delightful look at the most scandalous royal doings you never learned about in history class.

Gleeful, naughty, sometimes perverted-like so many of the crowned heads themselves-A Treasury of Royal Scandals presents the best (the worst?) of royal misbehavior through the ages. From ancient Rome to Edwardian England, from the lavish rooms of Versailles to the dankest corners of the Bastille, the great royals of Europe have excelled at savage parenting, deadly rivalry, pathological lust, and meeting death with the utmost indignity-or just very bad luck.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In another royal expos , Farquhar, a writer at the Washington Post, duplicates some of the ground covered in Karl Shaw's Royal Babylon (reviewed above), such as Peter the Great's delight in administering torture (he had his son lashed to death) and the way Britain's Queen Mary cajoled her subjects into giving her their household treasures ("I am caressing it with my eyes," she would coyly coo). Written in a provocative tabloid style (with headings like "We Are Not Abused. We Are Abusive," "A Son Should Love His Mother, But..." and "All the Holiness Money Can Buy"), Farquhar publicly washes the dirty laundry of not only European royalty, but also of Roman emperors and popes. Murderers and torturers who slept with their siblings (and other relatives), the emperors of Rome excelled at corruption. The maniacal pedophile Tiberius Caesar (A.D. 14-37) left the corpses of his many victims to rot on the Gemonian Steps, which descended from the Capitol to the Forum, or alternatively enjoyed watching them being thrown from a cliff ("A contingent of soldiers was stationed below to whack them with oars and boat hooks just in case the fall failed to do the trick"). Many popes were no better. Not content with just rooting out Christian heretics by launching a bloody crusade against the Cathars in southern France, Innocent III (1160-1216) declared himself ruler of the world. He sacked Constantinople and massacred every Muslim he could find. Like Royal Babylon, this gossipy string of anecdotes is a popularized rather than an authoritative history and perfect for travel reading. (May 1) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Penguin Publishing Group
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5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

From Russia with
Lots of Love

Catherine the Great loved horses. She also loved sex. Contrary to popular legend, however, she never managed to unite the two passions. Still, the autocratic empress of Russia brought all the enthusiasm of a vigorous ride to her extremely busy bedroom.

    After ridding herself of her imbecile husband Peter III in 1762, Catherine grabbed the Russian crown and came to dominate her kingdom for the next thirty-four years. Boldly indulging herself as she grew more secure in her position, the empress consumed handsome young lovers with an appetite that sometimes shocked her contemporaries. "She's no woman," exclaimed one, "she's a siren!"

    The empress relished her weakness for men, abandoning herself to a giddy romanticism that belied her cold and pragmatic rule. She loved being entertained, even into old age, by a succession of well-formed young studs eager to please her. "It is my misfortune that my heart cannot be content, even for one hour, without love," she wrote.

    Sharing the empress's bed brought ample rewards, not the least of which was an intimate proximity to power, but getting there wasn't easy. A good body and a pleasant face, combined whenever possible with wit and intelligence, were merely starters. Potential lovers also had to have the right pedigree and pass a crucial test. Catherine had several ladies-in-waiting—test drivers of sorts—whose job it was to ensure that all candidates for their mistress's bed were up to the highly demandingtask of satisfying her.

    The applicants were most often supplied by the empress's one-eyed ex-lover—the man many assumed to be her secret husband—Gregory Potemkin. She had fallen in love with this rough, hulking officer relatively early in her industrious sexual career, overcome by his brash courage, quick wit, and almost primitive sexuality. Wasting little time disposing of Alexander Vassilzhikov, her boyfriend at the time, Catherine was delighted the first night Potemkin came to her bedroom, naked under his nightshirt and ready for action. "I have parted from a certain excellent but very boring citizen," the empress wrote to a confidante, "who has been replaced, I know not how, by one of the greatest, oddest, most amusing and original personalities of this Iron Age."

    Because of his long greasy hair, and brutish unwashed body, many women found Potemkin repulsive. Catherine, however, reveled in his strength, charm, and sexual domination. She couldn't get enough of this strange man who made her forget her royal dignity. Whenever they were parted, even for a few hours, she regaled him with an avalanche of feverish love notes, each peppered with at least one of her special pet names: "My marble beauty," "my darling pet," "my dearest doll," "golden cock," "lion of the jungle," "my professional bon-bon."

    In one letter, she pretended to be shocked at the intensity of her passion and tried to get hold of herself: "I have issued strict orders to my whole body, down to the smallest hair on my head, not to show you the least sign of love. I have locked my love inside my heart and bolted it ten times, it is suffocating there, it is constrained, and I fear it may explode." In other letters she gloried in his good company: "Darling, what comical stories you told me yesterday! I can't stop laughing when I think of them ... we spend four hours together without a shadow of boredom, and it is always with reluctance that I leave you. My dearest pigeon, I love you very much. You are handsome, intelligent, amusing."

    Of course Catherine loved the sex, and in her exultation could sound much more like a bad romance novelist than the authoritarian empress of all the Russias:

—"There is not a cell in my whole body that does not yearn for you, oh infidel! ..."

—"I thank you for yesterday's feast. My little Grisha fed me and quenched my thirst, but not with wine...."

—"My head is like that of a cat in heat...."

—"I will be a 'woman of fire' for you, as you so often say. But I shall try to hide my flames."

    Moody and temperamental, subject to bouts of black depression and fits of jealousy, Potemkin was sometimes lovingly scolded by his royal mistress: "There is a woman in the world who loves you and who has a right to a tender word from you, Imbecile, Tatar, Cossack, infidel, Muscovite, morbleu!" The relationship was so physically intimate that Catherine did not hesitate to share even the most unflattering of ailments with him: "I have some diarrhea today, but apart from that, I am well, my adored one.... Do not be distressed because of my diarrhea, it cleans out the intestines."

    There is no surviving evidence to support the rumor that Catherine secretly married Potemkin, although she often referred to him in her letters as "my beloved spouse," or "my dearest husband." Married or not, the relationship certainly transcended the bedroom as it evolved into a close political partnership. Catherine shared her vast kingdom with Potemkin as if he were her king. She consulted with him on all affairs of state, working closely with him on her ambitious plans to expand Russia's borders and crush the Muslim Turks.

    The empress's powerful lover is perhaps best remembered for the legendary "Potemkin Villages" he is said to have created for her benefit as she embarked on a grand tour of all the newly Russianized lands he had conquered for her. These "villages," it was said, were little more than elaborate stage sets of prosperous towns, populated by cheerful serfs, all of which were quickly collapsed and set up again at the next stop on Catherine's carefully plotted itinerary. The artificiality of the Potemkin Villages came to represent in the minds of many, Catherine's superficial and halfhearted attempts to reform and liberalize her kingdom.

    Though the relationship with Potemkin endured until his death in 1791, the sexual intensity between them dimmed after only a few years. No longer champion of the empress's boudoir, Potemkin resolved to retain her favor by pimping his replacements. He handpicked a steady succession of new lovers for his erstwhile mistress—all of whom paid him a handsome brokerage fee for the privilege of servicing her. There was Zavadovsky, followed by Zorich, followed by Rimsky-Korsakov, followed by Lanskoy, followed by Ermolov, followed by Mamonov and so on and on, and on.

    After being installed in the official apartment set aside for Catherine's lovers, each new favorite was feted and adored by the passionate monarch with almost girlish enthusiasm. But each, in turn, was eventually dismissed, either for boring Catherine or breaking her heart. Few, however, left her service without a handsome settlement. When Zavadovsky was dismissed in 1776, for example, Chevalier de Corberon, the French chargé d'affaires in Russia, wrote that "He has received from Her Majesty 50,000 rubles, a pension of 5,000, and 4,000 peasants in the Ukraine, where they are worth a great deal [serfs at the time were tradeable commodities, like cattle].... You must agree, my friend, that it's not a bad line of work to be in here."

    One ex-lover, Count Stanislas Augustus Poniatowski, was even given the crown of Poland, although Catherine did eventually hack away huge chunks of his kingdom and absorb them into her own. All told, the generous payments to fallen lovers amounted to billions of dollars in today's currency. When her friend, the French philosopher Voltaire, gently chided Catherine for inconsistency in her love affairs, she responded that she was, on the contrary, "absolutely faithful."

    "To whom? To beauty, of course. Beauty alone attracts me!"



Penguin Group

Copyright © 1999 Arthur Miller and Inge Morath Miller as Trustee. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Michael Farquhar is a writer and editor at the Washington Post specializing in history. He is the author of the bestsellers A Treasury of Great American Scandals and A Treasury of Royal Scandals. He appeared on the History Channel’s Russia, Land of the Tsars and will be featured on a forthcoming program about the French Revolution.

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Treasury of Royal Scandals 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Illyrah More than 1 year ago
The Best Part is that you can put it down. Its divided into wonderful short chapters so that it makes a great bathroom read or a quick read during coffee. It only gets confusing because all the monarchs are named the same, but other than that Farquahr is an excellent author. I'm purchasing his other books now, they make for great anecdotes!
TurningThePagesBlog More than 1 year ago
What an intriguing read this turned out to be. Sometime last year while I was going to college I skipped a day (one of many days when I skipped) and I went to Goodwill on a Friday for their weekly 50% off sale to see if I could score any good reads and I found this one on the top shelf. Unfortunately I'm still trying to figure out why it took me over a year to read it, I mean I love the cover, the title and the summary both hold promises of a delightful read but no. I picked it up many times with the intentions to start it but it wasn't until last month that I actually got around to reading it. What I liked most about the book apart from it offering up some very interesting and some very perverted details about the royal families was that the book didn't just center on the royal families of England and France it encompassed all the European royal families and let me tell you they're a rather colourful bunch of families and talk about inbreeding! Since this is my first time reading anything by the author I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up liking the way he used historical facts while making the book entertaining for the reading to make it easy to read. I think the reason that a lot of people stay away from non-fiction titles about the aristocracy and history in general because the books tend to be written in such a dry, heavy manner that doesn't allow for the casual reader to enjoy the words on the pages. Luckily, this one is full of puns an some very inappropriate comments about the kings and queens of old. Honestly they weren't the type of people whom you would want to call a friend let alone family in those days since there were assassinations, be headings and forced marriages to deal with at every twist and turn. Truly some of the kings and queens were completely off their rockers. Fortunately the inbreeding, assassinations, be-headings and all the other ugly stuff are no longer a facet of modern royalty (for the most part) because, if we had to deal with some of the royals from the past we'd be screwed worse than we are now. While I read the book I learned a lot and I had fun doing it too. Then again I'm a history buff so I find this stuff entertaining all the time but for those unfamiliar with this type of book, and the book can be picked up an put down easily and it made me feel like I would be lost if I had to set it down because of how it was written and I had a lot of laugh out loud moments while I read it. Overall, I highly recommend this to those with a penchant for history and those with a sense of humour as well as those just wanting to read about the royal scandals. Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears have nothing on the scandals in this book. I'm looking forward to reading the other books that the author has written that follow this same topic as this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Want to go behind the scenes in History? Michael Farquhar is the best author to take you there. With various antidotes and little known facts, you can learn more from one of Mr. Farquhar's books than you can in years of college history classes. Throw in the humor and wit and you have a book that you enjoy reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a history geek like me you will love this book. Could not put it down!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Definitely read this if you like history at all. I read it a couple of years ago and I think it made me like history more! I have ever since always wanted to know the back stories, because there is always something someone isn't telling you.
SarahCavy More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books to read! Every story is provacative and fun. I was absorbed into it from the second I started reading it!
mcfly2392 More than 1 year ago
A very intresting view of royalty through the ages. The entitlement and craziness made for a quick, interesting, educational read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved it it was awesome...If you love history espcialy crazy history youll love this book....I read the whole thing in one day....
Guest More than 1 year ago
Naughty wicked and bad! I shall reread it at once!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a history nerd so I can't think of anything in the book that I hadn't read before. That said, its still a fun read whether at the beach, poolside, or sitting by the fire with some hot cocoa.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a great read! I really enjoyed the short chapters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Detail is amazing . Worth the money .
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Extremely unorganized the book jumps back and forth with notes refering to either past or future chapters. It does not give a in depth account of actual facts. A very dissapointing read.
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