Some excellent biographies of famous/infamous queens have hit the bestsellers lists lately. In 2010, Cleopatra: A Life by Pulitzer Prize winning Stacy Schiff was on the bestseller lists for months. This queen was made notorious by Shakespeare in Antony and Cleopatra where she is portrayed as a passionate and manipulative woman. Schiff with her meticulous research creates an ultimately more interesting person and a spectacular description of her court.
This past year Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie (another Pulitzer winner) also became a bestseller. Like Cleopatra, Catherine has a reputation as a passionate woman. Starting life as a minor German princess she was married off to the nephew of Czarina Elizabeth’s nephew Paul, whom she later dethrones. The book follows the expansion of the Russian empire under Catherine and her efforts to bring the Enlightenment to her country.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, the queen we know best, has just celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and with that event biographies have mushroomed. Three that we have at the Library are:
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith. Its available in regular print, large print, audiobook and as an ebook. Smith had access to previously unavailable sources including the journals and correspondence of a former advisor and a former U.S. Ambassador.
Her Majesty: Queen Elizabeth II and Her Court by Robert Hardman. Hardman is a long time observer of the monarchy and is the writer of the book and UK television series, A Year with the Queen.
The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Andrew Marr. Another observer of the monarchy, Marr attempts to discern the person behind the public image.
Some good choices for your summer reading.