Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Release Date: November 2013
Publisher: Quirk Books
My Rating: 4/5
Source: Received from publisher for review
Cover: It’s pretty creative; I like it, although the princess at the very top looks very manly…
You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders—but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers mini-biographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating read for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.
I know the whole Disney princess franchise is a rip-off and may or may not be detrimental to young girls today. But honestly, I like Disney princesses…to a certain extent. Do I like that most of them (the earlier ones especially) need a prince to have their Happily Ever After? No, I don’t like that fact or many others. But I’m a sucker for fairy tales and the entire idea of what a Disney princess is appeals to me for some reason. I have a three year old daughter that loves all things Disney princess-related. Do I want her to eventually grow out of it though? Hell yes! But this isn’t a rant or discussion about Disney princesses. I brought Disney up because unfortunately that’s my only real knowledge of princesses. But real life princesses – the ones who fight for their freedom, scheme for power, lie, cheat and steal for gain are the ones featured in this book. These women are nothing like the princesses I grew up with but I became truly fascinated by so many of them after reading Princesses Behaving Badly.
I love the fact that this is such a fun, light, and fluffy read. These short, mini-biographies of the royal women of history is not only fascinating but an excellent introduction to a lot of women I hadn’t even heard of before. A number of their stories intrigue me enough to want to go off and explore more about their lives. It got especially exciting for me as the author moved closer to the current time period and even included some women who were still alive or had recently just passed within my lifetime. I do believe there was no intention of a deep, methodically researched portrayal of these women and honestly that’s what makes this read so much fun and so easy to read. McRobbie provides just enough insight to attract even the most reluctant historical reader. The gossip-rag style of delivery brings a modern outlook on these women and the choices they voluntarily made or were forced to make during their lives. Again, I think it’s a brilliant way to interest young and older readers alike.
Although I’m sure all facts are as reliable and accurate as possible I don’t think one should look upon this book as a serious read. I think it was meant to shed light on royal women, (including empresses, ones that may only be myths, ranis – which means “queen” or “lady” in many Indo-Aryan languages, khans – yes think Genghis!, and even imposters) that have “made the headlines” in their day. While most of these princesses were definitely behaving “badly”, even downright insane in some cases, some were merely stepping over boundaries that were frowned upon greatly or doing things other women would only dream of. The majority of these ladies never got their fairytale happily-ever-afters but they led extraordinary lives that over time have come to inspire and/or entertain the masses; a big accomplishment in its own right!