Following on from 'Sex with Kings', Herman reveals the truth about what went on between the closed door of the queen's boudoir. From the passionately foolish Marie Antoinette, to the destructively wilful Tsarina Alexandra, this book is about the women who lived and loved under intense public scrutiny.
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April 11, 2006
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Excerpt from Sex with the Queen by Eleanor Herman
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 killed her 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.
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.