When I saw "Born to Rule" by Julia Gelardi first I was sceptical as I always found compilations of biographies disappointing. They always seem to promise a lot and in the end give little. So I was rather reluctant to buy this very book, especially as I have read quite extensively about Empress Alexandra of Russia and Queen Marie of Romania and a little less about Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain. I should not have been.
I believe it is a marvelous book, very well written and entertaining. Mrs. Gerlardi manage to bring these 5 lives together which seems to be merely connected by the fact that all had in common "Grandma Queen" Queen Victoria. Julia Gerlardi showing similarities, differences and how intertwined the lives of these 5 princesses were.
But who are these women, all granddaughters of Queen Victoria?
- Alexandra Feodorovn, the last Empress of Russia, the most famous and most tragic
- Marie, Queen of Romania, the most flamboyant, the most heroic, the most political
- Victoria Eugenia, Queen of Spain, the most dignified but the most elusive
- Sophie, Queen of the Hellenes, the most unknown and
- Maud, Queen of Norway, the most shy and the most successful of all.
Julia Gelardi adopts the technique of showing the lives in parallels which is interesting and rather helpful. Mrs. Gerladi paints a pretty good picture of the five ladies, giving how they viewed themselves and how the outside world viewed them. Of course, there is much stuff open for discussion. The political role of the Greec Royal Family and why they lost their throne in regular intervals remains a bit flimsy but the effects on Queen Sophie's life are well described.
I found it interesting to see that while all having the same grandmother the differences come into the play through their different mothers. Empress Alexandra and Queen Marie were daughthers of strong mothers (Princess Alice and Grandduchess Marie of Russia respectively), women who in a man's world managed to controll men, like Queen Victoria did. Not to that extent but it still seems to apply to Queen Sophie, as daughter of the Empress Frederick. Queen Victoria Eugenia and Queen Maud were daughters of weaker woman (Princess Beatrice and Queen Alexandra) and that showed. Maud however might have led the most undramatic of lives, was shy person and a rather reluctant Queen, but in the end she was the most successful as the the Norway's monarchy survived while all others lost their thrones. Interesting to see that while being consorts of various different monarchs all were very English and remained it hrough their lives. And the links continued in the next generations.
Gerladi is a very talentated author and her very first book is an excellent start for her writing career. However, I believe she could and should pay a bit more attention to details. Just a little example: she constantly refers to the Emperor and Empress of Germany. While this might be fine in casual conversations in a book on roylaty it is not. The Head of the German Empire was H.M The German Emperor, King of Prussia. And there is much behind this very title. Details od this kind are of importance as they were of importance especially to the royal person.
One last remark: what I did not understand why Mrs. Gilardi did not include the six grandaughter who became consort of a monarch, actually twice first as wife of the granduke of Hesse and later to to Grandduke Cyril of Russia, the Emperor without a throne. Actually a very interesting destiny whch should have been included.
However, all in all it is a book I enjoyed very much. 5 stars well deserved. I am looking forward to Mrs. Gilardi's second book.