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In Triumph's Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory [Hardcover]

Julia P. Gelardi
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Nov 2008
Queen Isabella of Castile, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and Queen Victoria of England were respected and admired rulers whose legacies continue to be felt today. Their daughters - Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England; Queen Marie Antoinette of France; and Vicky, the Empress Frederick of Germany - are equally legendary for the tragedies that befell them, their roles in history surpassed by their triumphant mothers'. Because of his doomed marriage to Queen Catherine, Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, triggering the English Reformation. To many, responsibility for the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror fell squarely upon Marie Antoinette. And Empress Frederick proved insufficient in getting Germany to rise to political maturity: under her son's reign, the country would be plunged into the beginnings of world war. Exhaustively researched and utterly compelling, In Triumph's Wake" is the powerful and moving story of three royal mothers whose quest for power led to the downfall of their equally extraordinary daughters.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 404 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (25 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312371055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312371050
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 16.1 x 23.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,904,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"An excellent, comprehensive study of six fascinating women and the troubled times that shaped their lives." - Publishers Weekly." --Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Julia Gelardi is the author of "Born to Rule" and "From Splendor to Revolution." Educated in the United States and Canada, she is an independent historian and author, currently living in Minnesota with her husband and two daughters. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What for ? - Quite a disappointment 8 Jan 2009
I am usually sceptical about these kind of books as I always found compilations of biographies disappointing. They always seem to promise a lot and in the end give little.

While Julia Gelardi's first book "Born to rule" did not disappoint, this one clearly does.

In "Born to rule" Julia Gelardi focused on 5 granddaughters of Queen Victoria and showed where differences and the similarities lay. In her new book she deals with three pairs of royal mothers and daughters: Queen Isabella of Castile and her daughter Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first Queen, Empress Maria Theresa and Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, and Queen Victoria and her eldest daughter, the German Empress Frederick. Putting these three different pairs in one book can only be justified that they were all royal and that the fate of the daughters were not as happy as predicted when they were married off. But otherwise there is no connection and one has to ask oneself what purpose does it serve.

The book does not present new facts or interesting inside which have not been covered elsewhere. Better biographies and studies have been written about these ladies. It makes rather average read and for those having a bit of knowledge already it is pretty boring actually. This applies to her style of writing as well. I was rather tempted not finishing it al all. All in all, this is a book which is neither here nor there. It is not really bad, but I can honestly not recommended it, at least not for the price of the hardcover.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Infuriating writing style..... 24 Feb 2010
By Imelda
I really enjoyed this author's last book so I bought this one sight unseen. The premise of 3 ruling queens and their married daughters is interesting and certainly gave me a new insight into all 3 sets of mothers and daughters.

However, and it is a big however - the author's writing style includes lots of quotes. Every sentance seems to be quoting from another author or source. Sometimes there are even quotes within quotes. In the end, I was just annoyed with this as it is almost as though the author has cut and pasted from other books rather than digesting the information and putting it into her own words.

Of course the principal characters words need to be quoted but quote after quote from other books is just unacceptable so far as I am concerned.

Still an enjoyable book though - perhaps it is just me being pendantic!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In Triumph's Wake 15 Feb 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Julia P. Gelardi
In Triumph's Wake

A historical novel about strong mothers and their not quite so strong daughters - the mothers being Isabel of Castile, Therese of Austria and Victoria of England - powerful queens each in their time.

However, the fates of the daughters are different: Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church to cancel his marriage to Catherine, daughter of Isabel. And Marie Antoinette lost her head more or less symbolizing the cause of the French Revolution. Vicky, the unfortunate daughter of Victoria did not have the power to prevent her son from sending Germany into war.

Background as well as the historical documentation is thoroughly examined and perhaps already known. There are many details some more interesting than others. The book stresses on the differences between the conditions of the mothers and their daughters that is political as well as matrimonial. A pattern is not detected and the reader may be left with the question as to why these three queens are selected. Is it time, power or personality that decide the destiny?

Informative and moderately entertaining.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great premise, but not enough new information to satisfy. 6 Dec 2008
A Kid's Review - Published on
After reading Julia Gelardi's first book, Born to Rule, about five granddaughters of Queen Victoria, I knew that I was going to be looking out for her next nonfiction work. This time, Gelardi has taken on the stories of three powerful women and three of their daughters who struggled with both their fates and the expectations laid down upon them.

In Triumph's Wake, Gelardi explores the lives and achievements of three of history's more remarkable monarchs -- Isabella of Castile, Maria Theresa of Austria, and Queen Victoria of England. Each of these women would overcome difficulties in their assumption of power, and solidified their power through clever politics, marriages and a shrewd ability to judge character and use whatever they had to. While each woman would have several children, Gelardi focuses on one daughter of each who would struggle with challenges and tragedies that ultimately reviewed the true woman beneath the royal facade.

The first, Isabella of Castile, was born a princess in a small kingdom of the Spanish peninsula. Castile at the time was poorly ruled, and fraught with nearly constant warfare within from contentious clans of noblemen intent on seizing as much power as they possibly could. The neighboring kingdom of Aragon wasn't much better; Isabella would marry the eventual heir to Aragon, a handsome, very intelligent young man named Ferdinand. Together, they were able to unify the two kingdoms, pacify the nobility and then turned their sights to the final phase of the long struggle that was known as the Reconquista. Isabella ruled in her own right as Queen of Castile, developed policy and raised a numerous brood of daughters and one beloved son, as well as one of the darker chapters of history -- the expulsion and forced conversion of Spain's Jews and remaining Moorish population under the Inquisition.

Her daughter, Catherine of Aragon, the youngest child, would prove to be not quite as lucky as her mother. Pretty, just fifteen, well educated and everything a princess could hope to be, she was sent to England to marry Henry VII's eldest son, Arthur, Prince of Wales. But the marriage was short-lived, and the question would rage on decades later if the marriage was consummated or not in what was the most famous divorce case in history. Henry VII treated Catherine shamefully, trying to wheedle more of the massive dowry out of her parents, and dangling the promise of arranging her marriage to his second son, the future Henry VIII. When Henry VII died, his heir did indeed marry Catherine, and she was Queen of England, and busily set about trying to give him a son.

What I found interesting in this section was how closely Catherine fit the mold of a proper, religious and devoted Spanish queen. And it's clear that she was indeed loved by Henry VIII, at least until his hunger for a male heir overrode his judgment, and he became the bloodthirsty monster of modern legend. Before this, I had read very little about Queen Isabella and what I discovered was rather new for me.

The second section deals with Maria Theresa, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, and the heiress of the kingdoms of Austria and Hungary and a host of smaller lands. As with Isabella, she faced a host of problems, among them trying to find a husband that would suit and help her rule, and enemies that sought to take her lands from her. She was energetic, working right up to the moment that she gave birth -- she would have sixteen children in all -- and resuming work right afterwards. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to pass on this strict discipline and self-control to her youngest daughter.

That daughter was to be known as Marie Antoinette. Pretty, and adored by her father as his favorite, she had a good mind and was very talented at music and acting, but lacked the willpower to really apply herself. Antoinette found herself at the age of fourteen and a half off to France to marry Louis-Auguste, heir of Louis XV. From far away Austria, her mother kept up a set of hectoring, lecturing letters, criticizing nearly everything that Antoinette did, and like nearly any teenager, Antoinette rebelled -- indulging herself and discovering a talent for losing when gambling and spending to excess. By the time she was Queen, poor Louis XVI lacked the spine to curb her spending, and their inability to give the throne an heir turned public opinion against them. The final blow came when revolution swept France when dissatisfied nobles and an overburdened population finally had enough. Only when her family was imprisoned and Antoinette lost everything, did she finally show some mettle and true courage, but by then, it was all too late.

While I did find the story of Maria Theresa very interesting and revealing, there has been so much written lately in both history and fiction lately about Marie Antoinette that frankly, I was bored to tears at this section. Author Antonia Fraser has covered the story far better in her biography.

The third section is about Queen Victoria, and her eldest daughter, Vicky. Victoria knew from a young age that she was to be queen, but also was raised in a restricted and controlled environment by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and her crony, John Conroy, in the hope of ruling for Victoria if she became Queen before the age of eighteen. Fortunately for the British, this didn't happen. Strong willed, stubborn and not afraid of speaking her mind, Victoria was lucky enough to find herself the perfect husband and consort, her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Together they would have nine children, of which the eldest, named Vicky after her mother, was her father's favourite and blessed with a very quick intellect and brilliant mind. As with her mother, she married for love, choosing Frederick, son of the Crown Prince of Prussia. The pair were devoted to one another, hoping to bring their reactionary country to a more liberal government, based on the English parliamentary system. Unfortunately, they were not able to bring this about, opposed by both the Prussian royal family, minister Otto von Bismarck (who made Vicky's life a living hell), and finally their eldest son, Willy, who would grow up to be Kaiser Wilhelm II, who would set World War I into motion.

Along with the narrative, there are extensive notes, a bibliography, and genealogy tables. Two inserts of black and white and colour reproductions of paintings and photographs are included, which help to put faces to the various names.

Summing up, I felt that this was a pretty average read. While those who have not read anything about these six women would find this pretty interesting and informative, those with a solid grounding in the history would be bored stiff with this one. Far more extensive biographies and studies have been written, and a great deal of Gelardi has to say is pretty much covered elsewhere, and in far better prose. Most of what is in here is just reworkings from other writers, and there's very little that is new.

And that is too bad. While it's a fascinating way to look at history, Gelardi's narrative moves at a steady pace, but never really catches fire for the reader. About a third of the way through, I just wanted the book to be over, and that's a bad sign. Only recommended to those who are new to the stories of the women discussed, otherwise, stick with some of the better biographies out there.

Somewhat recommended, but a hearty 'no' from me. Three stars overall.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars nowhere near the quality of her first effort 15 Feb 2009
By ds - Published on
After reading "Born to Rule", I was excited to see another book by this author. I was very disappointed with the result. I knew I was in trouble when I read the author's note that her aim was to stimulate interest in these illustrious ladies -- I had already read biographies of each of the ladies in this book and was drawn to the stated premise of the book, namely how the mothers' success as rulers led to their daughters' tragedies. The author offers absolutely nothing in the way of new information or insights. Her premise is interesting, but she fails to really explore it, giving little insight into the mother-daughter relationship and how the mothers' success as rulers in part was responsible for their daughters' disasters. If you know nothing about the ladies in question, this will be a good introduction to them. For anyone who has any background at all -- don't bother. You won't gain any new insight.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, but some factual errors 31 Jan 2009
By Ponette - Published on
After reading and enjoying "Born to Rule", I eagerly awaited the author's next book. The premise (successful mothers, tragic daughters) was fascinating, and there were many similarities among the 3 groups. The first two sections were terrific, particularly the one on Maria-Theresa and Marie Antoinette (the first, on Isabella and Catherine, is pretty much well known). Unfortunately, I found the the last section, on Victoria/Vicky, to be the weakest (and was the one I had most looked forward to). There were at least a couple of factual errors in that section. For example, Sophie is misidentified as Vicky's youngest daughter (it was, in fact, Mossy, who was 2 years younger than Sophie). Sure, it's a little thing, but to those who are truly royalphiles, careless errors like that grate on the nerves and take away from the impact of the book. That said, the book itself was well-written as well as riveting. The book is still worth the price and it is a good read, but I hope next time more careful editing is employed.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorites 26 Jan 2009
By Andrea L. Kohler - Published on
Julia P Gelardi is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I really like the way she weaves the life stories of monarchs together, as she did in "Born to Rule" and now in "In Triumph's Wake." The 3 mother/daughter relationships she focuses on in this book were remarkable women, and their stories make for genuinely interesting reading. I have read many books about Catherine of Aragon, Marie Antoinette and The Empress Frederick, but never any dedicated to their relationships with their famous mothers, the way this book is. I found it a fascinating, very well written and researched book, which I highly recommend.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting! 30 Sep 2013
By Fabian Acebal - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is another of Julia Gelardi's very successful "group biographies", all of which I have really enjoyed. Its a very interesting look at three mother-daughter relationships.
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