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25/04/2019: Forgotten Royal Women

Erin Lawless’s book ‘Forgotten Royal Women’ is not only a fascinating and insightful read, but it is also written in an entertaining style with a great blend of historical prose, unusual words and modern parlance.

It traces female historical characters from the dark ages through to Victorian times. It covers legendary figures from the near mythical Scottish ‘Scota’ to the tragic Princess Charlotte, who had she survived would have prevented the invention of the word Victorian.

The book covers Queens, lovers, mistresses and tragic mothers.

Scota’s story stems incredibly from Egypt and includes the potential origin of the ‘Stone of Destiny’ (this rock gets more than one mention in the book!) as being from Egypt. Her existence is still a subject of conjecture, and it’s not often that a UK royal history book has a commentary that pre dates Christianity.

In the story of Cartimandua, Erin entertains with her references and descriptions. When this Queen of the Brigantes takes a second husband whose names means ‘better in battle’, I loved the reference that for the queen he was ‘clearly better in other respects too…’ Interestingly it is suggested that the love triangle that surrounds her story might have given origin to the story of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.

Edith Swannesha gets a noble and tragic mention who was the common law wife of one of my historical heroes Harold Godwinson. It is sad that history does not record what happened to her after the Norman invasion. But lineage can be traced from her to the current Queen through Edith’s daughter Gytha, meaning Queen Elizabeth II is Edith’s 29th great granddaughter.

Another touch of what I found to be an almost satirical use of English that entertained me was the story of Joanna Plantagenet. Erin describes how ‘it would have been totally inconceivable that a married pregnant woman be admitted to an Abbey’. Something in her story had clearly been very conceivable! Joanna was another tragic royal woman who died following child birth along with her child, much like the final tragic story of Princess Charlotte. Charlotte’s death, when she was the immediate heir to the throne, led to family expansion elsewhere to produce a new heir: Queen Victoria.

Writing royal history with its twists and turns in who accedes to the throne and from which house is difficult to commit to paper having read much on this subject. Erin has done a commendable job to try to allow the reader to follow these lines, and she has entertained along the way.

Good work, recommended read!

Reviewed by Bryan Lightbody,
For the Love of Books
for Pen & Sword Books

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