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Sovereign Ladies: Sex, Sacrifice, and Power--The Six Reigning Queens of England

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  444 ratings  ·  58 reviews
In the bestselling tradition of authors Antonia Fraser and David Starkey, Maureen Waller has written a fascinating narrative history---a brilliant combination of drama and biographical insight---of the six women who have ruled England in their own names.


In the last millennium there have been only six English female sovereigns: Mary I and Elizabeth I, Mary II and Anne, Vic
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Paperback, 576 pages
Published November 25th 2008 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,553)
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Kelly
Feb 08, 2009 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: british history dorks, feminists
Recommended to Kelly by: Sarah
This is a study of how being a woman affected the six women who ruled England ostensibly on their own- Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. It chronicles both the negative effects- how unwilling many people were to accept a female sovreign, how concepts of what women should be and do worked against them, how merely having a female body affected things- marriages, pregnancies, children, and the positive effects- how many of these women used the concepts of femininity in ...more
Anne
This book covers the six reigning Queens of England, defined by the author as those Queens Regnant who were crowned and anointed - in this case Queens Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. This was a big, fat book - but eminently readable because the author writes the history so well. Though it is non-fiction, each Queen's life reads like a story, using history and documents without being a dry litany of facts and dates. For example, Mary Tudor's happy early childhood i ...more
Heather
Jan 26, 2010 Heather rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: biography, women in history
Recommended to Heather by: library search
I checked this out to read the section on Victoria after seeing the movie "The Young Victoria". The movie is a good period piece with an interesting love story but I wanted to know some of the facts. I found that Waller was very accessible to someone unfamiliar with Victoria's reign. I enjoyed her style and felt that she provided a fairly comprehensive introduction to the subject in the space allotted. I liked it well enough to see what she had to say about the other monarchs.
Jill Hutchinson
England has had six queens who ruled in their own right representing four royal houses. Tudor: Mary (Bloody Mary) and Elizabeth I; Stuart: Mary II and Anne; House of Hanover: Victoria; and House of Windsor: Elizabeth II. This book covers their lives and their rise to the crown which in the cases of Mary, Elizabeth I, and Mary II was difficult since women were deemed unworthy to lead a country. Additionally the early queens were involved in the ongoing struggle between the Catholic and Protestant ...more
Bookworm
A good biography of the six queens regnant of England. It isn't quite so much straight history as it is a study of the queens themselves--their attitudes, and how they dealt with the attitudes of the men around them. One can also trace through the book how the styles changed from truly ruling to merely reigning.
Mary
I knew a lot about Mary I and Elizabeth I and bought mainly for the other queens, as well as another new way of looking at them, in comparison with each other. Britain with a Queen mostly seems to work! I love having history presented in different ways even if I know a lot of the facts already. Brilliant.
Patricia
Interesting histories of the six reigning queens of England, but steeped in politics. If you're looking for pure biography with lots of lurid details this is not the book to find it in. But it does give a nice historical and cultural context to each of the queen's reigns.
Fleeta
LOVED this! Snippet bios of the six regnant queens of England. Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. Really interesting and sharp. As someone who prides herself on her knowledge of the British monarchy, I enjoyed this fresh take!!
Laura
Holy my gosh.
I learned so much from this book. It wasn't just one of those historial fictions--it was straight facts. Apperently, there have only been six reigning queens. In over 1,000 years of monarchy.
Wow.
Margaret
Interesting, if somewhat pedestrian read. Okay to fill in a few hours.
Sara
Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II - the six queens regnant of England. This book should have talked about the toughness of each of these queens and everything they accomplished. None of them were expected to wear the crown, especially since the first two faced numerous death threats and the third took the crown by force. However, it seemed to revolve around all the men in their lives and how dependent they were on these men. Mary I and Elizabeth I grew up under a bru ...more
Sarah
I'm not particularly interested in England's history after the House of Tudor comes to an end (and even then, I care little for Elizabeth I - particularly later in her reign), but I picked this up in the interest of seeing how each of the very different queens in turn ruled their kingdom. Comparisons are made throughout the text, but mostly between Mary I and Elizabeth I, then Mary II and Anne, then Victoria and Elizabeth II. It is more of a history of each reign on its own, rather than a study ...more
Aposprout
I like that this book focused more on the relationship of the Queens to their throne. Each monarch viewed the monarch in her own distinct way - and thus ruled in her own way. It helps that I've read a bit on each Queen and so knew enough of the basics that I wasn't lost. Some background was helpful because each reign is touched on relatively lightly.

However, you do get a good sense of each Queen's strengths and weaknesses. Their attitudes towards their role and the struggle they each had to fac
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Mark Gaulding
This is a very effective look at the six women who have been queen regnants in England. Until Bloody Mary, there had never been a queen in power. There had only been Queen consorts. For all of her faults, Mary earns a healthy respect from this book's analysis of the unique predicament she found herself in. Women were thought of as helpless, worthless beings and here she found herself with no precedents in the history of mankind for a woman in charge. Her step-sister Elizabeth found herself faced ...more
Ting
Sovereign Ladies scrutinizes the six reigning queens of England: Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. The idea of a regnant female is one that through the ages has proved an uncomfortable topic. Questions have been raised time and time again of the fitness of a woman to rule in a man’s world tied as they are to their physical bodies and the expectations of females in marriage and childbearing.

The six queens in this book vary in how they coped with the accident of hist
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Cris
Bleah. The authors of most biographies I've read seemed to like the person he/she was writing about. Or, at the very least, find them interesting. But Waller seemed to hold all six of her subjects in contempt and sometimes disgust.

Waller was blatantly judgemental about the queens and made flat statements about each queen without even attempting to justify the statements. Sometimes, especially in Queen Victoria's bio, Waller's statements flatly contradicted themselves. Admittedly I'm a fan of El
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Karen
This book was an indepth look at all 6 Queens of England. Super interesting as I didn't know that much about Mary II or her sister Anne
(ruled 1702-1714) who was responsible for setting Great Britian on it's path for Queen Victoria's (ruled 1837-1901) "the sun never set on her empire". A couple of interesting facts: Queen Elizabeth I (ruled 1558-1603)(Henry VIII's daughter) and Mary Queen of Scots were enemies with Mary claiming to be the rightful ruler with the dipute settled by Queen Elizabeth
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Jenny Karraker
I know this is more of a summary than a review, but I wanted to include details that I often forget shortly after reading a book. This book was very informative, and it was interesting to see each Queen's strengths and weaknesses and how they played out. Not being English, it was difficult to follow the genealogies and know what certain terms meant/implied (dukes, counts, earls) especially when people were given new titles of rank when they married or accomplished something great. Reading this b ...more
Christie
This book is an introduction to the six queens of England who ruled in their own right: Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. It explores each queen's reign in depth and shows how being a woman influenced their time on the throne for better or for worse. It shows the way their subjects and counselors reacted to their gender, reviling some and glorifying others and sometimes going back and forth between the two. The book addresses issues that apply to all women such as b ...more
Kim
Jul 20, 2012 Kim rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women's history buffs, royal history enthusiasts
An absolutely fascinating examination of the rule of women of England/Great Britain. Maureen Waller brings to life the six women, all remarkable in their own unique ways, who stepped up to sit on the throne. Each faced their own respective challenges, and Waller delved into the details of how they managed their subjects (few of which were keen on being ruled by a woman) and survived everything thrown at them.

The book started out a bit slow with the section about Mary I, I admit. The biographical
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Rick Rapp
So in a nutshell: Mary I was a bitter woman which contributed to her misguided policies and further unhappiness; Elizabeth I was the penultimate queen but lonely woman; Mary II was an insecure woman orchestrated by her husband William; Anne was a woman desperate to have an heir, but the victim of 17 fruitless pregnancies which ruined her health; Victoria was a fascinating but unstable woman; Elizabeth II is a woman driven by duty. The book is well-researched...as a former British Lit teacher, I ...more
Katy M
This was pretty good, but I wish there had been more information about Mary II and Anne. I was already fairly familiar with Mary I and Elizabeth I, but there were some interesting things that I didn't know. I found the parts about Victoria and Elizabeth II very informative as I didn't too much about them previously.
Amy
I really enjoyed this book. The writing was easy to read & engaging. I particularly enjoyed the Stuart queens, as those were the two I knew least about. Each queen was given her due & explored with equal care.

It's interesting to look back at the medical conditions they suffered from & how it can be determined what they were by the descriptions of symptoms written by their contemporaries.

The one thing that stopped me giving 5 stars was the constant supposing of what they felt or tho
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Christopher
Although ostensibly a study of how the six queens regnant of England exercised the traditionally masculine power of sovereignty, this hefty book is essentially six mini-biographies. And although there are a few lines at the start and finish concerning the general theme of the mixture of feminism and monarchy, this work largely limits itself to these six woman with no reference being paid to female monarchs from other counties. That being said, this work succeeds very well as biography, and is in ...more
Leah Cossette
Excellent look at the six queens of England, their roles and their management of the crown and responsibilities. My favorite sections were Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Victoria. I think that Mary II and Anne's sections were the weakest mostly because their reigns were not long (as Victoria's) and not tremendously eventful (as the Tudor queens). Elizabeth II's portion of the book was a mere three chapters, and basically skimmed along her 60 years on the throne-- quite a disappointment after the detai ...more
Margaret
presents brief studies of the reigns of the six women who were actually sovereigns of England (not consorts, but actually rulers in their own right). It was an interesting and occasionally thought-provoking read. But I found the author's apparent judgmental attitude toward several of her subjects very off-putting at times.

Still, the author did make an effort to examine each woman as a ruler, as well as a person, which is an intriguing perspective. She also makes an effort to examine each of th
...more
Siena
This smart and addictive work of non-fiction provided a great overview of the history and gradual change of English monarchy through the story of Britain's six queens. I really enjoyed it and also learned quite a bit.
Lisa
Very good. Always love me some English history!
Des
Kinda fells a little bit short of my expectations especially when it reached the later parts of Victoria and Elizabeth II, but overall a good book. Gives a good insight in the lives of the six English queens and Waller does a good job of comparing and contrasting the ruling styles of the first four queens but for some reason the same zest that she gives in that comparison and contrast kind of fades with Victoria and Elizabeth II. Still three stars
Meg
When I first noticed this book, I wasn't sure how I was going to like this but I found that I enjoyed it much more than I was willing to. There were things that I did know from other books, but more oft than not there were things that I have no clue of. I can honestly say that I was never truly interested in Mary II or Anne I's rule, but after some of the topics that were covered in this book I will have to find more about their lives and rules.
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Maureen Waller was educated at University College London, where she studied medieval and modern history. She received a master's degree at Queen Mary College, London, in British and European history 1660--1714. After a brief stint at the National Portrait Gallery, she went on to work as an editor at several prestigious London publishing houses. Her first book was the highly acclaimed 1700: Scenes ...more
More about Maureen Waller...
Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown 1700: Scenes from a London Life London 1945: Life in the Debris of War The English Marriage: Tales of Love, Money and Adultery A Family in Wartime: How the Second World War Shaped the Lives of a Generation

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