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

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  551 Ratings  ·  66 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
Paperback, 576 pages
Published November 25th 2008 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2006)
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Sarah u
Waller's Sovereign Ladies, which discusses the six 'official' Queens Regnant of England then Great Britain, was a bit of a mix bag for me. Some chapters were stronger than others with regards to information and depth- for example, Victoria's 120+ pages are more than both Mary II and Anne's combined 90ish, and as a result contain more information and analysis of personalities, events, and politics. Having said that, the book is written clearly and concisely, and Sovereign Ladies does benefit from ...more
Feb 08, 2009 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  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
Feb 01, 2010 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, read2010
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
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.
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.
Feb 28, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feministic
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.
Interesting, if somewhat pedestrian read. Okay to fill in a few hours.
Aug 26, 2014 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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's Book Nook
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
Mar 18, 2012 Aposprout rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 26, 2010 Heather rated it liked it  ·  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
Feb 11, 2010 Bookworm rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, own
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.
Oct 03, 2012 Fleeta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!!
(Unfortunately, I lost a lot of my notes that I took on this book.. Here is what I have). And yes, the reviews do get shorter the further in the book we go; I apologize for that. Maybe at some point I can take the book out again and reread some of the chapters where my notes were misplaced.

As a whole, I really enjoyed reading this book. I will admit that while I've read numerous accounts of Mary I and Elizabeth I, I haven't read as much about the other queens. While I found that those two and Vi
I really like the premise of this book, but by the nature of the fact that it crammed 6 biographies into 500 pages, it was lacking.

I did like the fact that there were common threads emphasized among the queens: education, the view of women in general and in power, etc. I also like that the author did a good job of separating the queens where their stories overlapped, and that she showed the effect that one queen had on the next, especially as it affected the perception of a queen regnant.

But ove
Mark Gaulding
Dec 27, 2008 Mark Gaulding rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 04, 2011 Ting rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 13, 2010 Cris rated it did not like it
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
Dec 03, 2009 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jenny Karraker
Aug 08, 2012 Jenny Karraker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 07, 2011 Christie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 20, 2012 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  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
Rick Rapp
Nov 04, 2013 Rick Rapp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 a former British Lit teacher, I ...more
Katy M
May 11, 2014 Katy M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 03, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
A spellbinding look at the six ruling Queens of England; Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. The chapters on Elizabeth I and Victoria are by far the most in-depth, while the last chapter on the current Queen feels skimpy. That tiny quibble aside, this is a well-researched and written book for any student of British royal history.
Jan 30, 2009 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 15, 2015 Leah Cossette rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
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
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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
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