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Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History—Without the Fairy-Tale Endings

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You think you know her story. You've read the Brothers Grimm, you've watched the Disney cartoons, and you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But real princesses didn't always get happy endings. Sure, plenty were graceful and benevolent leaders, but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elisabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev slaughtered her way to sainthood while Princess Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers true tales of all these princesses and dozens more in a fascinating read that's perfect for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.

303 pages, Hardcover

First published November 19, 2013

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About the author

Linda Rodríguez McRobbie

3 books90 followers
Linda Rodríguez McRobbie is an American writer and journalist living in London, England. She's written about everything from the history of toilet paper to the story of the Ouija Board and has, so far, never met a topic that didn't sound utterly fascinating.

After graduating from Columbia School of Journalism in 2004, Linda began her career in Boston, first at the City Desk of the Boston Herald, fielding phone calls from irate readers and would-be tipsters with probable mental illness, and writing articles. From there, she moved to the South End News, paper of record for the South End of Boston, and Bay Windows, paper of record for New England's GLBTQ community. After four years in the trenches of community journalism, Linda decided to both move to London and become a fulltime freelance journalist. Neither decision turned to out be as easy as they sounded.

Once in London, Linda became the editor of The Periscope Post, an online news site that specialised in highlighting the most interesting and important commentary of the day. In November 2012, she left the Post to begin work on her first book, Princesses Behaving Badly, published by Quirk Books (order now!).

Back in the freelance saddle, Linda has been writing primarily for Smithsonian.com and Mental Floss, both the magazine and the web. Her work has also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, CNN Money, US News & World Report, and others.

She's married to graphic designer Chris McRobbie and they have one son and one cat.

(biography taken from Linda's official website).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,049 reviews
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
December 9, 2020

Nevertheless, here are the stories of real princesses and real women.
We all know the stories of Ariel, Belle, Cinderella and Snow White...but their fluffy stories aren't nearly close to the truth.

What about the Warrior princesses? The Usurpers? The Schemers and the Survivors?

What about their stories?

Glad you asked.

If you have ever been curious about what princesses do when they aren't batting their eyelashes or fluttering their hands, you have come to the right place.

Learn about real-life
pirate princesses, mafia princesses, prisoners, punks and rebels of all types.
They may begin once upon a time, but they don't always end happily ever after.
This was a rather fun book!

I really enjoyed about all of the wild and wondrous princesses out there in the world - and not one of them pulled a sleeping beauty - each princess wanted something out of life and did her best to get it.

It was so much fun to learn about the warriors queens and the strong women of the past (some of which were princessing in the 2000s!).

The only issue I had was that this book covered a lot (and I mean a lot) of princesses.

Towards the end, there was just too many characters and too many scenes and timelines - I started to get lost and some of them were blurring into each others.

Overall - this was an extremely enjoyable book (just a bit muddly at the end).

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Sasha Strader.
435 reviews10 followers
August 30, 2013
An interesting premise, but not really all that well executed.

First, and most tellingly, a few of the "real" stories are based on mythology or folklore with absolutely no proof of their existence and say as much. Why create a book of real stories and go down that path? It especially irked me in the case of "The Princess who was a Pirate" since it was just mentioned casually towards the end of the story that her existence was only in the tall tales of the area.

Secondly, the gossip rag style of writing left me with a sour taste in my mouth. (most of) These women were real and were fighting real battles with enemies, themselves, or society. I could wish the author had been a little more understanding and explanatory of the circumstances surrounding their actions. The only slight exception to this seemed to be Juana de Castille (aka, Juana the Mad) who the author explained may have been portrayed as mad by her husband and father to rend her politically powerless.

Finally, and mostly irrelevantly, I received an ARC copy and WOW I hope the proofreaders and editors get hold of this and shake it down before it goes public. I've never had such a hard time reading through a book before, but this one had so many grammar, spelling, and continuity errors I felt like I was grading a remedial paper.
Profile Image for Jane.
Author 10 books822 followers
January 14, 2014
Where I got the book: ARC from LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program. A book club read.

First of all, this is not a "serious" history book. I gather some readers have had problems with the lack of academic gravitas so if you're looking for stories of princesses with copious endnotes, stop right now and proceed to a university library. My copy is an advance reading copy so I can't tell you about the selected bibliography or the index, but from reading the book I imagine they're not that extensive.

So what we have here is a light, fluffy, amuse-gueule of a read, covering examples of royal hellcats from ancient history to the present, but--weirdly--leaving out Princess Diana (yet including Princess Margaret, so it can't be because the author's afraid of being sued by the Royal Family.) It's clearly meant as the kind of book you dip into, leave in your bathroom (don't tell me you don't) or keep on your nightstand to cleanse your mind after a day at the office. It's the kind of book you give as a gift to your cousin who likes reading historical stuff but you've really no idea what her specific area of interest is.

And does it do a good job within the confines of its own limitations? I think so. McRobbie divides the text into sections: Warriors, Usurpers, Schemers, etc., rounding up a handful of examples for each part and recounting their stories in a breezy, sometimes snarky, style--think the feature pages of the Sunday newspaper and you've pretty much got the tone right.

I'm not a big fan of compendium works like this on the whole, but the more I read, the more I enjoyed it. I particularly relish the mad and bad 18th and 19th century princesses--nothing like inbreeding, a miserable childhood and the over-the-top excesses of an 18th century court to bring out the worst in a woman.

McRobbie stretches the definition of "princess" a bit, so serious students of history might disagree with some of her choices. But in case you weren't paying attention to the first paragraph, SERIOUS STUDENTS OF HISTORY SHOULD NOT READ THIS YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I can tell you who SHOULD read this: novelists looking for a good story. I'm keeping this one on my shelf for story ideas because truth (or the gossips' version of truth) really is stranger than fiction.
Profile Image for Jessica.
569 reviews778 followers
April 28, 2018
I received this book for free from the publisher (Quirk Books).

I give this book 4.5 stars which rounds up to 5.

This was such a fascinating read. It contains mini-biographies of different real life royals (princesses, empresses, sultanas etc.) from around the globe, and throughout history. Some of the princesses are well heard of, but most are relatively unknown.

I really liked how the book showed how complex and flawed these women were. They’re not necessarily depicted as being “good” or “bad”, just human. The context of their worlds were also given, which helped you understand their actions better. It also showed how being a princess was not as glamorous as one may think.

Another thing I liked was how the book tried to separate fact from fiction. Historiography is complicated, especially when it comes to telling women’s stories. Women are vilified so much more easily and quickly than men. I appreciated how the author explained what was probably true and what was a myth.

However, the one thing that I didn’t agree with was the author’s view on Disney princesses (it was a negative one). It was only briefly mentioned in the introduction so it wasn’t a huge deal to me.

The biographies themselves were all very entertaining. The most interesting aspects of their lives were highlighted.

Overall, this is a fun read for princess lovers.
Profile Image for Kat.
283 reviews8 followers
April 10, 2014
My review is based on two things:
1.) Based on listening to the audio version
2.) The introduction by the author asserted that she wanted to debunk the Disney princess idealism by sharing real stories of real princesses.

The structure of the book was disjointed and contradictory. The author grouped these "princesses" (the term is used loosely as she also featured queens, empresses, and American rich girls) into various categories - "warriors," "floozies," "partiers," "etc." Some of the women fell into multiple categories - some fell into none. I think it would have been better to group them into princess fairy tale stereotypes such as "Women Who Escaped Prince Charming," or "Women Who Didn't Need Saving," or even "Women Who Bought Their Own Glass Slipper."

The sub headers and the myths inserted before the "actual" stories was also confusing. Sometimes I would become enraptured by a story only to have the author jump in and say, "Now here's what really happened..." It felt lazy to just read the text verbatim. If a section of a book is defined by a font type - it should be adjusted for an audio book audience.

Moving away from the structure, I thought it was hypocritical of the author to initially criticize Disney, news outlets, etc. for creating "narcissistic" children who idolize unrealistic princesses. In every description of the real women, McRobbie made a comment on their physical appearance. If the focus was truly on the women's deeds...why do we need to know what she looked like? Furthermore, if the driving force of this book is true stories - how do you really know what some of these Viking and ancient Chinese "princesses" looked like?

Ultimately, I think McRobbie set an expectation that she couldn't fulfill. While the premise of the book was good, it's a lofty goal to change public perception of princess...particularly when you're trying to counter opinions with a poorly executed book.
Profile Image for Rebecca Huston.
1,061 reviews157 followers
July 5, 2014
Sadly, I picked this one up to see if I could fight off a case of insomnia. That didn't happen. This rather short, nonfiction book is a slight, very fluffy accounting of princesses who didn't have a chance of happiness. Each one gets a page or two, a woodcut-looking illustration if they were lucky, and the author dishing up plenty of snark and snide as a bonus. Many of these ladies I had heard of, a few I knew fairly well, and quite a few were those on the fringes. The ones who claimed to be princesses and weren't, or various imposters -- most famously, Anna Anderson aka Anastasia -- give the most interesting stories. A few of the stories are just barely in the running as princess fodder. I was very surprised that there were quite a few omissions, most notably, the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Now for the bad news: the research here is slight at best. The author only gives one or two sources for each lady in this tale, and most of them rate as popular histories at best. Which is a shame. This could have been done so much better and much more interestingly if the author had only bothered to take the time and effort. But I guess she was trying to cash in on the Princess craze. Just two stars and a not recommended.

For the longer review, please go here:
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 31 books5,634 followers
October 31, 2016
My favorite kind of history book: the interesting bits, presented in handy bite-sized portions. This book is full of short (most around 4 pages) biographies of notable princesses from the 4th century to the 21st. Some of them were horrible, some insane. And some were warriors, some were saints in life and have become literal saints in death. Some were total fakers, too, like Princess Caraboo. (Side note: I love the movie with Phoebe Cates, and just found out a year ago that it was based on a true story. The real story is far less magical but EVEN MORE fascinating!)

It reminds me of the Uppity Women books, but this book was clearly better researched, and has a great bibliography at the back. Two thumbs way up!
Profile Image for Lea.
459 reviews72 followers
August 30, 2016
This book has an interesting title and an interesting premise. Unfortunately, the writing is atrocious.

I'm confused as to the actual target audience the author was trying to reach here. In the introduction, she talks about how Disney is evil and poisoning the minds of our youth by making girls want to be like the Disney princesses (don't even get me started on this bullshit - she must have missed how Disney princesses are brave, kind, generous, hard-working, etc). Her purpose seems to be, then, to write the ultimate childhood-ruiner bedtime story book: "See, Becky, THIS is what REAL princesses were like!! No happy endings HERE!! Just like LIFE!!".

Her TONE, condescending af, trying to incorporate outdated slang, and weirdly reminiscent of TMZ, is the embodiment of this gif:

But no parent in their right mind would give this book to a child - it's full of incest, murder, torture and other "adult" themes. So you end up with a book written as IF to a child (except even children would roll their eyes at her try-hard writing) but which can only be read by adults.

And another thing: the tagline from this book is "REAL stories from HISTORY". Its whole thing is to talk about the lives of real princesses. And yet??? The proportion of REAL princesses from HISTORY here is incredibly small. The author includes stories that only exist in mythology and folklore, women who were never princesses and many who weren't even nobility. Gotta fill these pages somehow, amirite??

I want to read this book again, when it's written by a better author and has a better selection.
Profile Image for Alice.
845 reviews48 followers
July 15, 2013
I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. While Goodreads does ask for a review in exchange for the advance reader copy, I was in no way compensated for my review.

This is a collection of stories about real-life princesses throughout history who made their marks, in one way or another. Several make power grabs, while others are known for being the true power behind the throne, or for their madness. There are some warriors, all from non-European backgrounds. Many of the stories are about princesses in the last century or so, known for a certain wildness.

The book's strength is that it covers a lot of different cultures. There are princesses from every continent but Australia and South America. It could've stuck to just European royalty, but the variety fills in a lot of gaps of my own knowledge of history. Two North American princesses are discussed, in very different terms due to their very different approaches to the white conquerors.

While this does go a long way toward showing us where the women were in history, it's not without its faults. The book uses "gypsy" to describe people of Romani heritage, and doesn't question the stereotyped views thereof. It also takes a modern approach to beauty, scoffing at descriptions of plump princesses as attractive and describing all of the European princesses in terms of their looks. The Asian, African, and Native American, apparently, weren't worth considering. Last, it often presents the mythologized stories of these royals for several paragraphs before cutting in to say that's not true, that this is how it really happened.

This book was a decent way to make history interesting and relevant to me. It adds on to my high school courses about dead white guys. But, as a primary resource, it's lacking. I think it's a good jumping-off point for discovering about different people and cultures, but it's not detailed enough. It is a fun read, though the last third felt rather repetitive.

I would recommend this book to middle school and high school students who are bored to tears of their history courses, and want to hear about something other than dates and battles and borders. Budding feminists may also be pleased with the new ammunition about how women have been erased from history.
Profile Image for Marina.
142 reviews15 followers
April 14, 2018
Among the numerous collections of this kind sprouting up lately, this one caught my eye first because it was about princesses, and second because it promised the truth behind these women’s stories. It did turn out to be a collection of numerous stories about the real princesses and their, sometimes, gruesome and difficult lives, but the line between fact and fiction is very blurry here. The author often cites sources, both reliable and not, but more than often she tries to weave fictional stories around these women’s lives, with no evidence to support her claims.

It seems that the author couldn’t decide whether she was writing fiction or nonfiction. I expected the latter, since the book is marketed as such, so it’s no wonder I was annoyed at McRobbie’s constant interference with unsupported facts, bad jokes and overly colloquial terms.

“She also didn’t take any crap – she once beat her half brother Mbandi bloody after he stole her beaded necklace…” -I was kind of expecting a ‘woman need no man’ kind of line to show up.

Okay, I don’t really mind the crap, but this is just one of many examples where the author: 1. Doesn’t write consistently with the rest of the book, and 2. Seems to push a female empowerment of the totally wrong kind on her readers. In multiple stories I stumbled on similar lines, where a princess in question is doing unimaginable, disgusting things, and she is praised by the author. Is that what feminism is? Were these stories about men, and many men of that kind did exist throughout history and they still do, would we praise them or condemn them?

“It’s unlikely that she was ever initiated formally into the tribe, a gruesome ritual that involved the murder of a child.” –This is the author’s note on the same woman from the previous quote, concerning an initiation to Imbangala, a vicious band of mercenaries, concluding that this woman wouldn’t be involved into a murder of a child simply because she was a woman, when that same lady killed her 8 yo nephew on the previous page.

I’m digressing here, since it’s clear from the introduction that McRobbie’s main goal is to crush the princess myth; the fact that Disney Company glorified that title and turned it into something it almost never was, something little girls today look up to. Throughout the history, being a princess was rarely a lovely, beautiful thing, and the author successfully proved that point. It’s just that she did a very poor job of conveying it, and I cannot ignore that.

There are too many stories here to check the validity of each one, but the ones I did check were only half true. Some details are obviously added to interest or shock the reader, even some subtitles have a form of click-bait, trying to make the story more interesting, and when you do read it you will realize that the title was either exaggerated or false. She also states multiple times that what you’ll read is probably not true, because the patriarchal historians weren’t too keen on female rulers, but what about the facts she added herself, without any kind of indication? What is true here and what is not is on the reader to decide.

“That Edward (II) had a lover wasn’t shocking, nor was it a big problem that his lover was a man.” -Ummm yes it was. Homosexuality used to be called sodomy, and it was condemned by the church, which equated it with heresy, even I know that much.

Throughout this collection, McRobbie tries to be funny, and she failed in that area too. Maybe it’s just the type of humor I don’t like, but it certainly feels unnecessary and simple.

“T-III, now in his mid-twenties, was more than ready to rock.” -The person here referred to as T-III is Tuthmosis III, how is this even funny?

On the brighter side, I actually did like this collection, as I would have liked an online article on the subject: “30 fierce and dangerous princesses that kicked ass, read all about it!!!!”, which I would have forgotten the very next day. If it was written better, I would immensely enjoy it and buy it, but as it is I’ll just thank Netgalley for the advanced copy of the new and illustrated edition.

The main thing I liked was that it provided a peak into these women’s lives, collected in one place, and that some of my favorite women from history were mentioned, like Hatshepsut, Boudicca, Lucrezia Borgia, Queen Tomyris, Erzsébet Báthory, etc. I’ve also heard of some of these princesses for the first time, which will certainly lead me to more research and some better books on the subject, like I hope the Bygone Badass Broads by Mackenzi Lee is.

My favorite new discoveries are: Catherine Radziwill, the stalker princess; Sarah Winnemucca, whose autobiography was the first memoir written by a Native American woman; Caraboo, the fake princess who fooled the whole England; Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, still very much alive, who turned a personal tragedy and crisis over its head; etc. There are 30+ princesses (or not) in this collection who deserve being mentioned and read about, but hopefully next time in a book that’s written better.

So if you like interesting (I will not say powerful as it is not true for all of them) women from history, and if you don’t mind the gossip-column style and unsavory jokes, I think this collection could be an interesting and quick read.

A thank-you to Netgalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The review is also available on my blog Books of Magic
Profile Image for Katherine.
770 reviews350 followers
November 2, 2019
We've all heard the tales of famous princesses (and queens); Marie-Antoinette, Elizabeth I, Cleopatra. But there are some princesses that are completely overlooked in the modern history books, forever to be obscure.

Until now.

In this collection, the author takes a look at some of the more colorful princesses and queens of the world. Divided into seven sections based on personality traits and actions, it gives a brief glimpse into the crazy shenanigans some of these women involved themselves in.

The one quibble I had with the book? The introduction. My God, some of these psychological studies take themselves too darn seriously. I grew up watching Disney Princess movies, and I turned out FINE. >:(

Enough of that, let's get on with it!!

The Kick-Ass Princesses
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Aka, the princesses you don't dare mess with for fear of getting the shit kicked out of you. Whether it be by cobras and vipers who are trained to bite you in your most, ahem, sensitive areas (Princess Alfhild), fight in battle with a baby strapped to her back and still keeps fighting with an arrow stuck in her eye (Lakshmibai), or refuse to marry unless a handsome prince... manages to beat her in a wrestling match (Khutulan), these princesses are NOT to be messed with under any circumstances.

The I-Am-Woman, Hear-Me-Roar Princesses
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Men? Who needs men? They have no idea what the hell they're doing in the first place, and most of our disastrous historical events have been caused by men in the first place. At least, this is the philosophy these women go by. Who cares if there's already a man on the throne? You can become a ruler anyways (Hatshepsut of Egypt). In fact, why not take it a step further and become the only woman ruler in your country? (Wu Zetain, the only female emperor of China). It's a woman's world out there, and they're just living it.

The Scheming-Ass Princesses
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If you want something, go for it. And if anything stands in your way, get rid of the obstacle. This is the philosophy that these royals lived by. It doesn't matter where you come from life, there's always the hope that with enough wit, intelligence, scheming and maybe a murder or two, your chances of being royalty are substantially increased. Roxolana didn't let the fact that she was a sex slave stop her from weaseling her way into the sultan's favor and becoming his queen. Unfortunately for some, these grand exploits to further their standing can go horribly wrong. Like Justa Grata Honoria, who, in her attempt to gain favor with Attila the Hun, paved way for the barbarian invasions to the Roman Empire. Just goes to show that women are dangerous.

And men need to get their shit together.

The I-Have-No-Idea- What-I'm Doing Princesses
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Just because you're a princesses doesn't necessarily mean you're the brightest crayon in the package. Marrying wrong can have its serious disadvantages (Lucrezia Borgia). Consorting with the enemy doesn't help your cause either (Sofka Dolgorouky). You just have to hope that your stupid decisions will pay off in the end (Sarah Winnemucca). Otherwise, you're just another muddied name in the history book (Malinche).

The I-Do-What-I Want Princesses
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These princesses just don't give a damn about anything. It doesn't matter if they're cross-dressing (Christina of Sweden), hoodwinking an entire nation into thinking you're a real, true princesses (Caraboo), or dying your hair pink and going the punk rock route (Gloria von Thurn und Taxis), they do what they want whether anyone likes it or not. Because hey, they're royalty.

The Sexy-Time Princesses
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Here's the thing people; if a prince happens to get with a lot of women, he's considered a player and success. If a princess gets with even one man who's not her husband.... she's a whore. Some had to give up their sexy exploits for the sake of their empire (Princess Margaret of England). But that doesn't stop some from trying, to say the least (I'm looking at YOU, Princess Pauline Bonaparte). Let the smexy times begin!!!

The Crazy-Ass Princesses
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As the old saying goes, there's one in every family. It probably doesn't help that most of the European royals married within the family, making the chance for insanity even higher. But since nobody listened to common sense back then, bad things were bound to happen. Some mental illnesses were caused by this inbreeding (Princess Alexandra Amelie of Bavaria); others were caused by plain old vanity (Elisabeth of Austria and her famous meat masks). Some weren't mad, but they were portrayed that way (Juana of Spain); others were justifiably insane (Elizabeth of Bathory and her slaughter in her quest to look younger). Either way, these are the princesses that if you ever encountered them, you'd back them up into a room a quickly lock the door.

Being a princess can be hard (and possibly deadly) work. But it can also be FABULOUS.
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Profile Image for Marquise.
1,712 reviews404 followers
July 28, 2016
A moderately entertaining "beach read" type of book, with enough amusing anecdotes to keep a reader turning the pages, but overall a rather superfluous one, which I suppose is the whole point, it being a condensed popular history product. Personally, most of these women were either already known to me or just not that interesting, so I cannot say I found this particularly enjoyable or informative.
Profile Image for Cassie-la.
523 reviews63 followers
November 17, 2013
REVIEW ALSO ON: http://bibliomantics.com/2013/11/15/d...

As explained in its introduction, Princesses Behaving Badly seeks to destroy the myth of the "Princess Industrial Complex" covered in the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein. It argues that this belief in the fantasy princess life perpetuated by Disney and the real-life Kate Middleton is a dangerous one because no one seems to realize this imaginary world is an unrealistic one with harrowing real life consequences, such as the death of Princess Diana.

It explores this idea by detailing stories of princesses who don't fit into this mold, presenting easy to read and digest mini-biographies of real world princesses who were anything but the well-behaved marriage alliance, baby-making machines and damsels in distresses we know from fairy tales.

The book gives a wide swath of princesses to read up on and is divided by types: Warriors, Usurpers, Schemers, Survivors, Partiers, Floozies and Madwomen, exploring princesses from 1500 BCE to the 21st century, telling tales of Vikings, Egyptians, Tudors, and punks. Although not necessarily in order.

McRobbie writes entirely readable histories of the women like the pirate princess, Egyptian ruler Hatshepsut, the princess who tried to wed Atilla the Hun, Isabella the "She-Wolf" of France who was buried with the heart of her husband in her hands, Lucrezia Borgia the mafia princess, the prisoner princess who wed a man dubbed "Pig Snout," the princess who became a communist, the punk rock princess, Pauline Bonaparte the exhibitionist princess and even Franziska the woman masquerading as the missing Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna to name a few.

Each princess gets her own chapter complete with full biography that details the important parts of their lives and McRobbie stuffs the book with even more princesses by including fun little sections within each chapter dealing with other types of women and their royal counterparts throughout history.

For example, women accused of witchcraft (see: Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth Woodville), so-called Dollar Princesses who kept European businessman afloat with money in exchange for titles, princesses who gave up their titles for love and mad princesses (see: Countess Elizabeth Bathory) which was my particular favorite section. Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's the blood of 600 slain virgins.

Still other sections just seek to expand upon a historical practice at the time or more general topics such as the purpose of royal incest, how to fake being a princess and famous last words. While nothing could top the supposed last words of Oscar Wilde which are misquoted and not his last words ("either this wallpaper goes or I do"), Marie Antoinette's were pretty good. She allegedly said, "Pardon me, sir, I did not mean to do it" after stepping on the foot of her executioner.

The book is also full of princesses accused of sexual debauchery, but as the author is quick to remind her reader, "the easiest way to slander a woman in any era is to call her a slut." Actually nailed it!

To sum thing up for you, Princesses Behaving Badly is a must read for any history buffs, lovers of interesting historical tidbits or anyone who ever wishes their princesses were more Merida and less Snow White.
Profile Image for Denise.
102 reviews87 followers
May 31, 2021
Right off the bat I'm going to say that if you don't like historicals then this is not for you. With that said, I found the dissemination of the information regarding these Royals/Royal Wannabes was very organized and in most cases concise. Obviously the further back into history you research, the less accurate the facts are and in some cases are hearsay dependent. But myths/legends come from somewhere based on someone, so it's still very interesting to learn about the struggles and causes being supported/fought for or against. The more "modern" women have more facts to back them up so their stories had more information that sometimes dragged out. This book covers warriors to schemers, survivors to floozies and partiers to madwomen; these women lived in difficult times and made the best of what they were allowed (and most of the time not) to have and do in their time. One thing they all had in common was their unequivocal perseverance to pave their own path regardless of any naysayers. Highly recommend to young girls and up for self empowerment and self actualization because if they could accomplish or not in those times, there's nothing stopping us now in these.
Profile Image for QOH.
483 reviews21 followers
December 4, 2013
This is a fluffy romp through history, with princesses doing exactly what the title says: behaving badly. Or being forced to behave badly due to circumstance, or being treated badly by other people. Basically, these are character sketches of princesses...minus the happy endings.

I find the criticisms of the book as not being scholarly enough perplexing--what were these reviewers expecting? And yes, the notes are scanty, but the prose is fun and so far as I could tell, accurate, and if you're reading this for a term paper, you aren't doing it properly, anyway. Go read Anne Somerset or Jenny Uglow for the weighty stuff. (Their notes will help you with a dissertation.)

This is a fun, fast read. It's a great gift for a friend who likes history (but you never know if they're currently stuck on Soviet gulags or Regency England). I find the omission of Eleanor of Aquitaine glaring, but not enough to deduct a star. I loved that the author didn't neglect Asian or African princesses.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher via Red Letter Reads.
Profile Image for SeoHyung.
159 reviews
July 6, 2021
I'm not a fan of history books, but this one was so good. The description of each princess, with her parents and past was amazing! Honestly, in the beginning of the book, I wanted to stop reading it after I realized that it is a history book, with real stories. But I did well reading it. Bcs it is so good.

My favorite stories were:
"Caraboo (aka Mary Baker)"
"Gloria von Thurn und Taxis"
"Pauline Bonaparte"
"Elisabeth of Austria"
Profile Image for Annie.
926 reviews313 followers
June 6, 2019
Written in a casual, conversational voice, this contains short, 3-5 page stories of unconventional historical princesses. They’re a bit more Daenerys Targaryen than Cinderella. They’re princesses who have become pirates, warriors, army generals. They drink out of the skulls of their slaughtered enemies.

The eras range anywhere from 3500 years ago (Hatshepsut, of Egypt) right up til present day (1994, the year Sofka Dolgorouky—the rather ironically Communist princess—died; she was the daughter of a Russian count, descended from Catherine the Great; she helped save German Jews during the Holocaust; and Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away in 2002). Author McRobbie also does an excellent job of finding royal women from every area of the globe: Europe, the Middle East/Mediterranean, Scandinavia, Asia, Africa, Iceland/Greenland, and more. I also liked the inclusion of some queer princesses (Christina of Sweden, for instance, seemed to prefer women to men, and they may also have been transgender).

I read this mostly because I like the idea of accessible history centered around women. You can think of a million male historical figures from antiquity onwards, but women don’t make the history textbooks much. Or if they do, it’s in token form, with short little blurbs written in the margins, as if to highlight how “other” they are, and how cute it is to learn factoids about them while you learn entire biographies of their male counterparts. And this book was great!

However, I really despised the organization of this book. It groups princesses by categories (warriors, usurpers, schemers, survivors, partiers, floozies, and madwomen) that don’t make much sense. I mean, there’s a huge amount of overlap between warriors/usurpers/survivors (arguably, all of these princesses would fairly be categorized as “survivors”), and between partiers/floozies, and between madwomen and all the other categories, depending on your perspective.

It would have made a lot more sense to group them by time period (for instance, 1500BC-0AD, 0AD-500AD, 500AD-1000AD, 1000AD-1500AD, and 1500AD-Present Day) or by region (i.e. Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa, Mediterranean, Arctic Circle).

That said, it was a fun read. I especially liked these stories:

1. Khututlun of Mongolia, whose story is similar to the Greek Atalanta’s except that she refused to marry all men who couldn’t beat her in a wrestling match (rather than footrace)

2. Lakshmibai of India who fought, swords in hand, against British colonization in the 1800s with her adopted son strapped to her back

3. Njinga of Ndongo (later Angola), who rescued her people from her evil half-brother and ruled over them in peace, holding off the Portugese colonization for the entirety of her rule, signing treaties with them and forcing them to treat her as an equal; she had 50-60 husbands at a time, whom she called “concubines” and whom she would execute swiftly if they sexually assaulted her ladies-in-waiting (sadly, after her death the kingdom disintegrated and the Portugese took over, but even centuries later, Angolans still their "great queen")

4. The red-headed Roxolana of the Ottoman Empire, who began as a sex slave to the sultan and swiftly climbed her way up to the top of the concubine ranks, then convincing him to become virtually monogamous and then to marry her—the first concubine in the history to be freed and made legal wife. She wasn’t very pretty, but the Turks called her Hurrem, meaning “the laughing one” because she was joyful and make the emperor laugh too. He wrote a poem about her: My intimate companion, my one and all; sovereign of all beauties, my sultan. My life, the gift I own, my be-all; my elixir of Paradise, my Eden. Such a sweet love story.

5.And perhaps the most surprising story? Stephanie, the Viennese princess who was Jewish . . . and was best friends with Hitler in the 1930s and 40s. Come again?

6. Noor Khan, an Indian princess who spied for the Allied powers in Nazi-occupied France, whose last word--as she faced down a German firing squad at Dachau concentration camp--was the impassioned shout, "LIBERTE!!!"
Profile Image for Stella Popa.
256 reviews74 followers
March 17, 2022
„Prințese necuviincioase” 5/5
Editura RAO
Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Dacă aveți impresia că femeile au prins voce și caracter doar în secolul XX, vreau să vă dezamăgesc. De fapt nu o voi face eu, ci doamna Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, autoarea cărții pe care o aveți în față.
Ador cărțile scrise de parcă sunt dedicate celei mai bune prietene, scrisă special pentru mine.
Pentru iubitorii de istorie și oameni deosebiți, autoarea americană ne înșiră câteva zeci de personalități, mai mult sau mai puțin cunoscute, dar unice prin personalitatea lor, curaj și dorința de a face și fi așa cum doar bărbații o puteau.
Nu o să citiți despre chei de biserică, nu o să vă îndrăgostiți de feminitate și sublim, nu. Aici este despre putere și setea de dreptate, lupte și sânge vărsat pentru vise, doar că în versiunea feminină.
Am reacționat stupid la început, spunându-mi cât de nefirești sunt unele comportamente, că nu este normal și am judecat, urât. Am uitat că secole, mii de ani, același lucru îl fac bărbații.
Și nu, nu veți citi despre femei cu sângele albastru, absolut deloc. Au existat, de-a lungul istoriei, și femei care proveneau din cele mai joase pături sociale, care la un moment dat au demonstrat că nu sunt mai prejos decât conducătorii de gen masculin ale acelor vremuri.
Patriarhatul a reușit să scoată la iveală caractere interesante, iar McRobbie a fost inspirată potrivit de calculat, încât să nu ne inunde cu repetiții, snobisme sau prejudecâți, reușim să o facem și singuri, dar am îndrăgit cartea pentru multitudinea ei de plusuri:
- nu abundă în istorii plictisitoare, sunt toate vii și captivante;
- nu a scris de umplutură, câtă informație a găsit, atâta a oferit;
- nu a înflorit destoinicia vreo uneia din eroine. Ni le-a „vărsat” exact așa cum au fost pomenite în cărțile de istorie.
- avem reprezentante din toată lumea, iar acest aspect este cel mai interesant. Câteodată nu suntem în stare sau suntem prea lenoși ca să căutăm asemenea info.
O proză gustoasă și captivantă de la prima pagină până la ultima.
Lucrezia Borgia sau faimoasa ucraineancă, Roksolana sunt arhicunoscute, însă despre peripețiile Boudicăi, Sophia Dorothea de Celle, Prințesei Margaret, Contesei deSnowdon, Stephanie von Hohenlohe, Elisabetei de Austria, Olgăi de Kiev, Lakshmibai, Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, etc nu prea am învățat noi. Cui oare i-ar păsa despre „năzbâtiile și capriciile” acelor femei?!
V-ați săturat de Ariel, Cenușăreasa sau Alba ca Zăpada? Această carte este o escapadă în lumea reală a unor femeii care s-au ciocnit cu răceala unor vremuri care nu le-a lăsat mereu să fie auzite.
Ne este sete de uzurpatoare, răutăți împelițate, poate de cele care au reușit să scape ca prin minune de moarte, sau soartă parșivă, doar datorită faptului că n-aveau frică și nu se vedeau deosebite sau mai prejos decât bărbații!
Acele „voci” mascate de acțiuni îndrăznețe au ajuns azi la noi, la o distanță de raft de librărie.
Femei fără gene puse, unghii alungite, nedepilate (yach :D), neparfumate, fără make-up și cu pumnul lovind de colțul mesei, uhhh, adevărate creaturi cu atitudine!
O fi de la faptul că vine din SUA, sau poate s-o fi plictisit de poveștile cu zmei și incantații cu pupici dulci la urmă, McRobbie rupe publicul de la istoria obișnuită, învățată la școală, și ne dă peste față cu ceva nou și proaspăt - povești vechi, dar necunoscute. Paradoxal, nu?
Lecturi liniștite vă doresc 🙏
#lindarodriguezmcrobbie #printesenecuviincioase #cartilerao #editurarao #foxbooks #recomandarecarte
Profile Image for Meagan.
152 reviews19 followers
February 2, 2021
When I saw the book blurb I was reminded of a favorite podcast, What's Her Name. However, Princesses Behaving Badly is a series of insensitive accounts of real women.

Tone is undeniably difficult to master, especially with nonfiction/history. The genre often comes off as dry and, for the lack of a better phrase, Great-Uncle-ish. It's no surprise other authors try an opposite approach, extra saucy.

Remember that moment in The Parent Trap when Meredith Blake goes "Just between us girls" to Lindsey Lohan and the audience is like "Oh no. This is going to get bad quick." Reading this book feels like that.

McRobbie's attitude in regards to beauty standards is odd, especially considering the constant flux that is Female Beauty. The Rubenesque ideal was a thing (and *ahem* still is), but that's abandoned here in favor of 21st century fit/thin beauty standards. The author also spends chapters of the book dedicated to "Crazy" women, which made me cringe. There are women here I'm interested in learning more about, hopefully with more sensitivity.
Profile Image for Diana.
1,521 reviews84 followers
August 4, 2017
Behaving badly is an understatement in this history book. There are princesses who ran off with lovers, those who tried to usurp thrones, a few who would have been better rulers than their siblings, some who were mad and a few who were said to be mad but weren't. There were some what weren't actual royalty but did a good job at pretending to be, and fooled quite a few of the upper class while doing it. I enjoyed it and can't wait to add a copy to my library.
Profile Image for Lois .
1,764 reviews466 followers
August 3, 2019
This primarily focuses on European and a few American Princesses. These women get the most interesting and least judgmental chapters.
The smattering of Asian, Egyptian, Persian, Indigenous and singular West African women included are largely presented through the veil of colonialism. It's cringeworthy and gross.
Even the parts about European women are riddled with ableism and slut shaming.
I was not very impressed with the accuracy either.
This is an entertaining and biased romp through history as it applied to Europeans.
Profile Image for christina.
782 reviews
May 29, 2019
Overall I enjoyed this book, I think its a nice introduction to bad ass women in history. (It's also a fun read that doesn't take itself too seriously. This rubbed some readers the wrong way, but the author states early on her intentions of writing this book). After reading this, I definitely want to look into some more historically accurate books about some of these BA women.

This book is broken down into sections, below are some of my favorites from each:

Warriors: Princesses Who Fought Their Own Battles
Alfhild the Princess Who Turned Pirate
Pingyang the Princess Who Led an Army
Olgaof Kiev the Princess Who Slaughtered Her Way to Sainthood
Khutulan the Princess Who Ruled the Wrestling Mat

Usurpers: Princesses Who Grabbed Power in a Man’s World
Wu Zetian the Princess Who Became Emperor of China

Schemers: Princesses Who Plotted and Planned
Isabella of France the She-Wolf Princess
Roxolana the Princess Who Went from Sex Slave to Sultana

Survivors: Princesses Who Made Controversial and Questionable Choices
Lucrezia the Renaissance Mafia Princess
Malinche the Princess Who Served Her Country's Conquerers
Sarah Winnemucca the Princess Accused of Collaborating
Sofka Dolgorousky the Princess Who Turned Communist

Partiers: Princesses Who Love to Live it Up
Clara Ward the Princess Who Ran Off with a Gypsy

Floozies: Princesses Nororious for Their Sexy Exploits
Pauline Bonaparte the Exhibitionist Princess

Madwomen: Princesses Who Were Likely Mad, or Close to it
Noor Inayat Khan the Resistance Princess
Profile Image for Cynthia.
331 reviews13 followers
July 7, 2013
This book would be really good for a high school student needing an historical subject about which to write. There are wonderful snippets of information about a good number of girls and women who became leaders in their time. It's just the manner in which the information is presented that bothered me. The tone is flippant. It tries too hard to be hip. The author goes out of her way to try and sound cool... but the language just comes across as forced and strained to me. Example: referring to a subject's mother as "on her way to Crazytown." Perhaps if I were 40 years younger, I might enjoy the book more. Then again, I'd probably have been even more annoyed by it than I am. I do have to say that I have found a number of people I'd like to know more about. And I do thank the author for that.
Profile Image for Devann.
2,434 reviews134 followers
July 20, 2019
This was a really interesting book. I've read a lot of these books about forgotten women of history [though never one centered solely on princesses] so there is always a certain amount of overlap but I would say this one was still at least half or possibly more about women that I didn't know much of anything about. The mini biographies were very easy to read and also very informative, and I liked that she presented both good and bad qualities from the women featured. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about women in history.
Profile Image for Bria.
493 reviews
June 27, 2020
Interesting snippets of history written in a silly manner.

Not sure what the point of this book was. It started out with stories about women warriors, but quickly ran out of topics and ended with stories about female sluts (authors description) and women who went mad.

How is that uplifting or feminist?

The author spent more pages on the madwoman who claimed she was Anastasia than Hatespsuet or any other impressive female ruler. She didn’t even mention Catherine the Great or Catherine de Medici or anyone worthwhile.

Kind of a weird read.
Profile Image for Minnie.
792 reviews28 followers
June 27, 2021
Ich liebe Biografien über historische Persönlichkeiten, besonders über Frauen. Diese Anthologie erinnert stark an Rebel Girls und ich würde es für Rebel Girls-Fans auch empfehlen, für Teenager und Erwachsene. Es ist keine hundertprozentige ernstzunehmendes Sachbuch, dafür ist die Sprache sehr umgangssprachlich und der Schreibstil nicht professionell genug. Nichtdestotrotz hat es mir dennoch echt gut gefallen. Ich hatte viel Spaß über Kriegerinnen, Party-Prinzessinnen und Prinzessinnen, denen übel mitgespielt wurde, zu lernen. Habe gleich Lust mehr meiner ungelesenen Biografien zu lesen.
Profile Image for Keira Daisy.
35 reviews22 followers
March 25, 2015
Her zaman masalların orijinallerine takıntım olmuştur. Bu kitap hikaye tadında gerçekleri anlatıyor. Bize prenseslerin sonsuza kadar mutlu yaşamadıklarını anlatan çok güzel bir biyografi kitabı. Bunun yanında biraz kurgusallığa kaçtığını unutmamak gerekir, kendi görüşlerine de ufakta olsa yer vermiş yazar.
Profile Image for Lisa.
585 reviews20 followers
December 28, 2021
Great short stories with a range of times and geographies. Nice mix of fun pop culture and academic history providing context and what “probably” happened. Read it to my young nieces and nephew (the ones without adult sex themes) and they loved it more than the young adult novel I also tried to read them. Just the right length for picking up and getting through effectively.
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 27 books474 followers
May 8, 2022
I've been incredibly busy and distracted this month, and this book was the perfect diversion - a collection of short, grimly comedic biographies of a rogue's gallery of not-so-perfect princesses, some better known than others.
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