Reviewed

“Seven Sovereign Queens” by Geoffrey Trease

This book got me out of a reading slump, one filled with ‘meh’ quality books that were making me want to watch Netflix instead of read. That might seem strange, since Seven Sovereign Queens was originally published in 1968 and includes seven brief biographies of seven women who ruled nations no more recently than 1796. I’ll take what I can get.

And Trease’s biographies of these women were just the right length with just enough to make me want to read full length biographies and histories of them all… in large part because I learned things, and I am here for that!

Cleopatra I blame Shakespeare for my mixed up knowledge of the Egyptian Queen, who was actually Greek (I did know that). I didn’t know that she became queen because at least three older siblings died or were defeated, some by herself and Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. I hadn’t known that, at least in her time, Egyptian kingdoms passed to daughters but kings wanted their sons to rule so siblings got married.

Boudicca This was the weakest biography, I think because it is more like one very long battle plan. And perhaps that is because there is some lack of historical record about her? In any case, she lacks the most personality beyond winning fierce, harsh battles.

Galla Placidia I do admit that the Roman Empire history has always confused me. The names are so similar and there are so many, I can’t keep it straight. But this is the first time I’d heard of Galla Placidia, and now I want to know more about her and any other women who ruled the Roman Empire.

Isabella of Spain Isabella was way more awesome than I knew! And also not so awesome, in terms of crushing the Moors and bringing the start of the infamous Spanish Inquisition. But she essentially arranged her own marriage to consolidate power for herself and only agreed if it was completely on her terms, and for that she gets full credit. And she made sure her daughters were educated to be powerful women on their own.

Christina of Sweden Christina of Sweden’s struggles with identity (faith, gender, sex, and even simply desire) are so fascinating. That she was crowned ‘king’ instead of ‘queen’ in order to leave no doubt as to who was meant to rule Sweden was something not even England’s Elizabeth I thought to do. And then she had the bravery to abdicate and follow her own heart.

Maria Theresa I thought I knew more about Maria Theresa than I apparently did. The way Trease describes her, she is even more impressive as a queen first, a mother second, and a traditional woman willing to follow third. She truly did reshape world history during her long reign over the Habsburg empire.

Catherine the Great This was the sovereign queen I knew most about so the only thing I really found in terms of new information or new ways of thinking is that the Potemkin villages story is most likely fabricated, probably by those who wished to criticize her.

I received a copy of Seven Sovereign Queens from NetGalley and Endeavor Press in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

3 thoughts on ““Seven Sovereign Queens” by Geoffrey Trease

    1. She was, indeed! Macedonian Greek, to be exact. Cleopatra actually means “daughter of a noble father” in Greek. It was Alexander the Great (who was King of Macedon, a Greek kingdom) who invaded Egypt and took control, then installing Macedon Greeks in charge. There were 12 Ptolemys (male rules), 1 Berenice (Cleopatra’s sister), and the Cleopatra of legend and lore was technically Cleopatra VII. She was the last ruler of the Macedon Greeks over Egypt.

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