REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books

‘Princesses Behaving Badly’ and ‘Njinga the Warrior Queen’

By Donna McCrohan Rosenthal

“Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History – Without the Fairy-Tale Endings” (Linda Rodri-guez McRobbie, indexed, 304 pages, Quirk Books, hardcover, 2013, $19.95) puts a realistic spin on the make-believe sugarcoated princess stereotype.

Considering princesses from all over the globe and through time, McRobbie supplies a context of politics, strategy, treason, treachery, jealousy, rivalry, coups, partying, witchcraft, mummies, dangerous liaisons, the revenge of angry widows and court intrigues that have shaped the lives of crowned daughters and wives who had more on their minds than whether a handsome prince would awaken them with a kiss.

Combining fact with humor, McRobbie writes about dozens of regal females including Athild, the fifth-century Goth princess who turned pirate; Lakshmibai, in India, who led a rebellion with her son strapped to her back; the no fewer than four royal women between the English Kings Henry IV and Henry VIII whom detractors brought down by charges of dabbling in the dark arts; Franziska Schanzkowska who presented herself in America as Anastasia Romanov, the only surviving child of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia; and best-selling author Princess Martha Louise of Norway who opened a school that teaches spiritualism.

“Princesses Behaving Badly” takes readers up to the present with cautionary narratives such as the famous Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis million-dollar gala in 1986 that went on for days and culminated in an 18th-century costume ball. Princess Gloria attended as Marie Antoinette, wearing a $10,000 gown and an elaborate two-foot-tall wig adorned with the queen’s own pearl tiara. When in 1990 Princess Gloria found her family $576 million in debt, she became a businesswoman, wrote a blockbuster book and sold personal property to repay her creditors. She then committed herself to cultivating ties with Catholic leaders hoping to revive the relationships between old aristocratic families and the Roman Catholic Church.

Also on the subject of feisty dames on the throne, “Njinga: The Warrior Queen” for ages 9-13 (by Janie Havemeyer, illus. Peter Malone, 28 pages, Goosebottom Books, hardcover, 2012, $28.95) tells about the African queen of Matamba who declared war on Portuguese invaders and, angling to rule her kingdom, dressed like a man and forced her husband to clothe himself like a woman.

Havemeyer skillfully explores a harsh world of ruthless imperialism and slavery, while McRobbie revels, informs and instructs with gossipy panache.

This weekly column is written by members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the Califor-nia Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church, and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions From a World Apart” is available at the Clarion, Jawbone Station, the Historic USO Building, the Maturango Museum, Red Rock Books and www.planetmojave.com.

Story First Published: 2014-07-30