Princesses Behaving Badly
by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many 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 Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers minibiographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating read for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.
I was kindly given an e-ARC of the book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.
When I first read the synopsis for the book, I was really, really excited. I love Disney princesses as much as the next person but reading about real women who were legends in their own right is something else entirely. Sure there might have been one or two who might not have existed but whose stories still resonate in the memories but hey, I don’t mind that at all.
Luckily I wasn’t expecting anything too deep, I mean with that many princesses’ stories to go through in so small a book might have been too optimistic, however, I was pleasantly surprised. Every princess got her own story, the one that historians gave us, the one that might have actually happened. And the author made sure that it was all goody two shoes, that I truly appreciated. She showed that yes, maybe these princesses weren’t legendary for the ‘right’ reasons but they were worth remembering. It gave agency to women of that time and that’s what I liked about it.
I also liked that the author included even the truly badly behaving princesses because it just showed that women, like men, are just human beings. They can be great in their own way, terrible or otherwise.
On top of that, there were mentions of two princesses from India that I wasn’t expecting to see, I was perhaps overly pleased to read about them in book of awesome princesses. Maybe. If I had one complaint then it’s that the author tried to make me feel guilty about liking Disney princesses, sure there are all sorts of problematic things in those stories but the thing is…even Disney has learned the lesson. (So, let me enjoy my Disney princesses, please.)
Overall, it’s a quick and lovely book to read if you wanna be entertained and learn about some truly awesome women, then this is the book for you.
A side note: There are times when I felt like the tone of the writing wasn’t…quite I generally expect but I could overlook that most of the times.