Crowned in a Far Country
Eight young women sent from home to marry into royal houses: Obscure German princess to Empress of Russia, Catherine the Great deposed her feeble husband and brought her country into the modern world. Austrian Archduchess Maria Carolina (Marie Antoinette’s sister), married to the hedonistic Ferdinand, grew to love her husband and ruled behind the throne, enacting many reforms in Naples. Marie Antoinette, misunderstood, maligned, did little for her poorer subjects. In 1817, plain Archduchess Leopoldina, sent to Brazil to marry Portugal’s heir-apparent in exile, encouraged him to make Brazil independent: adored by her subjects, if not her husband. Napoleon III married Countess Eugenie for love. Eugenie influenced fashion and advanced women in business. Vicky, daughter of Queen Victoria, found marital bliss with Fritz, crown prince of Prussia, and reformed hospitals and nurses training. Beautiful Danish princess Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, was unintelligent but charitable, and the English idolized her. Her sister, Minnie, wed Alexander III of Russia, giving birth to the doomed Nicholas II.
These women’s tales are lively and interesting, if sometimes superficial. Most rose to and went beyond the challenge of the roles they were expected to play. The author states in her introduction that she didn’t comment on the political situations, but I often wished she had—it would have put the stories in better context.