Daughters of the Winter Queen: Four Remarkable Sisters and the Enduring Legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots

Written by Nancy Goldstone
Review by Rebecca Henderson Palmer

Elizabeth, Louise, Henrietta, and Sophia were the four daughters of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia, daughter of James I of England, and granddaughter of the executed Mary, Queen of Scots. Members of a family of thirteen children, their childhoods were largely defined by the family’s fleeting political power. Their mother’s maniacal drive to recover her late husband’s throne, as well as the family’s uncertain social standing and relative poverty, made the girls unpopular as potential brides amidst the political horse-trading in Europe at the time. Oddly only one—the youngest, Sophia—married and had children. Those offspring became the unlikely beneficiaries of the English Civil Wars, eventually claiming the throne of England and beginning the line of monarchs (the Hanoverians) that rules it to this day.

Written with a tongue-in-cheek wit and sprinkled with interesting footnotes, a couple of which include odd, non-sequitur parallels to American presidents, these women are showcased for the remarkable historical figures that they are: filled with intelligence, independence, and drive in a world that valued them only for their worth in the marriage market. These women proved to be far more indomitable than their circumstances predicted.