History is brought to life through the colourful stories of eleven queens and empresses. Their lives were often tempestuous and tragic, ending in execution, suicide, divorce or abdication. Some were child brides, pawns in political games, and most had unfaithful husbands.
These women differed widely: Queen Elizabeth spoke six languages, while Catherine I of Russia was an illiterate ex-kitchen maid. The tomboyish Christina, Queen of Sweden, contrasted with the beautiful Mary Queen of Scots. Catherine the Great was tyrannical, while Marie Antoinette was helpless and irresponsible. The conscientious Maria Theresa and the respectable Queen Victoria differed from the duplicitous Catherine de Medici and ‘the Serpent of Old Nile’, Cleopatra. There were great failures, as Catherine de Medici failed to preserve the Valois dynasty in France and Maria Theresa saw her empire diminished. On the other hand, under Queen Elizabeth the arts flourished in England, while Catherine the Great made Russia a major power, and Cleopatra’s wiles warded off Roman powers over Egypt.