Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
Princesses Behaving Badly is a collection of very, very short biographies of a variety of notable princesses, loosely grouped in categories like "Warriors, "Madwomen", "Survivors" and "Floozies". A few of them, like Roxolana, achieve happy endings of a sort, but most of them have tragic lives and tragic endings. I suppose she did, sort of, break the myth that all princesses have happily ever after.
While I appreciated learning about the many, many princesses that I didn't know about, I was surprised at some of the princesses who was left out. Princess Diana, who is probably one of the most famous "modern" princesses is one. Empress Dowager Cixi is another. Wu Zetian was included, but I should add a warning for the audiobook people: the pronunciation of Wu Zetian was mangled in the audiobook version I heard. It made me suspicious of the pronunciations of all other names.
A third "princess" I can think of is Wang Zhaojun. I read about her a long time ago, but she is fascinating, and I want to share a bit of her story. Wang Zhaojun is considered to be one of the Four Great Beauties in Ancient China, and according to legend, made birds fall from the sky. While she wasn't born a princess, she was born to be a prominent family, and by all accounts, was beautiful and intelligent. She entered the emperor's harem, but because she refused to bribe the court photographer, he painted ugly moles on her, meaning that she never ever met the emperor. Years later, the Emperor was trying to choose an ugly girl to present as his daughter, because he didn't want to give some guy a real princess (but he had to). So he chose Wang Zhaojun, although he regretted it when he met her in person. But, a choice is a choice, and Wang Zhaojun was sent away, although it's hard to say whether she lived happily ever after. She did seem to be loved by her husband though (although she had to remarry after he died).
Back to the book. All in all, the book is an interesting compilation of various little-known princesses. There is a pretty diverse range of princesses, although I have the impression that there are more Western princesses than other countries.