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Daughters of the Winter Queen: Four Remarkable Sisters, the Crown of Bohemia, and the Enduring Legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots by Nancy Goldstone, Little, Brown and Co., US $30.00, Pp 496, April 2018  ISBN 978-0316387910

In early 1587, Queen Elizabeth I signed the death warrant of Catholic Mary – the Queen of Scots – who was later executed. Mary had been convicted four months earlier of treason against her cousin and the Queen of England Elizabeth I. But history has a way of springing surprises. In Daughters of the Winter Queen, Nancy Goldstone says that it would not be the descendants of Queen of England Elizabeth I. Rather it was Mary’s legacy that prevailed through the fearless person of her granddaughter Elizabeth Stuart, known as the Winter Queen, and her four daughters, Princess Elizabeth, Louise Hollandine, Henrietta Maria, and Sophia.

On October 18, 1714, Empress of Hanover and Heiress of Great Britain Sophia’s eldest son ascended the throne at Westminster Abbey. Known to history as King George I, he founded a dynasty that has lasted to this day. One of Sophia’s granddaughters, and Sophie Dorothea’s daughter, also ascended to royalty, marrying the King of Prussia. Their son, Frederick the Great, became the King of Prussia in the nineteenth century. It is from the female line of this family that every English monarch beginning with George I has sprung in an unbroken line.

Nancy Goldstone says that these women formed the loom upon which the great tapestry of Europe was woven. The lives of Elizabeth Stuart and her daughters were intricately entwined with all the major events of their day, not only political contests, but also the religious, artistic, and philosophical movements that would dominate the period and set the stage for the Enlightenment to come. The ideas of Descartes and Leibniz, fostered and disseminated throughout Germany by Empress Sophia and her sister Princess Elizabeth, helped lay the groundwork for the Enlightenment. Nancy Goldstone says that it is not possible to fully understand the seventeenth century in all of its exuberant, glorious complexity without this family. Daughters of the Winter Queen tells their story.

Many say that the legacy of Mary, the Queen of Scots, was her unyielding adherence to Catholicism and thus discount her role in future events. Nancy Goldstone argues that it is impossible to look at her granddaughter Elizabeth Stuart and not see Mary’s courage, intelligence, the strength of mind, and absolute unwillingness to surrender. And just as clearly, the Winter Queen passed along these traits in varying degrees to her daughter. Even shy Henrietta Maria, the weakest of the four, achieved a position where she might have wielded political influence, although she died too soon to capitalize on it, a victim of her own beauty and want of antibiotics. Nancy Goldstone says that there was almost no major political, cultural, philosophical, religious, or artistic movement in which the queen of Bohemia and her daughters did not figure prominently. Nancy Goldstone writes, “These women were not ahead of their time – they were their time. And that legacy – Mary’s – endures.”

Nancy Goldstone knows the art of making history easy-to-understand and enjoyable. Daughters of the Winter Queen is the history of not only the European royals but also of four amazing women who shaped the political and intellectual future of our civilization. Nancy Goldstone is the author of five previous books on European female royals. Daughters of the Winter Queen is a necessary addition to the existing books on the history of European royals and feminism. With her unmatchable scholarly credentials, Nancy Goldstone brings the royal history of Europe to life.

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