Born to Rule

Praise for Born to Rule
This lively page-turner covers the 100-year period between the birth of Queen Maud of Norway in 1869 and the death of Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain in 1969.  Suffering only from the inevitable repetition and melodramatic foreshadowing caused by the five-in-one setup of this biography, Gelardi’s book features liberal quotations from fascinating correspondence and diaries that reveal both the intimate and the public faces of the women featured.  Tales of the girls’ romances and weddings spice up the early pages, followed by descriptions of marital relationships, childbirths and the early seeds of conflict-both personal and political. World War I and the Bolshevik revolution dominate the third part of the book, after which Gelardi describes the poignant twilight years of the four granddaughters who lived past the end of the Great War.  Lurking behind these stories is the legacy of Queen Victoria, the cruelty of Kaiser Wilhelm in Germany and the specter of hemophilia.  It is Marie, “Missy,” who plays the favorite in the book, just as she did as Queen of Romania. More than the others, she inherited her grandmother’s will, charisma, generosity and political acumen, along with the ability to adapt to changing times and circumstances.  The granddaughters were “raised in an era where responsibility, commitment, sacrifice and duty before self were elevated as the highest ideals and embodied admirably by their grandmother,” but the era that encompassed their rule would see the decline in monarchy throughout Europe as citizens of various countries came to believe that it was not the divine will of God that appointed their leaders, but the will-wise or foolish-of the people. — Publishers Weekly.  Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.  All rights reserved. 

“Engaging and lively…highly recommended.” — Library Journal

“Solemn, sometimes frisky, but always captivating.” — Kirkus Reviews

“A diligent researcher who gets her facts straight and documents them properly with footnotes…Born to Rule has much interest in it and can serve as an introduction to these four queens and an empress.” — The Washington Times

“Gelardi tells a compelling story of five of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters who became queens themselves alongside the oft-told and tragic story of Alexandra, the last Tsarina of Russia, are skillfully woven details of Maud of Norway, Sophie of Greece, and Ena of Spain, each of whom led remarkable lives.  Most fascinating, though, were the adventures of Marie of Romania, the archetypical Romantic royal beauty.”  — Leonie Frieda, author of Catherine de Medici

“Five cousins.  Five fascinating lives.  Julia Gelardi about her subjects with verve and passion.” –– Amanda Foreman, author of Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire

“This fascinating story of five princesses ends with one murdered, two in exile, one in distress, and one content.  They all made sacrifices to fulfill dynastic demands, and unlike ambassadors who move about, they were committed for life.” –– Hugo Vickers, author of the critically biography, Alice and The Unexpurgated Beaton

“Julia Gelardi has brought these five queens to vivid life…. A roller coaster of human tragedy and spirited renewal.  All five women repay Gelardi’s extensive research and affectionate narrative, but Marie of Romania stands out as remarkably heroic.  Compassionate to the impoverished, diseased, and dying, courageous in everything, she was nevertheless determined to fill her own life to the brim with adventure and love.” –– Jane Dunn, author of Elizabeth and Mary

“Julia Gelardi spells out the notion that Queen Victoria became the grandmother of Europe by providing personal and political pen portraits of five granddaughters who grew up to become queens or empresses by marriage.  The result is a highly readable, well-documented, and often poignant evocation of significant overlapping chapters in the history of a hundred years ago.” –– Walter L. Arnstein, author of Queen Victoria

“A wonderful story and an enormously impressive piece of research.  Julia Gelardi has drawn together the stories of these five queens and kinswomen to give fresh perspective on the turbulent early decades of the twentieth century.” –– Sarah Gristwood, author of the critically acclaimed Arbella and Perdita

“Julia Gelardi has mastered well the complex craft – within – craft of writing dynastic history.  Her multistranded story moves smoothly, presenting vivid pictures not only of the numerous and tragic lives of five women, but also of the extraordinary privileged but confined world of doomed European monarchy.” –– Derek Wilson, author of All the Queen’s Women and In the Lion’s Court

“This story of Queen Victoria’s five most powerful granddaughters is impressively well-researched.” –– Anne de Courcy, author of The Viceroy’s Daughters


Julia Gelardi’s Born to Rule is historical tour de force that weaves together the powerful and moving stories of five of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters.  These five women were all married to reigning European monarchs during the early part of the twentieth century, and it is their reaction to the First World War that shaped the fate of a continent and the future of the modern world.

Here are the stories of Alexandra, whose enduring love story, controversial faith in Rasputin, and tragic end have become the stuff of legend; Marie, the flamboyant and eccentric queen who battled her way through a life of intrigue and was also the mother of two Balkan queens and of the scandalous Carol II of Romania;  Victoria Eugenie, Spain’s very English queen who, like Alexandra, introduced hemophilia into her husband’s family – with devastating consequences for her marriage;  Maud, King Edward VII’s daughter, who was independent Norway’s reluctant queen;  and Sophie, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s much-maligned sister, daughter of an emperor, and herself the mother of no fewer than three kings and a queen, who ended her days in bitter exile.

Born to Rule evokes a world of luxury, wealth, and power in a bygone era, while also recounting the ordeals suffered by a unique group of royal women who at times faced poverty, exile, and death.  Praised in their lifetimes for their legendary beauty, many of these women were also lauded – and reviled – for their political influence.  Using never before published letters, memoirs, diplomatic documents, secondary sources, and interviews with descendants of the subjects, Julia Gelardi’s Born to Rule is an astonishing and memorable work of popular history.

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4 responses to “Born to Rule

  1. Thanks for the excellent blog post in your blog page, it genuinely gives me a look within this subject.

  2. I loved Born to Rule, so much i have two copies!! wish it was on KOBO though. 🙂

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