It’s Interregnum Development.
Currently reading: The Stuart Princesses by Alison Plowden. I like a bit of royal history now and then, because it’s the popular history subgenre most likely to contain books about women.
I also like the Stuarts, because that family produced a hell of a lot of intelligent, educated women who tend to get overshadowed by the Tudors. Okay, in fairness, the two Stuart queens, Mary II and Anne, may have been intelligent but they were barely educated at all, because hey, they’re only the women most likely to inherit the throne, right?
Anne gets a particularly bad rap: she was uneducated, bigoted, a bit of a drama llama, easily led by her better-educated friends and courtiers — WOW, THERE’S A SHOCK — and, worst of all, she was fat. I can’t think of a single popular history of the Stuart queens that doesn’t mention, only about eighty or ninety times, that Anne was a fatty. Never mind that she “let herself go” over the course of seventeen pregnancies in a desperate attempt to produce a living child (and the one that survived infancy died in young adulthood, BECAUSE IT SUCKS TO BE ANNE). She was fat. Fatty McFatfat.
Anyway, mostly what I’m taking from The Stuart Princesses is that the whole family was hilariously dysfunctional, and the world desperately needs a costume drama/sitcom in the style of Arrested Development.
This is especially true during the Interregnum, that wacky period where England was a republic. Because the Stuarts were basically scattered all over Europe, trying to keep up appearances whilst being totally broke. And there were passive-aggressive religious conversions and fights about money, and that time the Duke of York secretly married a Catholic and it was totes awkward, and Charles II basically being the Tony Stark of Europe and concealing his royal angst behind a whole boatload of wacky shenanigans and also a spiffy beard.
Then Charles was restored to the throne, and the shenanigans continued, only they were less wacky and more sad, because Charles was kind of a dick, and his favourite sister was in an abusive marriage with a gay man, and England kept going to war with people. And meanwhile, Charles’s German cousin Sophia of Hanover, was getting on with things over there, happily married, popping out kids and writing voluminous and hilarious letters to everyone in Europe.
So she was super-intelligent, and so were her sisters — Elizabeth was BFFs with Descartes, Louise was an artist who ran away to join a Catholic convent and wound up running it, and Henriette Marie was a confectioner, although then she married a prince and died because that’s what women do, right?
Oh, and Sophia? Heir to the throne of England. Because Anne had no surviving children, and her younger brother was Catholic (OH NOES) and also she’d spent years putting it about that he wasn’t really her brother at all, so she had to kind of flail about looking for an appropriate Protestant heir. And wound up calling the German branch of the family.
Anne was a lot younger than Sophia, but she only outlived her by a few weeks. (BECAUSE SHE WAS FAT – many historians’ opinions.) So Sophia’s son George became the king of England, and that put us on the path that led to mad George III, the vacuous Prince Regent/George IV (HE WAS ALSO FAT, YOU SHOULD KNOW), and eventually Queen Victoria and the current lot.
In short, history is AMAZING. And there really ought to be more costume comedies.