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Biographies of Political Figureswith special reference to the Founders


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#16 papeetepatrick

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 04:58 PM

Along the lines of the English wives, I like Nancy Mitford's 'Madame de Pompadour', who was inevitably political even if French and not married to Louis XV. Saint-Simon's 'the Age of Magnificence' is terrific for the real scathing thing on Louis XIV, and the one Proust always refers to in 'Recherches.' (Much more objective than Olivier Bernier's lectures and books, which veer toward the extremely superficial except when they stay on the subject of silver furniture and gardens, etc.)

#17 dirac

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 05:31 PM

Well, of Harry's wives, Catherine (of Aragon) and Anne Boleyn were probably the most interesting. Jane Seymour was sort of a cipher, and was more notable for her surviving Seymour relations (who were rather naughty). Nobody knows whether Anne of Cleves was incredibly canny, or incredibly stupid, but we all have to agree that she was incredibly lucky! Katherine Howard had rather more on the ball, but again, it's her male survivors who were the real rascals. Catie Parr was a very interesting woman, and her post-Harry career, although brief, is full of the mystery that makes (and in fact did make) a good ghost story.


Henry probably chose Jane Seymour because he was tired of dealing with intelligent, forceful women with minds of their own and needed a break. :yahoo: I always felt sorry for Katherine Howard -- a none-too-bright girl used as a political pawn. I have nothing but sympathy for Catherine of Aragon, but I suspect Anne Boleyn was the most remarkable of Henry's wives. Catherine Parr was indeed interesting, and too good for Thomas Seymour, IMO.

Ed, good to hear from you. There is indeed a separate thread on the Caro biographies of LBJ -- a very recent one. I agree with you that the first volume is the best. It's certainly the one I enjoyed the most. "The Power Broker" is a great book, too.

papeetepatrick writes:

Along the lines of the English wives, I like Nancy Mitford's 'Madame de Pompadour', who was inevitably political even if French and not married to Louis XV.


As far as political ambitions are concerned, Pompadour was in a much better position to indulge in such as Louis' maitresse-en-titre than as his queen. I enjoyed that book very much, too. I thought it might be fun to be Madame de Pompadour, if only to own all those beautiful objets!

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 06:41 PM

Henry's murderous rages may have been the result of injuries he suffered in a tilting competition at a tournament. He was out like a light for about 3 days after, and may have done damage not only to his nervous system, but his endocrine system, notably the adrenal glands as well. Another figure, albeit of far lesser stature than Henry, Wilhelmi Anhalt, one of Frederick the Great's generals, took a header off a horse and thereafter started executing subordinates at a furious pace. That he became so worked out well for America, as one of the refugees from his ire was Friederich Wilhelm von Steuben, later "Baron" by virtue of being Chamberlain to the court of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. Steuben was George Washington's Inspector-General during the War for American Independence. But Henry had not been a particularly hostile individual before his accident. After it, he just might walk up to somebody and tell them to report to the Lieutenant of the Tower to have their heads chopped off. And smile while he said it. But he was serious.

#19 canbelto

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 06:43 PM

I have nothing but sympathy for Catherine of Aragon, but I suspect Anne Boleyn was the most remarkable of Henry's wives.



And Elizabeth was really a remarkable combination of her father and mother, wasn't she?
Speaking of remarkable women, I recommend Alison Weir's Eleanor of Aquitaine. And W.L. Warren's biography of her equally remarkable husband, Henry II.

#20 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 July 2006 - 06:46 PM

I particularly admire Elizabeth's letter to an Archbishop of Canterbury:

Proud Prelate -

You know what you were before I made you what you are now. If you do not immediately accede to my wishes, I will unfrock you, By God.



#21 canbelto

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 11:18 AM

The issue I have with Antonia Fraser's Mary Queen of Scots biography is her writing style. She wrote the entire book as if she was in a competition with Henry James to write the longest sentences possible and to fit those endless sentences into the longest paragraphs possible. Plus, her failure to translate a lot of correspondence is irritating.

#22 dirac

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 10:30 AM

Henry's murderous rages may have been the result of injuries he suffered in a tilting competition at a tournament. He was out like a light for about 3 days after, and may have done damage not only to his nervous system, but his endocrine system, notably the adrenal glands as well. Another figure, albeit of far lesser stature than Henry, Wilhelmi Anhalt, one of Frederick the Great's generals, took a header off a horse and thereafter started executing subordinates at a furious pace. That he became so worked out well for America, as one of the refugees from his ire was Friederich Wilhelm von Steuben, later "Baron" by virtue of being Chamberlain to the court of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. Steuben was George Washington's Inspector-General during the War for American Independence. But Henry had not been a particularly hostile individual before his accident. After it, he just might walk up to somebody and tell them to report to the Lieutenant of the Tower to have their heads chopped off. And smile while he said it. But he was serious.


Henry was out for about two hours, if we are thinking of the same accident, but there is no doubt it was serious enough to keep him from ever jousting again. There is some circumstantial evidence to indicate possible brain damage, but I don't think biographers are agreed on that and not all have detected quite that drastic a change in his personality.

#23 dirac

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 10:31 AM

The issue I have with Antonia Fraser's Mary Queen of Scots biography is her writing style. She wrote the entire book as if she was in a competition with Henry James to write the longest sentences possible and to fit those endless sentences into the longest paragraphs possible. Plus, her failure to translate a lot of correspondence is irritating.


We must have been reading a different book, canbelto. :) I didn't find it that difficult to follow, but tastes differ.

#24 dirac

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 10:13 AM

Thank you, Mel, your steadfast efforts to keep the thread focused are greatly appreciated. :mad:

Alas for her, poor Mary I does appear to have been wanting in the charm department.


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