Thursday, December 9, 2010

William and Kate's Engagement: Why It's Historical

On November 16, Prince William of Wales announced his engagement to his girlfriend of more than eight years, Catherine (Kate) Middleton. It was the moment that millions had been waiting for with bated breath.

Royal-watchers released said breath with a joyful exhalation and then began bloviating about what it all meant (mine to follow); and manufacturers from Stoke-on-Trent to Shanghai released the work orders for the commemorative tchotchkes: the tea towels, plates, thimbles, and spoons, and all manner of junk that in fifty years' time will become treasured scraps of memorabilia.

But there is something exciting about a royal wedding, especially this royal wedding. William's parents did not wed in love. On July 29, 1981, when those of us who watched Charles and Diana walk down the aisle of Westminster Abbey, could we have imagined the sorrow that lay ahead and the tragedy that would end Diana's life at the age of 36? William and Kate give us the chance to believe in a royal happily-ever-after again.

And there is an added significance to William's choice of bride. You've heard ad nauseum that Kate Middleton (she will be known as Princess Catherine after her royal wedding on April 29, 2011) is a "commoner."

Well, Diana, was a commoner, too. So was Elizabeth the Queen Mum, born Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. A commoner is someone who is not of royal birth. BUT in the past, the heirs to the throne have wed commoners who were born to the purple, so to speak, women of noble lineage. For example, the Queen Mum was the daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Diana's father was the eighth Earl Spencer and her noble lineage goes back several generations farther than the Windsors' does.

What makes Kate Middleton special is that her background is not remotely aristocratic. Her father Michael was a flight dispatcher and airline officer for BA, where her mother Carole (née Goldsmith, as was I -- so I'll be eagerly anticipating my wedding invitation) was a flight attendant. The entrepreneurial Carole Middleton later started a party planning company for children, Party Pieces, which took off, so to speak, landing the family in financial clover. Consequently, through the dint of her parents' hard work, Kate was able to grow up in soft surroundings and attend the best schools.

The last time an heir presumptive to the British throne wed a true commoner--one absent all aristocratic blood--was in 1660 when James, Duke of York, the younger brother of Charles II (and the future James II; 1633-1701), clandestinely wed the zaftig brunette Anne Hyde (1637-1671).

Here's the story of James and Anne, excerpted from my book ROYAL AFFAIRS: A Lusty Romp Through the Extramarital Adventures That Rocked the British Monarchy.

The prodigiously buxom and flirtatious Anne Hyde was the daughter of Edward Hyde, a Wiltshire lawyer who turned to politics, becoming Charles II’s chancellor. Her contemporaries noted her intelligence, though they admitted she was not very pretty; in fact, Anne was most often described as a cow. A hearty eater during an era when slenderness was the vogue at court, the girl’s booty came in for some serious ribbing in a popular rhyme:

With chanc’lor’s belly, and so large a rump,
There, not behind the coach, her pages jump.

For several years before the Restoration, Anne had been a maid of honor to Mary, the Princess Royal, sister of Charles and James. But it was in Paris at the exiled court of the Queen Mother Henrietta Maria where Anne first met Mary’s brother James, the Duke of York.

The stuttering duke was stiff and reserved, with a downer of a personality, but by all accounts, James, tall, blue-eyed, and fair, was even more of a rake than his less classically handsome brother, Charles. It certainly wasn’t charm or affability that was the chick magnet—in fact, James was considered rather slow and plodding, particularly compared to the exceptionally bright and witty Charles. But then again, James didn’t attract the beauties of the age, as did his elder brother. On James’s embracing of Catholicism as well as loose women, Charles observed, “My brother will lose his throne for his principles and his soul for a bunch of ugly trollops.” He jested that James’s mistresses were so universally hideous that his priests must have given them to the duke as penance.

With Anne Hyde, however, “dismal Jimmy” (as Charles’s famously clever mistress Nell Gwyn called him) must have scintillated. Apparently their affair grew passionate after the exiled court had moved to The Hague. After the Restoration, Anne’s father sent for her, and she returned to London, fat and glowing—but as Anne was always fat and glowing, her father didn’t notice that she was also pregnant.

Hyde should have congratulated himself on the fact that his daughter had inherited his canny political skills, because in August 1659, Anne had successfully convinced the duke to sign a marriage contract. After that, they cohabited intermittently and clandestinely as man and wife.
On Anne’s return to England, realizing they’d be caught sooner or later, James sneaked into Worcester House, her father’s home, with an Anglican chaplain in tow. The chaplain married Anne and James in a private ceremony on September 3, 1660. Only after they were legally wed did Anne’s new husband throw himself upon the king’s mercy, begging him to allow them to publicly marry.

King Charles summoned Chancellor Hyde, a portly Polonius who had known nothing of his daughter’s affairs until the news was broken to him by two of his friends, the Marquis of Ormonde and the Earl of Southampton. Hyde assured the monarch that as soon as he got home to Worcester House, he would toss Anne out into the street as a strumpet. At the suggestion that Anne might actually be married, the politician then changed his tack, ranting that he would sooner see his daughter be the king’s whore than the duke’s wife—and if Anne were really married to James, she should be thrown into a dungeon in the Tower of London and an Act of Parliament passed to behead her.

“And I shall be the first man to propose that to Parliament!” Hyde shouted.

Charles endeavored to smooth things over, but poor Anne ended up locked in her room. However, Anne’s sympathetic mother managed to sneak the duke into her daughter’s chamber for conjugal visits.

But Anne, a mere commoner, had unintentionally created an international incident.
The Queen Mum, Henrietta Maria, came over from Paris “to prevent so great a stain and dishonor to the Crown.” Then a group of courtiers was enlisted to convince James of his wife’s rampant promiscuity—and therefore, her unsuitability to be his duchess. Anne was traduced by men who had never even met her, all claiming to have bedded her. It seemed that every man in England had crawled out of the woodwork to testify to Anne’s lasciviousness, each sworn statement more outlandish than the last.

Charles didn’t believe a word of it, and assured his increasingly livid chancellor that his daughter was being unjustly slandered. As Anne lay abed, the birth of her baby imminent, the king sent his most trusted ladies to attend her.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Anne, shrieking with labor pains, was forced to endure another torment. The oh-so-sensitive Bishop of Winchester visited her bedside and demanded, “Whose child is it of which you are in labor? Have you known any man other than the Duke of York?” Anne responded in the negative, and probably spat out a lot of other negative things to the bishop besides.

Enter Henrietta Maria, in high dudgeon at Dover, ready to defend her son’s good name and tar Chancellor Hyde with the brush of treachery for daring to marry an undeserving creature of his own lowly brood into the royal house—little realizing that she and the chancellor were on the same side.

Charles stepped in and averted a crisis by making Hyde a baron, with a gift of £20,000 (well over $4.3 million today) to sustain the honor. By the time the groom’s mother reached London, she was greeted by the bride’s father, now Baron Hyde of Hindon, a peer of the realm. The following year Charles made Hyde Earl of Clarendon.

The dowager queen’s argument about the worthiness of Anne Hyde’s family had thus been gracefully nipped in the bud, and eventually, Henrietta Maria grew to accept her new daughter-in-law.

Anne was clearly the dominant partner in the marriage, yet she could not prevent James from returning to his rakish ways soon after their union was legalized in the eyes of family and state. “The duke is in all things but his codpiece led by the nose,” Samuel Pepys observed.

Anne coped with her husband’s frequent infidelities by overeating. She was also perpetually pregnant, giving birth to eight children in nearly as many years, but only two daughters, Mary and Anne, survived to adulthood. The rest died in infancy.

After suffering from cancer for three years, Anne finally succumbed to the disease in 1671, a few weeks after giving birth to her eighth child. In her final days, she also became a secret convert to Catholicism.

One evening after enjoying a hearty dinner at Burlington House, Anne retired to pray, and then collapsed in the chapel. A frantic James sent for the Bishop of Oxford, but by the time he arrived, Anne was incoherent.

She died at St. James’s Palace in her husband’s arms, with the words “Duke, Duke, death is terrible. Death is very terrible.” She was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Anne’s two daughters each went on to become Queen of England, and both would make their mark in British history. Mary, born on April 30, 1662, would marry William of Orange and become a key player in the Glorious Revolution that would overthrow her own father and place herself and her husband on the English throne. Her younger sister, Anne, born on the sixth of February in 1665, would inherit her mother’s corpulence as well as her father’s crown. Under Queen Anne, England and Scotland were combined into a single nation in the Act of Union signed on May 1, 1707, thereby making Anne Hyde’s younger daughter—the issue of the woman who was such a “stain and dishonor to the Crown”—the first monarch of Great Britain.

So, are you a royal watcher? Do the impending nuptials of William and Kate have you excited or are you more fascinated with their place in the pageant of history?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Congratulations, William and Kate

At last -- the romantic moment that royal watchers have been awaiting for months, if not years!

Prince William, England's heir presumptive, popped the question to his longtime girlfriend, the lovely Kate Middleton.

We wish the couple all the joy in the world

Saturday, October 16, 2010

And the winner of Pearson's Elven Princess Tiara is...



Send me a photo of you wearing the tiara to the office -- tongue-in-cheek, and all!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Well, I channeled my inner Maid Marian on my birthday and enjoyed an awesome experience, falconing with Dawn from the British School of Falconry, based at the Equinox Resort & Spa in Manchester, Vermont.

I encourage anyone headed up this way to check it out, particularly if you're a medievalist, or have ever harbored a fascination for these phenomenal creatures.

The British School of Falconry flies Harris Hawks, because of the birds' sociability, meaning that they are adaptable to being flown by strangers with only a 45-minute lesson under their belts. That's me with Hamish ... or is it his brother, Mycroft (yes, yes, we know Mycroft's brother should be named Sherlock!)

In any case, here are Mycroft and Hamish:

And many thanks to the falconer, Dawn, for the fabulous experience! And to my marvelous husband Scott for making it all possible and making all my fantasies come true!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My new find! Pearson's Renaissance Shoppe -- Huzzah!

So! My darling, romantic husband is granting my birthday wish and getting me a falconing lesson at Manchester Vermont's famed Equinox Resort.

I get a 45-minute lesson, followed by a "hawk walk" through the leafy vermillions, russets, and golds of the Green Mountains as they don their autumn hues.

But, speaking of donning ... what do I wear? I'll go falconing on my birthday, but my birthday suit is out of the question. My husband will of course bring a camera: this excursion must be saved for posterity.

The actress in me (not to mention the author of historical fiction and nonfiction) noodges, "Dress the part!" Something velvet, perhaps? Brocade? A hooded cloak? Flowing sleeves? Adorable soft leather booties? This time, Saks Fifth Avenue or Nordstroms is not going to have the perfect outfit to go falconing.

Enter Pearson's Renaissance Shoppe [], an online emporium to satisfy all your Robin and Marian, or Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, fantasies.

For guest appearances as the author of my Royal series, ROYAL AFFAIRS, NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES, and the soon-to-be-released ROYAL PAINS, I occasionally wear a replica Renaissance gown that I bought at the Ren Faire in Tuxedo NY years ago. So it's not a stretch for me to scour the internet in search of items to augment my wardrobe.

Can I say that I wished I could buy just about all of the Medieval and Renaissance gowns Pearson's offers?
The falconer might look at me sideways if I arrived for my lesson in full regalia, but a girl can dream, can't she?

And if one doesn't want to do a full Eleanor of Aquitaine, Pearson's has all manner of jewelry (even crowns!) with which to accessorize.

Pearson's is so delighted that I fell in love with them that they are hosting a contest on this blog. One lucky winner, drawn at random, will win a lovely and delicate "Elven Princess" tiara. Perfect for channeling your inner Arwen!

Please provide your name and email contact, and feel free to post a comment as to where you might wear this fabulous accessory to indulge your own Medieval or Renaissance fantasy.

Item Description:

This fairy tale comb is made of rhinestones and pearls with a flower and leaf design. The Elven Leaf Comb is metal plated in sterling silver and has a comb in the back to stay on your head. It measures 1.5 inches tall and 4.5 inches wide.

The contest is open from September 24 to October 15 at midnight, EST. I will choose a winner on October 16.

Multiply your chances to win! If you become a follower of this blog, you'll get an additional 2 chances. If you tweet about the contest, you get one additional chance; and if you post something about this contest on Facebook, you'll earn one additional chance as well.

All images in this post are taken from Pearson's web site.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Leslie Carroll's interview on NPR's TRAVEL WITH RICK STEVES

The marvelous and engaging Rick Steves, travel guru extraordinare, interviewed me in March 2010 about traveling in the footsteps of famous royals. It was a marvelous opportunity to discuss my 2010 nonfiction release, NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES, and thanks to the broadcast, my book sales have skyrocketed.

The interview aired in mid-August 2010.

Here's the link to the interview. Please note that via the magic of Mr. Steves' editing, my segment is preceded, quite serendipitously, by an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE, which was adapted into a major (and just released) motion picture, starring Julia Roberts.

Leslie Carroll's interview on Rick Steves' travel program on NPR: Extras, including a discussion of Princess Diana, can be found at

Enjoy -- and may you be tempted to hop on the next plane for your favorite palace!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

ROYAL ROMANCES on the horizon!

Happy August, everyone!

As the "dog days" of summer continue (whyever are they called that? How would the phrase pertain to, e.g., a Siberian husky or an Alaskan Malamute on their home turf?) I am delighted to share some wonderful news:

I will be writing a fourth book in my nonfiction Royal series, to be titled

ROYAL ROMANCES: Titillating Tales of Passion and Power in the Palaces of Europe

I'm very excited about it and am still finalizing my table of contents. I'm always open to suggestions. In fact, this volume will include at least one couple of royal paramours that didn't make it into ROYAL AFFAIRS because of limitations on page count.

I tend to be as visual as I am verbal, and even though a production meeting on the cover art is months and months away, I love to imagine what NAL's art department might come up with.

Here are some of my initial thoughts:

The Kiss, by Francesco Hayez

The Black Brunswicker, by John Everett Millais

A Huguenot on St. Bartholomew's Day (also by Millais)

Just for the fun of it, if you have any cover art suggestions for a book titled ROYAL ROMANCES, feel free to share them. Who knows? Your suggestion may be on a book cover one of these days!

Monday, July 19, 2010

My March 2011 release: ROYAL PAINS

Coming March 1, 2011 from NAL:

A Rogues' Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds

In a world where sibling rivalry knows no bounds and excess is never enough, meet some of history’s boldest, baddest, and bawdiest royals

The bad seeds on the family trees of the most powerful royal houses of Europe often became the rottenest of apples. In an effort to stave off wrinkles, sixteenth-century Hungarian Countess Erzsébet Báthory bathed in the blood of virgins, and for kicks and giggles devised even more ingenious forms of torture than the über-violent autocrats Vlad (the Impaler) Dracula and Ivan the Terrible had ever imagined. Lettice Knollys strove to mimic the appearance of her cousin Elizabeth I and even stole her man. The Duke of Cumberland’s sexcapades and subsequent clandestine marriage led to a law that still binds England’s royal family. And the libidinous Pauline Bonaparte scandalized her imperial brother by having herself sculpted nearly nude and commissioning a golden drinking goblet fashioned in the shape of her breast.

Chock-full of shocking scenes, titillating tales, and wildly wicked nobles, Royal Pains is a rollicking compendium of the most infamous, capricious, and insatiable bluebloods of Europe.

Praise for Leslie Carroll's Notorious Royal Marriages

“For those who tackled Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and can’t get enough of the scandal surrounding Henry VIII’s wives, [Notorious Royal Marriages is] the perfect companion book.”—The New Yorker

“Carroll writes with verve and wit about the passionate—and occasionally perilous—events that occur when royals wed.”—Chicago Tribune (5 stars)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Jock Who Would Be King

Thirty-six-year-old Daniel Westling, former personal trainer to Crown Princess Victoria Ingrid Alice Desirée of Sweden, wed the princess on Saturday, June 19. He will henceforth be known as Prince Daniel, Duke of Vastergotland.

A rather vocal minority in Sweden believes the monarchy is passé and anachronistic, with 22% wanting the monarchy abolished entirely, up from 15% just six years ago. And a Facebook group called "Refuse to Pay for Victoria's Wedding" garnered popularity.

The thirty-two-year-old Crown Princess is currently next in line for Sweden's throne, although it wasn't always the case. In 1980 the succession law was changed, making King Carl XVI Gustaf's heir his oldest child, regardless of gender. Poor Prince Carl Philip, Victoria's younger brother. So close ... and yet so far.

Though I can guess how this is going down (after all, it's a royalist sort of blog), what's your opinon of this royal wedding -- and of monarchies in general?

Should taxpayers have been burdened (no matter how insignificant the share to the individual citizen of Sweden) with the cost of the flowers, booze, and royal wedding band?

Do you think monarchies are outdated? A charming relic of the past? Part of the continuity of a kingdom's history that is great for tourism and should continue indefinitely?

None of the above? Please share your thoughts. And what do you think of the fact that a gym rat whose father was a postal employee will one day sit on the Swedish throne? Very cool? Or very appalling?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Of Royalty, Polo, and Champagne

Courtesy of the Widow Veuve, polo returns to NYC on June 27 with a charity event sponsored by Veuve Clicquot champagne to benefit the American Friends of Sentebale, the US arm of a charity that Prince Harry of England founded to help underprivileged children in Lesotho.

Like his mother, the renegade redheaded prince is philanthropic and socially aware (except, umm... for those little hiccups where he forgets all lessons in World History and wears Nazi uniforms to fancy dress balls, or insults Pakistani comrades in arms with a derisive nickname related to their headgear).

Like his father, the Windsor spare plays polo.

I wish I could attend this event, and I do have a lovely pastel-colored suit and a large picture hat, so at least I can dress the part; but I think I'd need a charitable trust of my own to finance the excursion. However, as much as I write about royal scandals and scandalous royals, I'd be very tempted to root for Prince Harry's opponent, the Argentine heart-throb, polo player, and erstwhile Ralph Lauren model, Nacho Figueras.

Okay, ladies, which one would you choose to root for?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grace Kelly: movie star, princess, fashion icon

If you're lucky enough to be in London this summer, and you're a big fan of all things royal, and you consider yourself something of a fashionista, or even a film buff -- if I were you, I'd run-not-walk to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has on exhibition a retrospective of Grace Kelly's wardrobe.

Born in November, 1929, Kelly grew up near Philadelphia's mainline, a princess of privilege, although her charismatic and entrepreneurial father Jack, a bricklayer by trade, was quite the self-made man. She studied acting in NYC at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts on Madison Avenue, a conservatory that also produced the likes of Spencer Tracy, Robert Redford, and a starry-eyed kid who wasn't yet named Leslie Carroll.

First Broadway beckoned, then Hollywood, and the slender, blond, athletic golden girl, the quintessence of All-American beauty (although the fact [in the post WWII years] that her mother was German-born was either downplayed or suppressed by the media) became a film star by the time she was in her early 20s, winning an Academy Award for her leading role in "The Country Girl." At the age of twenty-six, believing that she'd done it all, and that the glamour of the silver screen would soon turn to tinsel (“Each year my makeup call is a lot earlier. And when I look at the other ladies who’ve been there since dawn, do I want to live like that? Get me out.”) she agreed to take time off from film promotion in Cannes to meet the thirty-one-year-old neighboring prince of Monaco, Rainier III.

The rest, as they say, is history: an archetypal fairy tale wedding (in truth funded by Jack Kelly and MGM; even her wedding gown, hair, and makeup was done by studio personnel), followed by three children and a jet-setting lifestyle in the ultimate gilded cage.
Grace Kelly's wedding suit (worn during her civil wedding, the day before the grand church wedding. Her formal wedding gown was deemed too fragile to travel to the V&A exhibit)

But of course, beneath the glittering surface all was not perfect -- and you can read the true story of the marriage of Grace and Rainier in my book, NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny, and Desire.>

Are you familiar with the life of Grace Kelly? What's your impression of her?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fergie's Noblesse Oblige

A royal scandal indeed! Of course Buckingham Palace is quick to remind the media that the Duchess of York's divorce from Prince Andrew means that she is no longer a member of the royal family, but that hasn't stopped the American press from Duchess in Disgrace headlines.

Royals occasionally make strange bedfellows when they've extended their financial means (Prinny, anyone?). Ditto for desperate and destitute divorcees.

So, what do you think of Sarah Ferguson's latest?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Uneasy lies the head...

Enjoy this latest bit of dish on Princess Diana! This was merely the crowning (tee-hee) touch to a disastrous bout of pre-wedding jitters. Of course, you might think twice, too, if you suspected that your royal fiance was enamored of another.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

And the Winner is ...

Celtic Lady!!

Congratulations! You have won the Valentine's Day contest: an autographed copy of NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES!

My very own valentine, my hubby Scott, drew the winner's name.

Happy belated Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES was featured online today in the venerated New Yorker magazine. I'm over the moon about this! And I finally have something else in common with my late grandfather Carroll Carroll, who used to write humorous pieces for the magazine in the 1920s -- as well as with one of my all time favorite poets and snarks, Dorothy Parker.

Thank you, Thessaly, and thanks to THE NEW YORKER for making this New Yorker extremely proud. I only wish my grandfather were still around to read this. But hopefully, from that great Round Table in the sky, he's grinning at me over his rocks glass.

February 17, 2010
The Exchange: Notorious Royal Marriages
Posted by Thessaly La Force

Notorious Royal Marriages

by Leslie Carroll

Thomas More’s father once said that marriage was like putting “your hand into a blind bag full of snakes and eels together, seven snakes for one eel.” (It helps to know that eels were a staple of Renaissance diets.) In other words, marriage wasn’t easy. Leslie Carroll, the author of “Royal Affairs,” has a new book out documenting over two dozen of the royal set’s juiciest marriages. For those who tackled Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” and can’t get enough of the scandal surrounding Henry VIII’s wives, here’s the perfect companion book. You can get all of the dirt you want, with none of the guilt (it’s history, O.K.?). Carroll took time this week to answer some of my questions about “Notorious Royal Marriages.”

There have been so many notorious marriages in the past decade—why focus on royal marriages?
True: we all love to read dishy stuff about the high and mighty, particularly when their lives are revealed to be less than rosy. Yet Americans in particular have enjoyed an ongoing love affair with royalty—perhaps because we’ve never had any—so we’re especially enamored of castles and crowns. I like to shine a light on what the life of a royal really means and to depict them as human beings and not as glamorous icons. Mel Brooks’s famous quip “It’s good to be the king” is less of a truism than Shakespeare’s “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”
Royal scandals and scandalous royals have become my nonfiction niche. I débuted in nonfiction with “Royal Affairs” in 2008; writing about these powerful relationships from the legitimate side of the sheets, was the logical next step, and that’s how “Notorious Royal Marriages” came about.

How do you define “notorious”?
I chose marriages that in some way impacted the monarchy itself as well as the kingdom or empire. That said, there have been so many royal unions that fit this criterion that I couldn’t cover them all in one volume (which, conveniently, leaves lots of room for a sequel). I also aimed at balancing some of the notorious “greatest hits,” such as all six of Henry VIII’s marriages, with some of the more obscure European royal unions: for example, the marriage of George Ludwig of Hanover (the future George I of England) and his wife (and first cousin) Sophia Dorothea of Celle. Come to think of it, there were so many of them that I probably could have written a book limited solely to first-cousin royal marriages!

For a royal, what did it mean to be a good wife or a good husband?
Queens were primarily expected to be brood mares. In a time of high infant mortality, they were expected to be fertile, and give the kingdom as many children—preferably boys—as possible. They were also expected to be docile, complacent, and ornamental; the brightest jewel in the king’s crown. Kings could pretty much do anything they wanted; being a good husband was in the eye of the beholder. Or the monarch. Charles II, who fathered seventeen illegitimate children, considered himself a very good husband because he didn’t send his wife, Catherine of Braganza (who was very much in love with him) back to Portugal after she proved unable to carry a child to term. He realized that it wasn’t her “fault,” and that he had put her through the emotional ringer by flaunting his bevy of royal mistresses.

Why did people from royal families get married? How is marriage different from the ceremony we perform today?
The primary purpose of a royal marriage was to beget an heir to continue the line. The stakes could not have been higher. No direct heirs of the king’s body could lead to civil war between competing contenders for the crown, each asserting a stronger claim than the other, or to an invasion by a foreign monarch claiming the throne.

In France, only a male heir could inherit the throne, putting additional pressure on the queen. Royal marriages were dynastic and political alliances. A foreign queen who proved to be barren, or could not beget a male heir, ran the risk of being sent back to her country of origin. Henry VIII was desperate for a male heir even though women could inherit the English throne. His was still a very martial era and the monarchy was far more of an autocracy at the time. It was commonly believed that only a male who could lead his troops into battle could govern the kingdom and keep any rebellious nobles in line, quashing any local uprisings as well.

The notion of anyone wedding for love would not only have been laughed at, it would have been ignored; and even in the nineteenth century the young queen Victoria and, two generations later, her granddaughter, Alexandra of Hesse, were looked at somewhat askance for insisting on a love match (with Prince Albert, and with the tsarevich, Nicholas Romanov of Russia, respectively).
Before the sixteenth century, when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and Henry VIII broke with the Church of Rome, everyone was Catholic. Because the royal gene pool was not terribly deep (and would grow even shallower as time went on), more often than not, marriages between cousins were arranged. And, more often than not, their familial relationship to each other, or consanguinity, often presented an obstacle to their marriage. The more closely related the royals were to each other, the greater the degree of consanguinity. However, the popes, always eager to increase their coffers, made dispensations available to the royal houses of Europe. After some wrangling and a bit of paperwork, a papal dispensation made it O.K. for cousins to wed each other. Conveniently, these dispensations were sometimes overturned because—shock, horror!—the spouses were cousins! Eleanor of Aquitaine and her fourth cousin, King Louis VII of France, who had required a papal dispensation permitting them to wed in the first place, raised the subject of their consanguinity after several years of marriage during which Eleanor bore Louis two daughters, but no sons. By that time, both of them wanted a divorce. The Pope reversed the dispensation because the pair were fourth cousins.

Within weeks, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet, the eighteen-year-old Duke of Normandy, who soon became King Henry II of England. And here’s the kicker about the ridiculousness of the papal dispensations for consanguinity. Henry was Eleanor’s third cousin!

Which marriage is your favorite, and why?
I spent so much time researching these couples that each of them found a place in my heart. But if I have to choose one, I would say that Marie Antoinette and the dauphin—the future Louis XVI—became my favorite because what I came away with after extensively researching their relationship is that they were so misunderstood—as royals and as human beings. I entered my research with preconceived notions (for example, that he was a doofus or a dolt and that she was a bubbleheaded shopaholic); yet the more I read about this pair, the more sympathetic I found them. In fact, I found Marie Antoinette and Louis so intriguing—as individuals, as a couple, and in the context of their time—that I couldn’t wait to turn my historical-fiction pen (O.K., keyboard) to Marie Antoinette’s story.

The wedding of Marie Antoinette Josephe Jeanne Archduchess of Austria and Louis Auguste Dauphin of France. They were married on Wednesday, May 16, 1770.

Are there any parallels you’ve seen with more contemporary marriages to any of the marriages you write about? (Is there, for example, a modern day Henry VIII? Or Anne Boleyn?)
Let’s hope there isn’t a monarch ready to execute his wife because she has so far failed to bear him a son, or because (in the case of Kathryn Howard) she may have taken a lover! Of course, European monarchies are now constitutional ones, and the sovereign can no longer get away with judicial murder. Because governments are now in the hands of parliamentary bodies, royal spouses don’t have the same ability to shape their kingdoms in their own image. Tabloids might be filled with the sexcapades of current royals, or with their hypothetical battles with drugs or depression, but you don’t read about outsized colorful figures that really put their stamp on the world. The closest we’ve come lately was Princess Diana, but her effect on England and the world was more sentimental and emotional than literal. For example, she didn’t (as Anne Boleyn did) inspire her husband to change the course of world history by breaking with the church and establishing himself as the head of a new national religion, an act that forever impacted European history.

Leslie Carroll

Marriage, especially in royal court, can be very public, but I imagine there were also very private moments. Can you explain how you researched this book?
I read about sixty biographies of the royals profiled in “Notorious Royal Marriages,” in addition to a couple of dozen biographical articles published in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Many of the secondary sources contain primary-source material, including diary entries, poems written by the royals, and correspondence, including love letters, as well as primary-source material written by others close to the royal spouses (e.g., parents, courtiers, governesses). Although journal entries, and even some correspondence, can be written with an eye firmly on posterity or on one’s own reputation, and therefore are not entirely reliable, these primary-source materials do provide a valuable, and fascinating, window into the private lives of royal spouses.

You’re also the author of “Royal Affairs.” How common were affairs?
Extramarital affairs were extremely common—more the rule than the exception, actually. Because royal marriages were political and economic unions, odds were that the spouses had little affection, let alone love, for each other. However, what was good for the gander was not acceptable for the goose. Kings strayed constantly. But queens were expected to remain one-hundred-per-cent faithful to their husbands, to shut up and put up with the king’s mistresses, turning a blind eye to his infidelities.
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Win an Autographed Copy of NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES!

In honor of Valentine's Day, I am offering a giveway of an autographed copy of NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES. Life wasn't always hearts and flowers for these famous royals. So, you can either count yourself lucky that you're in a much more rewarding relationship, or steal a few tips from some of the genuinely happily married couples. Hint: some of them wrote some extremely erotic love letters to each other. Others were hopless romantics in their correspondence.

To enter, post a comment below. A comment gets you 1 chance. Becoming a follower of this blog gets you an additional chance to win. Becoming a follower of my other blog, "The Lady Novelist" at garners you a third chance. Tweet about it as well and you get 4 entries.

The winner's name will be drawn on Sunday, February 21, 2010. I will notify the winner by email and post his or her name on the blog.

Happy Valentine's Day to all, and may it be everything you'd hoped for!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Week That Was: NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES in the News

Last week began with a bang. I had the honor and privilege to guest host the first anniversary of Lady Jane's Salon on Monday, February 1.

On February 5, the marvelous Barbara Vey published a report on her PW Book Blog, "Beyond the Book," written by Leanna Renee Hieber, whose unique writer's voice is moving copies of her debut novel, THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL CASE OF MISS PERCY PARKER off the shelves as though they were hotcakes at a firemens' breakfast.

See my reprint of the article here:

February 5, 2010

Author Leanna Renee Hieber here with birthday wishes to Lady Jane! Monday marked the one year anniversary of New York’s only reading series devoted to Romance Fiction; Lady Jane’s Salon. Lady Jane’s was founded in late 2008 by myself, fellow romance authors Hope Tarr, Maya Rodale and internet guru Ron Hogan over drinks one night discussing why New York, in all its literary splendor, didn’t have a reading series for Romance Fiction. So it was up to us to start one. And we did, in the red-velvet-drenched upstairs of Madame X, with our first authors Cara Elliot and Lauren Willig- who becauseof their partnership at Lady Jane’s are now teaching romance in the big leagues (Yale). While the night boasted champagne, corsages and cupcakes, the spirit of Lady Jane’s is always about great fiction and a good cause. Now New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig returned to our stage to help us celebrate this landmark year with her latest hit, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, along with guest emcee and fabulous Historical author Leslie Carroll and her Notorious Royal Marriages, and scintillating debut author Sara Lindsey with Promise Me Tonight.

Leslie Carroll (fittingly dressed as Tudor Queen Lady Jane Grey) with fellow history hoyden and NY Times Bestselling author Lauren Willig; [this photo courtesy of my husband, Scott]

And so a year later… thanks to the support of people like you, Barbara, and Romantic Times Magazine, our wonderful venue Madame X, a host of bloggers, newspaper articles, radio interviews, thanks to a slew of talented authors and an ardent crowd of loyal supporters, Lady Jane’s is one of the most vibrant forces in New York’s experience of fiction in real-time; a face to face opportunity for readers, authors, industry and fans to talk about and applaud (literally) the genre we love. And then, of course, to share the love, by donating money and gently used romance novels to women in need, as charity remains a core part of our Salon’s identity.

A ton has happened through the year, for the co-founders, our readers and authors. Our co-founders published new books, the year marked my dream-come-true with my debut; The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, we watched as our featured readers’ books hit lists and thrilled at the news of contracts for our some of our Lady Jane’s audience who will now be debut authors too, Ron Hogan got a cool new job ruling the interwebz for the very smart New York publishing house who snatched him up, and 2010 proves to be no less than spectacular.

With featured readers returning to the Lady Jane’s stage unveiling new names and new initiatives, we’ll also have a host of debut authors take the stage. We’ll continue our mission to promote every single sub-genre within Romance. We’ll be expanding our charity options, we’ll have a Salon at the Romantic Times convention (please come!), and most importantly, we’ll get to see you again, Barbara Vey, our supporter from the beginning, and we can’t wait for it all to unfold. Keep in touch at Lady Jane's Salon and come see us! Blessings, thanks and happy reading!
Thanks again to Barbara Vey for showcasing a very special program that benefits an equally important cause!

Then, on Saturday, February 6, I had a double-header in southern Vermont. First, the Royal High Tea at the picturesque 18th century Dorset Inn, was a splendiferous success. Hosting in the guise of Marie Antoinette, I chatted with readers as they enjoyed their afternoon repast, dishing the dirt on various renegade royals throughout the ages. I was tremendously impressed with our guests' erudition when it came to royal history.
It was also a treat to finally meet the talented Heather Rieseck, author of the very popular historical fiction blog, The Maidens' Court. We've been connecting in cyberspace for months, and I'm happy to say that she's just as much of a delight in person!
Dorset Inn owners Lauren and Steven Bryant and their wonderful Chef Thom really pulled out all the stops. The royal tea was a delicious and elegant event and such a success that we're already batting around ideas for the next themed tea. Jane Austen, anyone?

That evening , I was back in mufti for a reading, discussion, and signing of NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES at the marvelous Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT. I read from my chapter on the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, which gave me the chance to share with readers who have also seen the recent feature film "The Young Victoria" a taste of how the marriage really transpired and what went on within it. I must confess, I suddenly became very emotional and teary as I was reading Victoria's own words about the last moments of her beloved Albert and her vows to rule her kingdom the way he would have wanted her to do so. I noticed some moist eyes in the house as well. The courtship and marriage of Victoria and Albert is one of the rare love stories in royal history.
Thanks are due to Northshire events coordinator Zach Marcus and his assistant Kate, as well as to my fabulous publicist at NAL, Kathryn Tumen, for making it all happen!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Join me on February 1 at Lady Jane's Salon

On February 1, 2010, I will be reading from NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES (and signing the copies available for purchase) at Lady Jane's Salon, located at the seductive Madame X, 94 West Houston Street in New York City.

Joined by the lovely and talented Lauren Willig and Sara Lindsey, I'll be guest hosting that night as well. Don't miss me dressed as a Tudor (you'll have to guess which one).

Here's the lowdown:

WHAT: Reading & signing @ Lady Jane’s Salon
WHERE:Madame X
94 Houston Street
NY, NY 10012(212) 539-0808

Subways: F,V,B,D @ Lafayette/N, R @ Prince St.

WHEN: 7-9 pm on 2/1/2010

WHY: Support women & the arts! (Need more incentive? There’s cheap booze!)

ADMISSION: $5 or a gently-used romance novel.
Proceeds from the evening benefit Share the Love.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Afternoon Tea and Royal Gossip at The Dorset Inn

Please join me at the gorgeous, historic Dorset Inn in on Saturday, Feb. 6th at 3 p.m for an afternoon of Royal gossip from my newest book,

NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny and Desire.

From the press release: “Historian and Manhattan-based actress Leslie Carroll is on her way to becoming the go-to-girl when it comes to the real life love (and hate) stories, gossip, and scandals of famous royals.”

So, while The Dorset Inn will be dishing out Afternoon Tea, accompanied by a delectable selection of pastries and sweets prepared by Chef Thom, I'll be dishing about your favorite royals (in costume, no less!)

$15 per person, all inclusive
Please call the Dorset Inn at 802-867-5500 to reserve.

Reservations Required by Feb 2nd.

What could be more fun than a wintry afternoon by the fire together, savoring culinary delights from a top chef in one of the nation's most picturesque towns?

I do hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

At long last ... NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES releases today!

It's been a long gestation ... but finally, my 13th book is on the shelves today! I've been blogging about it for days already, with many more exciting guest posts and personal appearances to come . . .

You can visit me today at another of my homes away from home, the History Hoydens blog at , and all this week at the myriad events set up by the fantastic Octobloggers of the Historical Fiction Round Table. Scroll down to my previous post to see who and where they are.

Special thanks are due to my amazing husband Scott for being so kind and patient and understanding through the long hours of research and writing.

And here's a double-barrelled question for my readers: who is your favorite royal couple, and why?