Anne Somerset was born in London and graduated from King’s College, London. She is the author of The Life and Times of King William IV, Ladies in Waiting and Elizabeth I. She has worked as a research assistant for several historians, among them Antonia Fraser. Somerset, the daughter of the 11th Duke of Beaufort, lives in London.
In the last millennium there have been only six English female sovereigns: Mary I and Elizabeth I, Mary II and Anne, Victoria and Elizabeth II. With the exception of Mary I, they are among England's most successful monarchs. Without Mary II and Anne, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 might not have taken place. Elizabeth I and Victoria each gave their name to an age, presiding over long periods when Britain made significant progress in the growth of empire, prestige, and power. All of them have far-reaching legacies. Each faced personal sacrifices and emotional dilemmas in her pursuit of political power. How to overcome the problem of being a female ruler when the sex was considered inferior? Does a queen take a husband and, if so, how does she reconcile the reversal of the natural order, according to which the man should be the master? A queen's first royal duty is to provide an heir to the throne, but at what cost?
In this richly compelling narrative of royalty, Maureen Waller delves into the intimate lives of England's queens regnant in delicious detail, assessing their achievements from a female perspective.
Seven prominent men sent an invitation to William of Orange---James' nephew and son-in-law---to intervene in English affairs. But it was the women, Queen Mary Beatrice and her two stepdaughters, Mary and Anne, who played a key role in this drama. Jealous and resentful of her hated stepmother, Anne had written a series of malicious letters to her sister Mary in Holland, implying that the Queen's pregnancy was a hoax, a Catholic plot to deny Mary her rightful inheritance.
Betrayed by those he trusted, distraught at Anne's defection, James fled the kingdom. Even as the crown descended on her head, Mary knew she had incurred a father's curse. The sisters quarreled and were still not speaking to each other when Mary died tragically young. Anne did nothing to deserve her father's forgiveness, declaring her brother an outlaw with a price on his head.
Acclaimed historian Maureen Waller recreated the late Stuart era in a compelling narrative that highlights the influence of three women in one of the most momentous events in English history. Prompted by religious bigotry and the emotion that beset any family relationships, this palace coup changed the face of the monarchy, and signaled the end of a dynasty.
The 1676 torture and execution of the Marquise de Brinvilliers marked the start of the scandal which rocked the foundations of French society and sent shock waves through all of Europe. Convicted of conspiring with her adulterous lover to poison her father and brothers in order to secure the family fortune, the marquise was the first member of the noble class to fall.
In the French court of the period, where sexual affairs were numerous, ladies were not shy of seeking help from the murkier elements of the Parisian underworld, and fortune-tellers supplemented their dubious trade by selling poison.
It was not long before the authorities were led to believe that Louis XIV himself was at risk. With the police chief of Paris police alerted, every hint of danger was investigated. Rumors abounded and it was not long before the King ordered the setting up of a special commission to investigate the poisonings and bring offenders to justice. No one, the King decreed, no matter how grand, would be spared having to account for their conduct.
The royal court was soon thrown into disarray. The Mistress of the Robes and a distinguished general were among the early suspects. But they paled into insignificance when the King's mistress was incriminated. If, as was said, she had engaged in vile Satanic rituals and had sought to poison a rival for the King's affections, what was Louis XIV to do?
Anne Somerset has gone back to original sources, letters and earlier accounts of the affair. By the end of her account, she reaches firm conclusions on various crucial matters. The Affair of the Poisons is an enthralling account of a sometimes bizarre period in French history.