Catherine de Medici of France; Elizabeth Tudor of England; Mary Stuart of Scotland; and Elisabeth de Valois of Spain. Three Renaissance queens who remain household names to this day; and a fourth, a forgotten queen at the center of them all, whose hidden story is long overdue.
No one has brought their stories together into one volume until now.
Elisabeth de Valois and Mary Queen of Scots were childhood best friends who became queens by the time they were in their teens. Catherine and Elizabeth Tudor were the older women who fought to shape these girls in their adolescent years, motivated by love, political ambition, fear, and rivalry.
All four were brought to the highest pinnacles of power during their reigns. And yet each of them at some point faltered under the weight of that very same power—because, as women, that power came with a terrible price.
Popular history, drama, and scholarship have often confined these queens to pedestals and rendered them as pure stereotypes: Catherine de Medici as murderous Black Queen; Mary Stuart as beautiful and tragic teen queen; Elizabeth Tudor, stalwart in her unmarried status. While Elisabeth de Valois, far younger when she died, and betwixt and between countries, has all but slipped through the cracks.
By chronicling their relationships and revealing the dramatic contrasts and parallels among them—not only within the sweeping context of politics and history, but within the specific, women-centric, and hidden context of female power and sacrifice
—Young Queens presents a much more nuanced and thus more arresting picture of each. Was Catherine really so evil? Was Mary so innocent? Was Elizabeth Tudor so sure of her right to rule— and was her virginity such a victory? And could it be that Elisabeth de Valois, young as she was, wielded far more power than her footnote in history status might suggest?
Young Queens frees these women from their individual silos to form a natural, and riveting, quartet-narrative—one that tells a larger, more revealing, more human story of the making of young women into queens. A story of personal sacrifice, loss, and tragedy that unfolds less through the sweeping events of wars, successions, and the rise and fall of dynasties—although these certainly have their place—than through the shaping of the hearts, minds, and lives of girls and young women, with the understanding that these were as powerful in the shaping of Renaissance Europe as any edict, battle, or birth of a king.
At the heart of Young Queens is the premise that, together, Elisabeth, Mary, Catherine, and Elizabeth Tudor tell each other’s stories about youth, women, and power better than any one of them can alone. Or, put differently: it was only ever one story, with many different endings.