To mark the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s official birthday this month, Yale University Press London choose their favourite books on the theme of ‘royalty’.
June’s Staff Pick: Marie-Antoinette
International Sales Executive, Kit Yee Wong recommends Marie-Antoinette: The Making of a French Queen by John Hardman
If your only knowledge about Marie-Antoinette is the phrase “Let them eat cake”, the forthcoming paperback edition of John Hardman’s biography of this much-misunderstood figure will undoubtedly create a more rounded picture of her.
At some point around 1789, when told that her French subjects had no bread, Marie-Antoinette had supposedly uttered this callous remark, so turning her into a hated symbol of the decadent French monarchy of King Louis XVI and fuelling the French Revolution (1789-99) that would bring down the king and utterly transform France’s political structure. The book delves into the extent of Marie-Antoinette’s power and influence, and the political role she played prior to and during the Revolution. Her influence was called upon in 1787 only when the king’s morale collapsed after his reform programme failed. After that, there was an unbroken chain of events that led to the Revolution.
The book focuses on the serious nature of Marie-Antoinette’s involvement with politics. She had secretly corresponded with Antoine Barnave (44 letters apiece) working out policy between them; Barnave had believed that a strong constitutional monarchy was necessary to ‘stop the Revolution’ before it descended into barbarism. It is sobering to read about Marie-Antoinette’s outsider status which detracted from her serious political efforts: as a queen who shouldn’t be dabbling in ministerial politics in a theoretically absolute monarchy, and as ‘l’Autrichienne’ [the Austrian] who was viewed as a danger on foreign policy.
With France’s Bastille Day (14 July) on the horizon, a French national holiday marking the storming of the medieval fortress by French subjects, tired of the rule of their king, this inexpensive edition will be a timely summer read.
Key Accounts Executive, Philip Dyson recommends Emperor: A New Life of Charles V by Geoffrey Parker
Working with Geoffrey Parker, author of Emperor: A New Life of Charles V has definitely been one of the high points of my time so far at Yale. Not only is he unparalleled in his knowledge of his subject, but Geoffrey is also always filled with an infectious enthusiasm for the possibilities for his book, intermittently emailing suggestions or finding references relevant to different countries.
This has really aided me when selling the translation rights, specifically in the Netherlands, Poland, and Estonia. As I’ve come to understand more about Charles V, I really believe that Geoffrey is one of very few who could write this biography, and his encyclopedic and polyglot nature mirror, in a strange way, the erstwhile Emperor. Being able to read all of the original texts in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish is something at once impressive and a unique selling point of the book: you’re not going to get a more intimate picture than this of Charles V!
Publisher & Managing Director, Heather McCallum recommends Henry III: The Rise to Power and Personal Rule, 1207-1258 by David Carpenter
I think that this is YUPL’s most substantial Yale English Monarch to date, and that is saying something among a collection of major works by very distinguished scholars. Decades in the making, David Carpenter brings more than just authority to his subject. It was called ‘monumental’, ‘brilliant’, ‘outstanding’, ‘magisterial’, ‘awesome’ but above all, I think it is immersive and, as Paul Lay said, ‘intimate’. It’s a real achievement to evoke a flesh and blood character from 800 years ago without compromise to scholarship.
Carpenter takes into account his personal religious life as well as his still visible passion for rich architecture as well as the significance of his family. This is not the first two-volume biography of a major figure we have published (Wellington/Rory Muir and YUP published Napoleon/Philip Dwyer) but is the first medieval life. However, the scale, length, and significance of Henry III’s reign fully justify the treatment. The second volume is eagerly awaited.
I came late, of course, to the project but very much enjoyed the development in the latter stages and working with David to hone the final work.