Photo appears by permission of Abigails Ateliers. All rights reserved.
The Rules of the Challenge
- Runs from January 1st, 2010 to December 31st, 2010. But this is an ongoing challenge and I will be renewing it next year.
- Join anytime during the year – just leave a comment, with a link to your signup post if you do one – you don’t have to! Anyone can join, you don’t have to have a blog.
- Books can be re-reads, or can overlap with other challenges.
- If you’d like me to include a link to your review, leave me a comment or email me at: misadventuresofmoppet [at] googlemail [dot] com.
- Choose your own level. You can change level anytime or change your mind about the books you will read at any time. I noticed other people have fun names for their challenge levels, so here are mine:
Orange Girl – Read one book
Maid of Honour – Read up to three books
Courtesan – Read up to five books
Maitresse en titre – Read up to seven books
Secret Wife – Read more than seven books!
UPDATE: Non-fiction counts towards the challenge! Either general books like Eleanor Herman’s Sex with Kings, or multi-biographies like Antonia Fraser’s Love and Louis XIV, or biographies of individual mistresses or favourites.
The 2010 button
Feel free to grab it for your blog.
UPDATE: Now with Mr Linky for reviews!
In 2009 I made it to Orange Girl level with a review of Madame du Barry by Jean Plaidy. In 2010 I’d like to read a book from each featured century, which would give me Secret Wife status! We’ll see how I get on.
UPDATE: January 2010: I reached Orange Girl level with my review of The Time of Singing by Elizabeth Chadwick.
Which books qualify for the challenge?
- I’ve interpreted ‘royal mistress’ to mean a royal mistress who really existed (like Madame de Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV) as opposed to one who didn’t (Amber St Clare, MC of Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber, mistress to Charles II). Sorting out which is which is tricky sometimes: for example: Princess Alais, sister of Philip II of France, has been alleged to have been a mistress of Henry II, but it may not be true: do I include books about her or not? I’ve decided yes, but only if the author portrays her as a royal mistress.
- Then there are unknown mistresses whom the author has characterised, such as Richard III’s: I’ve decided they can be included too – as long as they had children which really existed.
- I’ve also included mistresses to junior royals as well as kings’ mistresses. Because otherwise I’d have to miss out one of the best royal mistress novels ever written, Daphne du Maurier’s Mary Anne. And that would be a crime.
- If the character really existed, but there is no evidence for a relationship, they will not be included: for example, in Kingdom of Shadows Barbara Erskine imagines a love affair between Isobel Buchan and Robert the Bruce, but as there is no record of Isobel being his mistress, she belongs to a third category: historical character, fictional relationship.
- Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between mistresses, wives and secret wives. On reflection I’ve decided not to include Anne Boleyn as she was only a mistress for a relatively short period – and also because there are so many books written about her that just listing them would be a lifetime’s toil. I am, however, including Francoise de Maintenon: although there is little evidence that she was Louis XIV’s mistress before he married her morganatically, and I personally don’t believe it, she is usually portrayed as his mistress in fiction.
- The book has to have the mistress as the central character – not just feature her in a major way.
- I have included sub-genres of historical fiction (mystery, adventure) but marked it as such after the title.
- Oh, and although I’ve called it the Royal Mistress Challenge, I’m including books about male favourites such as Piers Gaveston. So it’s really the Royal Favourite Challenge.
- I’ve included Elizabeth Luard’s Emerald which is cheating a bit really as it’s less about Wallis Simpson, mistress of Edward VIII, than it is about their imaginary daughter. But I couldn’t resist as I’ve heard of this one and just wanted to read it.
- Non-fiction is fine, although I’m not going to list all the books the way I have with novels, there are just too many!
Mary Sue Litmus Test Weighting
Why the necessity for a Mary Sue Litmus Test? Well, when I checked out reviews for one or two of these novels, I found many of the heroines were being accused of being Mary Sues. Royal mistress novels seem to be particularly prone to it, not sure why. However, I do feel that in one respect the Mary Sue Litmus Test is unfair to royal mistresses: it penalises unusually attractive characters. Royal mistresses were mostly beautiful – that’s how they attracted their lovers in the first place. And if the historical record describes a character as beautiful, and she appears in a novel depicted as plain, the accusations of inaccuracy are going to flood in. So, for the sake of argument, I’m going to say that beauty equates to average attractiveness for RM characters. They will, however, be marked down should there be constant reference to that beauty: violet eyes, burnished hair, alabaster skin, whatever.
Have I missed anything out?
I hope that quite apart from the reading challenge, this will be a useful reference list for me and for others. So if I’ve left a book out (and I must have left out loads) do let me know. Books in other languages are fine too: if it’s not in French I probably can’t read it, but someone else might.
Nest of Deheubarth (Welsh princess), mistress to Henry II of England
Anne Bell, Daughter of the Dragon
Eleanor Fairburn, The Golden Hive
Margaret Mackinlay, The Pawns of Kings
Margaret Orford, Royal Mistress
Princess Alais, mistress to Henry II of England
NB: Disputed Relationship: some historians do not believe that Alais was Henry’s mistress.
Christy English, The Queen’s Pawn
Judith Koll Healey’s Princess Alais mysteries:
- The Canterbury Papers
- The Rebel Princess
Ida de Tosney, mistress to Henry II of England
Elizabeth Chadwick, The Time of Singing (To be released in the US in 2010 by Sourcebooks with the title of For the King’s Favor)
Piers Gaveston, favourite of Edward II of England
Chris Hunt, Gaveston
Brandy Purdy, The Confession of Piers Gaveston
Eve Trevaskis, The Lord of Misrule
Alice Perrers, mistress to Edward III of England
Vanora Bennett, THE PEOPLE’S QUEEN (released August 2010)
Emma Campion, The King’s Mistress
Katherine Swynford, mistress to John of Gaunt
Anya Seton, Katherine
Mariota de Athyn, mistress of Alexander Stewart, son of Robert II of Scotland (the Wolf of Badenoch)
Charles Mackie, Mariota
Agnes Sorel, mistress to Charles VII of France
Noel de Vic Beamish, Queen of Swords
Elizabeth “Jane” Shore, mistress to Edward IV of England
Philip Lindsay, The Merry Mistress
Jean Plaidy, The Goldsmith’s Wife/The King’s Mistress
Arthur R.G. Solmssen, The Wife of Shore
Unknown mistress to Richard Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III
Vanora Bennett, Figures in Silk (also features Jane Shore)
Anne Easter Smith, A Rose for the Crown
Mary Boleyn, mistress to Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England
NB: Disputed Relationship. Mary Boleyn is not portrayed as Francis’s mistress in The Other Boleyn Girl and Philippa Gregory at least thinks there is not enough evidence to prove a relationship.
Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl
Karen Harper, The Last Boleyn
Aileen Quigley, Court Cadenza, republished as The Tudor Sisters by Aileen Armitage
Judith Saxton, Feather Light, Diamond Bright
Diane de Poitiers, mistress to Henry II of France
Diane Haeger, Courtesan
Olympe Mancini, mistress to Louis XIV of France
Alison Farely, Tempestuous Countess
Louise de La Valliere, mistress to Louis XIV of France
Sandra Gulland, Mistress of the Sun
Athenais de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV of France
Catherine Decours, Aimee du Roi
Francoise de Maintenon, mistress to Louis XIV of France
NB: Disputed Relationship. Francoise de Maintenon was almost certainly married morganatically to Louis XIV (although no marriage certificate survives). She may or may not have been his mistress prior to that.
Alice Acland, The Secret Wife
Francoise Chandernagor, L’allee du roi/The King’s Way
Lucy Walters, mistress to Charles II of England
Elizabeth Goudge, Child from the Sea
Nell Gwyn, mistress to Charles II of England
Gillian Bagwell, THE DARLING STRUMPET (released January 2011)
Diane Haeger, The Perfect Royal Mistress: A Novel
Betty King, Nell Gwyn
Priya Parmar, EXIT THE ACTRESS (released January 2011)
Lozania Prole, The Fabulous Nell Gwynne
Lozania Prole, The Orange Girl
Lozania Prole, Pretty, Witty Nell
Lozania Prole, Sweet Nell
Susan Holloway Scott, The King’s Favorite: A Novel of Nell Gwyn and King Charles II
Richard Sumner, Mistress of the Streets; Mistress of the Boards; Mistress of the King
Barbara Castlemaine, mistress to Charles II of England
Patricia Campbell Horton, Royal Mistress
Olivia Leigh, The Notorious Lady Castlemaine: The career of Barbara Villiers
Susan Holloway Scott, Royal Harlot: A Novel of the Countess of Castlemaine and King Charles II
Richard Sumner’s Nell Gwynn trilogy:
- Mistress of the Streets
- Mistress of the Boards
- Mistress of the King
Louise de Keroualle, mistress to Charles II of England
Susan Holloway Scott, The French Mistress: A Novel of the Duchess of Portsmouth and King Charles II
Katherine Sedley, mistress to James II of England
Susan Holloway Scott, The Countess and the King
Margaret “Peggy” Hughes, mistress to Prince Rupert of the Rhine
Diana Norman, The Vizard Mask
Madame de Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV of France
NB: Madame de Pompadour was definitely Louis XV’s mistress. However, in 1750 she made the transition from mistress to best friend, confidante and political adviser.
Menie Gregoire, Le bien-aime: Memoires apocryphes de Madame de Pompadour
Marie-Louise O’Murphy, mistress to Louis XV of France
Duncan Sprott, Our Lady of the Potatoes
Madame du Barry, mistress to Louis XV of France
Jean Plaidy, Madame du Barry
Mary “Perdita” Robinson, mistress to the Prince of Wales, later George IV
Amanda Elyot, All for Love
Jean Plaidy, Perdita’s Prince
Maria Fitzherbert, mistress to the Prince of Wales, later George IV
Michael Dyne, The Glitter and the Gold
Diane Haeger, The Secret Wife of King George IV
Jean Plaidy, Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill
Lozania Prole, A Queen for the Regent
Mary Anne Clarke, mistress to Frederick, Duke of York
Daphne du Maurier, Mary Anne
Dorothy Jordan, mistress to the Duke of Clarence, later William IV
Jean Plaidy, Goddess of the Green Room
Ekaterina Dolgoruky, mistress to Tsar Alexander II
Princesse Bibesco, Katia
Mathilde Kschessinska, mistress to Tsar Alexander II
Adrienne Sharp, The True Memoirs of Little K.
Lily Langtry, mistress to Edward VIII
James Brough, The Prince and the Lily
Wallis Simpson, later the Duchess of Windsor, mistress to Edward VIII
Anne Edwards, Wallis: The Novel
Elizabeth Luard, Emerald [about Wallis's fictional secret daughter by Edward VIII]