A Plethora of Princesses

GirlreadingPat here:

I’m working on the third Rebellious Son book (yeah, I know, finally) and I’m researching European royalty. I’ve always hated books with make-believe princesses, just as I get annoyed with books where everyone is a spy when England really had no such thing. And then I turn around and write one. There ya go, my nature in a nutshell—perverse. Maybe it's that love/hate relationship that works so well for characters!

So to make my princess credible, I started digging around to see what royalty there was as Napoleon’s juggernaut crushed Europe. Deposed royalty would work fine. My heroine favors a more Mediterranean look than Nordic, so I played around with the most obvious target—Italy. Italy at this time wasn’t the Italy we know now.   As you can see from the map, it’s a bunch of diverse provinces, each with their own version of royalty and probably all related to each other—a veritable plethora of princesses for me to play with.

My book is set in 1809, and by that time, Napoleon had taken a wopping bite out of Tuscany and Corsica-france-seascape-winding-roadof course, Corsica.  (photo credit) But at the time France acquired Tuscany, the Duke of Parma was granted Etruria, and that was my aha moment. Skimming through the history, I could see land along the coast line was swapped like playing cards. Napoleon could declare himself King of Italy and give provinces to his sisters and brothers and call them anything he liked, and turn Italy into a dozen duchies, so why shouldn’t I? So somewhere on that Ligurian coastline (annexed by France in 1805), I created the grand duchy of Mirenze. So, my princess wasn’t really a princess except in her own country, which wasn’t really her country anymore. I do love the way my perversion comes together.

Princess(Princess Clothilde 1861) But as we look at these maps and realize how Napoleon almost single-handedly pulled Italy out of its feudal roots and into the 19th century, we’ve got to give the man some respect. Instead of a few dozen warring provinces and states with multiple leaders stabbing each other in the back and marrying their cousins, he eventually created a modern country with civilians instead of serfs. Put another way, he created a United States of Italy, except he had to put on a crown and ruin the effect. Europe did love its crowns.

And then he married all the aristocrats off to his plebian family and called them equal(that's one of his descendants in the photo)—except now Napoleon’s family hobnobs with half the aristocracy of Europe and aren’t faring too badly in the U.S. either. Did you know that a descendant of Napoleon's sister Caroline Bonaparte is actor René Auberjonois of Star Trek, Boston Legal, and numerous other productions? And a descendant of one of Napoleon's brothers was a US Attorney General. I guess that’s about as close to aristocracy as we have in this country. Pretty good job for an old Italian country boy.

So I think my princess-who-isn't-a-princess should be believable enough, I hope.

I’m not entirely certain why we enjoy reading about the aristocracy and royalty, but it certainly gave me a chance to play with culture and social clashes since my princess is actually a sailor’s widow and teaches school.

How about you? Do you prefer royalty to working class or vice versa? What is it about the fantasy that so appeals to us, especially Americans with no aristocracy to speak of?

70 thoughts on “A Plethora of Princesses”

  1. I usually prefer to avoid royalty in my reading. Aristocrats I’m perfectly happy with, but royalty tend to have even stricter lives, so all the runaway princesses seem a bit far fetched. (For whatever reason, princesses are always running away, and a large number seem TSTL.) A few of my favorite books feature royalty, though, so I will read books with royalty occasionally.
    I like reading about lower class characters when I can find them, but I have a definite love for historical high fashion, and that’s only going to show up among the rich.

    Reply
  2. I usually prefer to avoid royalty in my reading. Aristocrats I’m perfectly happy with, but royalty tend to have even stricter lives, so all the runaway princesses seem a bit far fetched. (For whatever reason, princesses are always running away, and a large number seem TSTL.) A few of my favorite books feature royalty, though, so I will read books with royalty occasionally.
    I like reading about lower class characters when I can find them, but I have a definite love for historical high fashion, and that’s only going to show up among the rich.

    Reply
  3. I usually prefer to avoid royalty in my reading. Aristocrats I’m perfectly happy with, but royalty tend to have even stricter lives, so all the runaway princesses seem a bit far fetched. (For whatever reason, princesses are always running away, and a large number seem TSTL.) A few of my favorite books feature royalty, though, so I will read books with royalty occasionally.
    I like reading about lower class characters when I can find them, but I have a definite love for historical high fashion, and that’s only going to show up among the rich.

    Reply
  4. I usually prefer to avoid royalty in my reading. Aristocrats I’m perfectly happy with, but royalty tend to have even stricter lives, so all the runaway princesses seem a bit far fetched. (For whatever reason, princesses are always running away, and a large number seem TSTL.) A few of my favorite books feature royalty, though, so I will read books with royalty occasionally.
    I like reading about lower class characters when I can find them, but I have a definite love for historical high fashion, and that’s only going to show up among the rich.

    Reply
  5. I usually prefer to avoid royalty in my reading. Aristocrats I’m perfectly happy with, but royalty tend to have even stricter lives, so all the runaway princesses seem a bit far fetched. (For whatever reason, princesses are always running away, and a large number seem TSTL.) A few of my favorite books feature royalty, though, so I will read books with royalty occasionally.
    I like reading about lower class characters when I can find them, but I have a definite love for historical high fashion, and that’s only going to show up among the rich.

    Reply
  6. Ah hah, Margot, you are as perverse as I am! So I get to dress my schoolteacher in high fashion, and the runaway princess really isn’t running away. If she can’t foment revolution, then she danged well intends to take life on her terms. But I do totally understand–runaway make-believe royalty is practically a cliche in romance. Which is why I had to be different.

    Reply
  7. Ah hah, Margot, you are as perverse as I am! So I get to dress my schoolteacher in high fashion, and the runaway princess really isn’t running away. If she can’t foment revolution, then she danged well intends to take life on her terms. But I do totally understand–runaway make-believe royalty is practically a cliche in romance. Which is why I had to be different.

    Reply
  8. Ah hah, Margot, you are as perverse as I am! So I get to dress my schoolteacher in high fashion, and the runaway princess really isn’t running away. If she can’t foment revolution, then she danged well intends to take life on her terms. But I do totally understand–runaway make-believe royalty is practically a cliche in romance. Which is why I had to be different.

    Reply
  9. Ah hah, Margot, you are as perverse as I am! So I get to dress my schoolteacher in high fashion, and the runaway princess really isn’t running away. If she can’t foment revolution, then she danged well intends to take life on her terms. But I do totally understand–runaway make-believe royalty is practically a cliche in romance. Which is why I had to be different.

    Reply
  10. Ah hah, Margot, you are as perverse as I am! So I get to dress my schoolteacher in high fashion, and the runaway princess really isn’t running away. If she can’t foment revolution, then she danged well intends to take life on her terms. But I do totally understand–runaway make-believe royalty is practically a cliche in romance. Which is why I had to be different.

    Reply
  11. I like Royalty because they have nice shiny jewels. It is the same as how I love fantasy where some people get to have magic and make their own sparkles (Michael O’Toole). So I can easily suspend belief and enjoy the little extra glamour (which was originally a term applied to magic) they add to a story.

    Reply
  12. I like Royalty because they have nice shiny jewels. It is the same as how I love fantasy where some people get to have magic and make their own sparkles (Michael O’Toole). So I can easily suspend belief and enjoy the little extra glamour (which was originally a term applied to magic) they add to a story.

    Reply
  13. I like Royalty because they have nice shiny jewels. It is the same as how I love fantasy where some people get to have magic and make their own sparkles (Michael O’Toole). So I can easily suspend belief and enjoy the little extra glamour (which was originally a term applied to magic) they add to a story.

    Reply
  14. I like Royalty because they have nice shiny jewels. It is the same as how I love fantasy where some people get to have magic and make their own sparkles (Michael O’Toole). So I can easily suspend belief and enjoy the little extra glamour (which was originally a term applied to magic) they add to a story.

    Reply
  15. I like Royalty because they have nice shiny jewels. It is the same as how I love fantasy where some people get to have magic and make their own sparkles (Michael O’Toole). So I can easily suspend belief and enjoy the little extra glamour (which was originally a term applied to magic) they add to a story.

    Reply
  16. like Margot & you I find they royalty a little hard to “buy into” with somewhat convoluted plots, strict propriety/social rules & what not. that said, I tend to not read to many where one of the h/h is royalty

    Reply
  17. like Margot & you I find they royalty a little hard to “buy into” with somewhat convoluted plots, strict propriety/social rules & what not. that said, I tend to not read to many where one of the h/h is royalty

    Reply
  18. like Margot & you I find they royalty a little hard to “buy into” with somewhat convoluted plots, strict propriety/social rules & what not. that said, I tend to not read to many where one of the h/h is royalty

    Reply
  19. like Margot & you I find they royalty a little hard to “buy into” with somewhat convoluted plots, strict propriety/social rules & what not. that said, I tend to not read to many where one of the h/h is royalty

    Reply
  20. like Margot & you I find they royalty a little hard to “buy into” with somewhat convoluted plots, strict propriety/social rules & what not. that said, I tend to not read to many where one of the h/h is royalty

    Reply
  21. Sherrie, here. I take each book on its individual merits, though I have to say that I must be living in the Black Hole of Calcutta because I’ve read very few romances where the heroine was a princess. *g* I’ll willingly suspend disbelief if it’s a good story. And if the heroine *is* a princess, I’m more apt to read the book just for the novelty value and because it’s different!

    Reply
  22. Sherrie, here. I take each book on its individual merits, though I have to say that I must be living in the Black Hole of Calcutta because I’ve read very few romances where the heroine was a princess. *g* I’ll willingly suspend disbelief if it’s a good story. And if the heroine *is* a princess, I’m more apt to read the book just for the novelty value and because it’s different!

    Reply
  23. Sherrie, here. I take each book on its individual merits, though I have to say that I must be living in the Black Hole of Calcutta because I’ve read very few romances where the heroine was a princess. *g* I’ll willingly suspend disbelief if it’s a good story. And if the heroine *is* a princess, I’m more apt to read the book just for the novelty value and because it’s different!

    Reply
  24. Sherrie, here. I take each book on its individual merits, though I have to say that I must be living in the Black Hole of Calcutta because I’ve read very few romances where the heroine was a princess. *g* I’ll willingly suspend disbelief if it’s a good story. And if the heroine *is* a princess, I’m more apt to read the book just for the novelty value and because it’s different!

    Reply
  25. Sherrie, here. I take each book on its individual merits, though I have to say that I must be living in the Black Hole of Calcutta because I’ve read very few romances where the heroine was a princess. *g* I’ll willingly suspend disbelief if it’s a good story. And if the heroine *is* a princess, I’m more apt to read the book just for the novelty value and because it’s different!

    Reply
  26. Pat, I was the same until my editor asked me to write a story with a princess, and I did much the same as you — did the research and found Europe was made up of a mass of principalities (which therefore have princes and princesses.) But none of the real ones fitted my story, so I made my principality and my princess up.
    And I have to confess mine was a runaway princess, Margot, though I hope not TSTL — I thought she had a good reason to flee — the next in line to the throne was trying to murder her son, who was the heir.
    And I had a Russian grand duchess in another book (which is like a princess) but this time I took a real one who had died as a baby and gave her a long and happy life instead.
    So I guess Royalty comes to us all in the end *g*

    Reply
  27. Pat, I was the same until my editor asked me to write a story with a princess, and I did much the same as you — did the research and found Europe was made up of a mass of principalities (which therefore have princes and princesses.) But none of the real ones fitted my story, so I made my principality and my princess up.
    And I have to confess mine was a runaway princess, Margot, though I hope not TSTL — I thought she had a good reason to flee — the next in line to the throne was trying to murder her son, who was the heir.
    And I had a Russian grand duchess in another book (which is like a princess) but this time I took a real one who had died as a baby and gave her a long and happy life instead.
    So I guess Royalty comes to us all in the end *g*

    Reply
  28. Pat, I was the same until my editor asked me to write a story with a princess, and I did much the same as you — did the research and found Europe was made up of a mass of principalities (which therefore have princes and princesses.) But none of the real ones fitted my story, so I made my principality and my princess up.
    And I have to confess mine was a runaway princess, Margot, though I hope not TSTL — I thought she had a good reason to flee — the next in line to the throne was trying to murder her son, who was the heir.
    And I had a Russian grand duchess in another book (which is like a princess) but this time I took a real one who had died as a baby and gave her a long and happy life instead.
    So I guess Royalty comes to us all in the end *g*

    Reply
  29. Pat, I was the same until my editor asked me to write a story with a princess, and I did much the same as you — did the research and found Europe was made up of a mass of principalities (which therefore have princes and princesses.) But none of the real ones fitted my story, so I made my principality and my princess up.
    And I have to confess mine was a runaway princess, Margot, though I hope not TSTL — I thought she had a good reason to flee — the next in line to the throne was trying to murder her son, who was the heir.
    And I had a Russian grand duchess in another book (which is like a princess) but this time I took a real one who had died as a baby and gave her a long and happy life instead.
    So I guess Royalty comes to us all in the end *g*

    Reply
  30. Pat, I was the same until my editor asked me to write a story with a princess, and I did much the same as you — did the research and found Europe was made up of a mass of principalities (which therefore have princes and princesses.) But none of the real ones fitted my story, so I made my principality and my princess up.
    And I have to confess mine was a runaway princess, Margot, though I hope not TSTL — I thought she had a good reason to flee — the next in line to the throne was trying to murder her son, who was the heir.
    And I had a Russian grand duchess in another book (which is like a princess) but this time I took a real one who had died as a baby and gave her a long and happy life instead.
    So I guess Royalty comes to us all in the end *g*

    Reply
  31. I think the fact that we don’t have an aristocracy imbues a time and place that does with a fantasy element that is almost irresistible. I can’t imagine ever writing a book with a prince/ss, but then I thought I’d never write a secret baby either, and low and behold I’m doing one now, LOL!

    Reply
  32. I think the fact that we don’t have an aristocracy imbues a time and place that does with a fantasy element that is almost irresistible. I can’t imagine ever writing a book with a prince/ss, but then I thought I’d never write a secret baby either, and low and behold I’m doing one now, LOL!

    Reply
  33. I think the fact that we don’t have an aristocracy imbues a time and place that does with a fantasy element that is almost irresistible. I can’t imagine ever writing a book with a prince/ss, but then I thought I’d never write a secret baby either, and low and behold I’m doing one now, LOL!

    Reply
  34. I think the fact that we don’t have an aristocracy imbues a time and place that does with a fantasy element that is almost irresistible. I can’t imagine ever writing a book with a prince/ss, but then I thought I’d never write a secret baby either, and low and behold I’m doing one now, LOL!

    Reply
  35. I think the fact that we don’t have an aristocracy imbues a time and place that does with a fantasy element that is almost irresistible. I can’t imagine ever writing a book with a prince/ss, but then I thought I’d never write a secret baby either, and low and behold I’m doing one now, LOL!

    Reply
  36. I think I’ve read too many regencies, because now I’m tired of reading about people who have too much money and too many privileges for their own good. I like stories about heroes who make their own way, and succeed because of their brains and hard work.
    But I don’t really care for working class heroes. I like people who are about half way up the ladder, like younger sons who have to work. As for the daughters, they have to have some money or they wouldn’t get any education. I realize marriage was about the only way for a woman of any class to survive, but heroines whose only concern is being pretty and marrying a rich man irritate me.
    Ideally, I’d have my hero and heroine both educated and they work together to make a future for themselves in the world. The heroine’s education would contribute in some way to the couple’s economic success. A heroine should be more than the cultural stereotype.

    Reply
  37. I think I’ve read too many regencies, because now I’m tired of reading about people who have too much money and too many privileges for their own good. I like stories about heroes who make their own way, and succeed because of their brains and hard work.
    But I don’t really care for working class heroes. I like people who are about half way up the ladder, like younger sons who have to work. As for the daughters, they have to have some money or they wouldn’t get any education. I realize marriage was about the only way for a woman of any class to survive, but heroines whose only concern is being pretty and marrying a rich man irritate me.
    Ideally, I’d have my hero and heroine both educated and they work together to make a future for themselves in the world. The heroine’s education would contribute in some way to the couple’s economic success. A heroine should be more than the cultural stereotype.

    Reply
  38. I think I’ve read too many regencies, because now I’m tired of reading about people who have too much money and too many privileges for their own good. I like stories about heroes who make their own way, and succeed because of their brains and hard work.
    But I don’t really care for working class heroes. I like people who are about half way up the ladder, like younger sons who have to work. As for the daughters, they have to have some money or they wouldn’t get any education. I realize marriage was about the only way for a woman of any class to survive, but heroines whose only concern is being pretty and marrying a rich man irritate me.
    Ideally, I’d have my hero and heroine both educated and they work together to make a future for themselves in the world. The heroine’s education would contribute in some way to the couple’s economic success. A heroine should be more than the cultural stereotype.

    Reply
  39. I think I’ve read too many regencies, because now I’m tired of reading about people who have too much money and too many privileges for their own good. I like stories about heroes who make their own way, and succeed because of their brains and hard work.
    But I don’t really care for working class heroes. I like people who are about half way up the ladder, like younger sons who have to work. As for the daughters, they have to have some money or they wouldn’t get any education. I realize marriage was about the only way for a woman of any class to survive, but heroines whose only concern is being pretty and marrying a rich man irritate me.
    Ideally, I’d have my hero and heroine both educated and they work together to make a future for themselves in the world. The heroine’s education would contribute in some way to the couple’s economic success. A heroine should be more than the cultural stereotype.

    Reply
  40. I think I’ve read too many regencies, because now I’m tired of reading about people who have too much money and too many privileges for their own good. I like stories about heroes who make their own way, and succeed because of their brains and hard work.
    But I don’t really care for working class heroes. I like people who are about half way up the ladder, like younger sons who have to work. As for the daughters, they have to have some money or they wouldn’t get any education. I realize marriage was about the only way for a woman of any class to survive, but heroines whose only concern is being pretty and marrying a rich man irritate me.
    Ideally, I’d have my hero and heroine both educated and they work together to make a future for themselves in the world. The heroine’s education would contribute in some way to the couple’s economic success. A heroine should be more than the cultural stereotype.

    Reply
  41. LOL, we all think alike! Anne, your books are always about character and not just title, which is what a good book should be.
    And I promise, my princess who isn’t a princess is poor and works hard and is not privileged. And my hero is a younger son, although his secret is entertaining.
    I’m thinking it’s getting harder to come up with new stories within our Regency framework.

    Reply
  42. LOL, we all think alike! Anne, your books are always about character and not just title, which is what a good book should be.
    And I promise, my princess who isn’t a princess is poor and works hard and is not privileged. And my hero is a younger son, although his secret is entertaining.
    I’m thinking it’s getting harder to come up with new stories within our Regency framework.

    Reply
  43. LOL, we all think alike! Anne, your books are always about character and not just title, which is what a good book should be.
    And I promise, my princess who isn’t a princess is poor and works hard and is not privileged. And my hero is a younger son, although his secret is entertaining.
    I’m thinking it’s getting harder to come up with new stories within our Regency framework.

    Reply
  44. LOL, we all think alike! Anne, your books are always about character and not just title, which is what a good book should be.
    And I promise, my princess who isn’t a princess is poor and works hard and is not privileged. And my hero is a younger son, although his secret is entertaining.
    I’m thinking it’s getting harder to come up with new stories within our Regency framework.

    Reply
  45. LOL, we all think alike! Anne, your books are always about character and not just title, which is what a good book should be.
    And I promise, my princess who isn’t a princess is poor and works hard and is not privileged. And my hero is a younger son, although his secret is entertaining.
    I’m thinking it’s getting harder to come up with new stories within our Regency framework.

    Reply
  46. I like royalty in my reading because they get such great bling and clothes.. In reality, I suspect their life is not as ‘easy’ — the ‘free press’ has always been in the face of those perceived as privileged… long before the current crop of today..

    Reply
  47. I like royalty in my reading because they get such great bling and clothes.. In reality, I suspect their life is not as ‘easy’ — the ‘free press’ has always been in the face of those perceived as privileged… long before the current crop of today..

    Reply
  48. I like royalty in my reading because they get such great bling and clothes.. In reality, I suspect their life is not as ‘easy’ — the ‘free press’ has always been in the face of those perceived as privileged… long before the current crop of today..

    Reply
  49. I like royalty in my reading because they get such great bling and clothes.. In reality, I suspect their life is not as ‘easy’ — the ‘free press’ has always been in the face of those perceived as privileged… long before the current crop of today..

    Reply
  50. I like royalty in my reading because they get such great bling and clothes.. In reality, I suspect their life is not as ‘easy’ — the ‘free press’ has always been in the face of those perceived as privileged… long before the current crop of today..

    Reply
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    Reply
  52. Par inadvertance, voir votre article, je me sens très semblable au style de l’écriture et je peux voir le contenu de l’article et son même esprit, il vaut vraiment la peine heureux de lire votre article que celles rencontrées Concert generallyalso espérons que vous aurez de bonnes œuvres les plus , et des remerciements spéciaux.

    Reply
  53. Par inadvertance, voir votre article, je me sens très semblable au style de l’écriture et je peux voir le contenu de l’article et son même esprit, il vaut vraiment la peine heureux de lire votre article que celles rencontrées Concert generallyalso espérons que vous aurez de bonnes œuvres les plus , et des remerciements spéciaux.

    Reply
  54. Par inadvertance, voir votre article, je me sens très semblable au style de l’écriture et je peux voir le contenu de l’article et son même esprit, il vaut vraiment la peine heureux de lire votre article que celles rencontrées Concert generallyalso espérons que vous aurez de bonnes œuvres les plus , et des remerciements spéciaux.

    Reply
  55. Par inadvertance, voir votre article, je me sens très semblable au style de l’écriture et je peux voir le contenu de l’article et son même esprit, il vaut vraiment la peine heureux de lire votre article que celles rencontrées Concert generallyalso espérons que vous aurez de bonnes œuvres les plus , et des remerciements spéciaux.

    Reply

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