‘Young Queens’ is a fascinating look at the queenships of three different women and the challenges they faced. Catherine de Medici was Queen Consort of France and then Queen Mother during the 3 reigns of her sons, Mary Queen of Scots was Queen Consort of France and Queen Regnant of Scotland and Elizabeth de Valois became Queen Consort of Spain.
These women also shared personal relationships as mother and mother-in-law, daughter-in-law and sister-in-law and daughter and sister-in-law. Mary had been welcomed into the French royal household at the age of five as the future wife of the Dauphin, where she grew up alongside Catherine’s daughter, Elizabeth.
It was the death of Catherine’s husband. Henri II, at a jousting tournament to celebrate the marriage of Elizabeth to Phillip II of Spain that bound the three women together in tragedy but also changed everything. Catherine became Queen Mother, Mary became Queen Consort of France and Elizabeth soon left for Spain. Mary’s reign as Consort only lasted 17 months and she eventually returned to Scotland as Queen Regnant.
From then onwards their relationship was tested by circumstance and politics. Once separated, the book focuses on their interactions as queens and in doing so, the author brings a new perspective (for me at any rate), to the lives of Catherine and Mary. Catherine faced the rise of religious wars in France while trying to maintain the balance of power in Europe. Mary found her role as Queen Regnant and Scotland very different from her life in France and Elizabeth had to learn to deal with the demands of her mother with those of her new role.
Chang skilfully combines rich detail (including the letters sent between the three women) with a superb narrative, as she gives the three Queens a voice and in doing so brings them vividly to life.
Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for my review copy.