Young Queens: Three Renaissance Women and the Price of Power (Hardcover)
One of the New Yorker’s Best Books of 2023
One of BookRiot's Best Biographies of 2023
Longlisted for the 2024 Women's Prize in Nonfiction
The boldly original, dramatic intertwined story of Catherine de’ Medici, Elisabeth de Valois, and Mary, Queen of Scots—three queens exercising power in a world dominated by men.
Orphaned from infancy, Catherine de’ Medici endured a tumultuous childhood. Married to the French king, she was widowed by forty, only to become the power behind the French throne during a period of intense civil strife. In 1546, Catherine gave birth to a daughter, Elisabeth de Valois, who would become Queen of Spain. Two years later, Catherine welcomed to her nursery the beguiling young Mary Queen of Scots, who would later become her daughter-in-law.
Together, Catherine, Elisabeth, and Mary lived through the sea changes that transformed sixteenth-century Europe, a time of expanding empires, religious discord, and populist revolt, as concepts of nationhood began to emerge and ideas of sovereignty inched closer to absolutism. They would learn that to rule as a queen was to wage a constant war against the deeply entrenched misogyny of their time.
Following the intertwined stories of the three women from girlhood through young adulthood, Leah Redmond Chang's Young Queens paints a picture of a world in which a woman could wield power at the highest level yet remain at the mercy of the state, her body serving as the currency of empire and dynasty, sacrificed to the will of husband, family, kingdom.
About the Author
Leah Redmond Chang is a former associate professor of French literature and culture at the George Washington University. Her writing draws on her extensive experience as a researcher in the archives and in rare book libraries. Her previous books include Into Print: The Invention of Female Authorship in Early Modern France, which focused on women and book culture in the sixteenth century, and (with Katherine Kong) Portraits of the Queen Mother, about the many public faces of Catherine de Medici. With her husband and three children, she lives in Washington, DC, and London, UK.
“Young Queens is exquisitely written . . . Chang tells a vivid, visual, and compelling story, furnished with stirring details from the countless letters penned by and about these women. Not everyone can make such sources sing as this author does, providing not only emotional charge but subtle psychological insights into these women and the dramatic choices they made . . . [Chang weaves] together the threads of emotional motivations, the realities of female bodies and complex European politics into a vibrant tapestry . . . this is a masterful, compelling and significant book.” —Joanne Paul, BBC History Magazine
“Well-written, detailed . . . [Young Queens] brings these women to life with insight and empathy, skillfully revealing ‘patterns about women and power’ . . . By centering these queens’ reigns and their relationships with one another, Chang gives readers new insight into their lives and legacies." —Rebecca Hopman, Booklist
"Chang has provided a remarkable account of women’s place in power and their struggles and challenges. Each of these women experienced distinctly unique problems, while also undergoing familiar prejudices that still exist. Young Queens is a fascinating read for history lovers as well as those who enjoy political and courtly intrigue." —David Arndt, The Free Lance-Star
"[A] thorough historical excavation . . . By using intimate, personal accounts gleaned from her extensive research, Chang transports readers directly into their world. . . A delightful historical study of women coming to the forefront in a world dominated by men.” —Kirkus (starred review)
"Sheds valuable light on interpersonal feelings and familial relations often missed in more traditional accounts of political power." —Publishers Weekly
“Expertly chronicles the lives and reigns of these three lives. Vivid and immersive . . . Chang’s tour-de-force account of the lives of these three queens is well written and grounded in archival research. It shows with gripping detail that these queens truly marked history in their own right.” —Estelle Paranque, The Times (UK)
"Alluring, gripping, real: an astonishing insight into the lives of three queens, stepping out from the shadows of the patriarchy—we meet them on their own terms." —Alice Roberts, author of Ancestors and Buried
"This exceptionally brilliant book, deft of phrase and vividly realized, conveys the vitality of the past as few books do. It’s an enviable tour de force and marks the arrival of a wonderful new voice in narrative history." —Suzannah Lipscomb, author of A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England and host of the hit podcast Not Just the Tudors
“Young Queens takes us into the hearts and minds of three extraordinary women. Leah Redmond Chang’s meticulous research and engaging prose give each of them their due, providing a rich and nuanced perspective on the challenges they faced and the remarkable legacies they left behind.” —Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
“To be a queen in Renaissance Europe was a tricky thing: to have the power to shape the world, but also to be at the mercy of many forces—and to have to fight, even to survive. Young Queens is an ambitious book about three fascinating women, meticulously researched and vividly told.” —Louisa Thomas, author of Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams
"This exceptionally researched narrative successfully weaves together the stories of three of the most intriguing queens in sixteenth-century Europe, revealing them to be integral parts both of one another's lives and the complex worlds in which they lived. Leah Redmond Chang expertly navigates the tumultuous waters of the French, Spanish and Scottish courts, and in so doing brings these fascinating queens to brilliant and vivid life." —Nicola Tallis, author of Elizabeth’s Rival and Uncrowned Queen
"Amidst the turbulence of the 16th century, the lives of a Queen Mother, a Queen Consort and a Queen Regnant became irrevocably entangled as they restitched the tapestry of Europe with the thread of five great houses. Both an evocative re-imagination of political history and a meditation on the nature of queenship, Young Queens is a tour de force of storytelling." —Nadine Akkerman, author of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Hearts and Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain