I first read this book over 10 years ago and it is still as enthralling as it was then. The Glorious Revolution is traditionally seen as a battle between James VII and II and William of Orange. The role of James’ daughters , the future Queen Mary II and Queen Anne, is side lined in the male dominated histories of the period. However, Waller shines a probing and informative light on the conflicts between daughters vs father and sister vs sister. The traditionally supposed subjugated apathy of Mary II is swept aside and she is revealed as a calculating woman whose deeply held religious views prompted her actions of rebellion. Anne, moreover, far from the obese childless autocrat of her later years is shown as a manipulative firebrand who played both sides and displayed a sociopathic guiltless attitude to results of her actions.
Waller uses contemporary accounts and letters from the time to illustrate and expose the characters of the forgotten queens of the Stuart dynasty. Her detailed analysis and narrative looks at the Glorious Revolution from a new angle and shows that the actions of both Mary and Anne were crucial in engineering the downfall of their father.
The most shocking aspect is how the sisters dealt with the birth of James Francis Edward, their half-brother who is known to posterity as the old pretender. Strange that their other short lived half siblings, including half-brothers, were never afforded such hostility and whose births are largely forgotten by history. It is clear at the time of the birth of James Francis Edward preparations were in place to oust James. The dubious claims created about this birth struck a chord with a discontented anti-Catholic population who were looking for an alternative. It begs the question however – what if James VII had had a son 10 years earlier?
The crucial part that both Mary and Anne had in the Glorious Revolution and its aftermath cannot be underestimated and Maureen Waller’s book casts the sister queens in a completely different light – they truly were ungrateful daughters.