2016 TBR Pile Challenge: Matriarch

We’re getting pretty close to the end of the year! Which means holidays, darker days, lots of eating scheduled, and that I’m running out of time to complete the Unofficial 2016 TBR Pile Challenge.

I’m not quite throwing in the towel, but I’m starting to resign myself to the fact that it might not happen this year.

But the year isn’t quite over, so I dug into Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor by Anne Edwards.

So Queen Mary was the real deal. She was born a Princess, but was one of those impoverished relatives who spent her youth putting off creditors and relying on other, more well-off relatives for extended visits.


At some point, Queen Victoria decided that lovely, clever, dignified Princess May (she was born Victoria Mary Augusta Louisa Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes but was called May after the month of her birth) would be the perfect wife for second-heir Prince Eddy (eldest son of heir Bertie, who would become King Edward VII). But then Eddy had to go and die (he was an odd duck, a possible homosexual and rumoured to have been Jack the Ripper) and after a suitable period of mourning, her “affections” were transferred to Prince Eddy’s younger brother, Prince George (who would go on to become King George V).

Here’s the number one thing I learned about Queen Mary: she believed in the power of Monarchy. She was dignified, a core of strength for her family during some dark days and she revered the position of Monarch.

“Queen Mary had lived her life with dedication to the principle of Monarchy, and she died as she had lived, as her Sovereign’s most devoted subject.”

Seriously – Queen Mary is the reason Queen Elizabeth II is as dedicated as she is. She was the role model for duty before everything else. Also, early pictures of Princess May show a remarkable resemblance to QEII, and now to Princess Charlotte.

She wasn’t a warm mother and most of her children had a distant relationship with her. But everyone agrees that in any capacity (as Princess May, Princess of Wales, Queen Consort or Queen Mother) she was always the very personification of dignity. She loved to dress well and because of her incredibly regal bearing, she was able to wear an insane amount of jewels (ropes of pearls, diamond necklaces stacked all up her neck, tiaras, jewelled stomachers, bracelets, rings and any number of jewel encrusted orders) and look just right.

Queen Mary’s life covered an incredible amount of history: born in the Victorian era, she lived through the reigns of Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George VI. She died just before the coronation of her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

And while Anne Edwards’ book is very thorough and clearly well researched, the whole time I couldn’t help but think “but this is Queen Mary’s book.”

A lot of this book looks at the reigns and troubles of the men in her life: her father-in-law, husband and later, her sons. And while there’s no way to tell Queen Mary’s story without also talking about the wars, relationships with various Royal relatives (she never got over the fact that they weren’t able to save their cousin Tsar Nicholas II and his family), and her son’s Abdication, their stories aren’t hers. I found myself frustrated  by all the time spent talking about the education of her sons , their loves and travels.

I wanted Queen Mary only.

That said, I’m glad to have finally read this book. It’d been on my list for ages.

19 thoughts on “2016 TBR Pile Challenge: Matriarch

  1. Pingback: The Unofficial 2016 TBR Pile Challenge | The Paperback Princess

    • Roof Beam Reader used to host the challenge every year. This year he decided not to but the sisters at Gun in Act One wanted to carry on and I joined in. It’s a good way to clear some of those books off that you’ve almost forgotten about!

  2. When you mentioned reading about Queen Mary I thought you meant Mary Tudor! This sounds interesting, but I would want it to be about her and not the men. Always the men…

    Here’s hoping that Victoria is more satisfying!

    • It’s funny – I almost never think about Mary Tudor. Tudors are Henry VIII, his wives and Elizabeth to me. But I probably should have specified that I meant the Queen Consort Mary.
      I’m so looking forward to Victoria! She’s obviously a part of this one, but old, widowed Victoria. I want to spend time with young Victoria again.

  3. Do you only have three left, or is it four? You’re doing great. Why won’t it happen? If you can make it through a long one like this, before the end of October, I’d say you’ve got it “int the bag”, errrr “on the shelf”!

    • I have three books left on the list but I need to read two of them. The reason I’m not super optimistic is that two of them are loooooooong – 700+ pages and the third, I can’t find anywhere. I’ve been looking for a copy of My Cousin Rachel at libraries and bookstores all year and even Powell’s didn’t have it.

      • But the Stephen King would read really quickly. You can do it, you can do it!

        Bah: I had a copy of that duMaurier until recently. If I’d known, I could have sent it your way. :-/

      • I have a friend who’s been bugging me to read that one specifically, but I haven’t yet. Are you looking for a co-reader? I could be persuaded (and it would be highly appropriate to begin next month)! Over the summer I read all three of his Bill Hedges mysteries and I’ve read 6-8 of his others, including The Stand, which I think is still his longest. They do really move!

      • Do you want to aim to start around the 15th of November, thinking we might be finished around the proper date, if it’s a real pageturner? (Cuz Naomi wouldn’t lie to us!)

  4. Yes! 11/22/63 goes pretty quickly, and you probably read faster than I do. You can do it!

    As for Queen Mary – I’m still stuck on her name. Do they all have names like that?

    • I think most royals have pretty intense names, although hers is one of the longest I’ve seen. QEII is only Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, but then she wasn’t expected to be Queen. That said, I’m not sure anyone expected Queen Mary to be Queen either…it was the 1860s…
      Thanks for chiming in on 11/22/63 – maybe I can finally get that read!

  5. I’m a sucker for the royals and have just listened to a bio of Victoria and one of ElizabethII. I started reading one about Bertie, but I prefer my non-fiction in audio form for some reason. That being said, I think I could really dig a book about Mary. Thanks.

    • But if you listen to them, you don’t get to see all the pictures! I live for the pictures in biographies. I picked one up about Bertie recently too – by Jane Ridley. Is it the same one? I don’t tend to read biographies of white men, but he’s always seemed like quite a character. Definitely read about Queen Mary if you get the chance.

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