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Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empires

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Augusta Victoria, Mary, Alexandra, and Zita were four women who were born to rule. In Imperial Requiem, Justin C. Vovk narrates the epic story of four women who were married to the reigning monarchs of Europe's last empires during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using a diverse array of primary and secondary sources, letters, diary entries, and interview Augusta Victoria, Mary, Alexandra, and Zita were four women who were born to rule. In Imperial Requiem, Justin C. Vovk narrates the epic story of four women who were married to the reigning monarchs of Europe's last empires during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using a diverse array of primary and secondary sources, letters, diary entries, and interviews with descendants, Vovk provides an in-depth look into the lives of four extraordinary women who stayed faithfully at their husbands' sides throughout the cataclysm of the First World War and the tumultuous years that followed. At the centers of these four great monarchies were Augusta Victoria, Germany's revered empress whose unwavering commitment to her bombastic husband made her a national icon; Mary, whose Cinderella story and immense personal strength made her the soul of the British monarchy through some of its greatest crises; Alexandra, the ill-fated tsarina who helped topple the Russian monarchy through her ineffective rule; and Zita, the resolute empress of Austria whose story of loss and exile captivated the world's attention for seven decades. Imperial Requiem shares the fascinating story of four princesses who married for love, graced imperial thrones, and watched as their beloved worlds were torn apart by war, revolution, heartache, and loss.


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Augusta Victoria, Mary, Alexandra, and Zita were four women who were born to rule. In Imperial Requiem, Justin C. Vovk narrates the epic story of four women who were married to the reigning monarchs of Europe's last empires during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using a diverse array of primary and secondary sources, letters, diary entries, and interview Augusta Victoria, Mary, Alexandra, and Zita were four women who were born to rule. In Imperial Requiem, Justin C. Vovk narrates the epic story of four women who were married to the reigning monarchs of Europe's last empires during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using a diverse array of primary and secondary sources, letters, diary entries, and interviews with descendants, Vovk provides an in-depth look into the lives of four extraordinary women who stayed faithfully at their husbands' sides throughout the cataclysm of the First World War and the tumultuous years that followed. At the centers of these four great monarchies were Augusta Victoria, Germany's revered empress whose unwavering commitment to her bombastic husband made her a national icon; Mary, whose Cinderella story and immense personal strength made her the soul of the British monarchy through some of its greatest crises; Alexandra, the ill-fated tsarina who helped topple the Russian monarchy through her ineffective rule; and Zita, the resolute empress of Austria whose story of loss and exile captivated the world's attention for seven decades. Imperial Requiem shares the fascinating story of four princesses who married for love, graced imperial thrones, and watched as their beloved worlds were torn apart by war, revolution, heartache, and loss.

30 review for Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empires

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. I was looking forward to a book that actually devoted some attention to Augusta Victoria of Germany, since in every other text I've read re: Wilhelm II's reign she might as well not exist at all. My English royal history also needed some brushing up, and the premise of the book itself was fascinating. But. Red flag number one went up in the introduction, in which Mr. Vovk discusses how all four of the empresses in the book met at the wedding of Victoria Louise of Prussi Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. I was looking forward to a book that actually devoted some attention to Augusta Victoria of Germany, since in every other text I've read re: Wilhelm II's reign she might as well not exist at all. My English royal history also needed some brushing up, and the premise of the book itself was fascinating. But. Red flag number one went up in the introduction, in which Mr. Vovk discusses how all four of the empresses in the book met at the wedding of Victoria Louise of Prussia and Ernst of Hanover. Problem is, this didn't happen. Tsarina Alexandra of Russia did not attend that wedding as Mr. Vovk claims; Nicholas attended alone without his wife. Oops. I suppose this can be called "artistic license," since the premise of all four women meeting is too good of a story to pass up. But it's never a good sign when the opening premise of your book is based on a glaring error like that. Then about a quarter of the way through, I started getting suspicious of some of the author's further claims when it came to Alexandra--anecdotes that didn't ring true and other facts that seemed dubious. Turns out, all of these dubious tidbits can be traced back to either: "My Empress" by Marfa Mouchanow, or Carolly Erickson's biography on Alexandra, "The Last Tsarina" (which itself relies heavily on Mouchanow's book). Double oops. You see, Marfa Mouchanow doesn't exist: the name was a pseudonym for persons or persons whose identity and agenda in writing "My Empress" are still unknown. The anecdotes in it range from simply questionable to flat out untrue. Why Vovk relied so heavily on Mouchanow and Erickson is completely beyond me. Mouchanow is well known by this point to be shady at best and not to be trusted as a primary source, and Erickson's biography of Alexandra is melodramatic and overblown and, of course, based so heavily on Mouchanow that it can't be taken at face value either. So at least one quarter of this book is based off of bad sources and terrible scholarship. I can't speak to the English/German/Austrian parts as I don't know my sources (or my history) quite as well there--but based on the use of Erickson/Mouchanow alone I'm now suspicious of the accuracy of the book as a whole. To make this even worse I'm reading the Kindle version, which is missing illustrations and footnotes, and the endnotes aren't properly linked in the text. If you want to double check a source, be prepared to navigate to the endnotes, then flip through them to find the right chapter, and then take a wild stab as to which endnote corresponds to the citation you were looking for--as they're numbered differently! (In the endnotes, the numbering restarts with each chapter. In the main text they do not.) The publisher should be ashamed of the Kindle version. The author should be ashamed of such poor scholarship. Avoid.

  2. 4 out of 5

    BAM Endlessly Booked

    Prob 4.5 stars I think the only thing stopping me from 5 is that I prob wouldn’t take this to my deserted island. But it’s absolutely perfect to add to my royalty collection! RTC

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    I found this incredibly interesting to read and an enjoyable read. Unfortunately the history is not properly sourced and right from the beginning the mistakes start piling up. If you are interested in this period might I suggest    George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter as a superior source. Unfortunately it won't have quite as much info about the women and barely mentions Zita. This certainly adds to my general knowledge level just requires I found this incredibly interesting to read and an enjoyable read. Unfortunately the history is not properly sourced and right from the beginning the mistakes start piling up. If you are interested in this period might I suggest    George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter as a superior source. Unfortunately it won't have quite as much info about the women and barely mentions Zita. This certainly adds to my general knowledge level just requires checking that info for how it was sourced🤷🏽‍♀️

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura Andersen

    Did you know there were four empresses in Europe at the start of WWI and only one by the end? A wonderful history of Mary (May of Teck) of England, Augusta Victoria (Dona) of Germany, Zita of Austria-Hungary, and Alexandra of Russia. A must for lovers of early 20th century history and/or royal women.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This is a whole of lot of book and it does take some time to get through, but it never felt like a chore. Even though for the most part I had prior knowledge and had read other works on these royal women before (particularly Tsarina Alexandra), this piece offered new and insightful information on the four Queens at the fall of the Empires in Europe following WWI. I was particularly fascinated by Zita, the last Austro-Hungarian Empress, who I have not heard much about. My only critique would be t This is a whole of lot of book and it does take some time to get through, but it never felt like a chore. Even though for the most part I had prior knowledge and had read other works on these royal women before (particularly Tsarina Alexandra), this piece offered new and insightful information on the four Queens at the fall of the Empires in Europe following WWI. I was particularly fascinated by Zita, the last Austro-Hungarian Empress, who I have not heard much about. My only critique would be that seeing as she was so much younger than the other women included (and longer-lived), it seemed that the conclusion of the book, all the information was only about her as (view spoiler)[ the other women had already died. (hide spoiler)] Nevertheless, this is an extraordinarily well researched work. I find Vovk's subject matter and his editorial explanations about his work captivating. His conclusion and resolution to the work was top-notch, I look forward to seeing who he writes about next. 5 stars!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Professor Miriam

    Loved the approach of examining this era in history through the lives of four influential and laudatory women!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy

    I wanted to love it and I did learn from and enjoy many segments but the whole was disjointed, some of the facts confused and the author's inability to cast warranted judgement on her subjects made me irritable. Also, I felt the addition of Zita was forced and detracted the coherence of the narrative and displaced more needed history for Mary, Dona and Alexandra. I also had serious quibbles with some factual elements. The fact that Wilhelm was physically and likely mentally damaged during a trau I wanted to love it and I did learn from and enjoy many segments but the whole was disjointed, some of the facts confused and the author's inability to cast warranted judgement on her subjects made me irritable. Also, I felt the addition of Zita was forced and detracted the coherence of the narrative and displaced more needed history for Mary, Dona and Alexandra. I also had serious quibbles with some factual elements. The fact that Wilhelm was physically and likely mentally damaged during a traumatic breech birth was only casually referenced in the last third of the book. A much richer history of his struggles to overcome his crippled arm, his quite horrid personality as he developed through adolescence into adulthood and his militaristic passion would have served better than the story of Zita. All of this also contributed to his anachronistic and often histrionic belief in autocracy. "His belief in himself as the divinely appointed mediator between God and his subjects was absolutely central to his conviction that it was the emperor’s task, and his alone, to concentrate and reconcile in his person the divergent interests of regions, classes and confessions.” 190 He and Dona were among the last rulers in Europe to claim they reigned by divine right. “We Hohenzollerns,” Wilhelm once announced, “are the bailiffs of God.” 191 He was utterly out of step with the rest of Europe and while the author did a an excellent job of demonstrating this, she then blew her own thesis. After assiduously capturing the train of events leading up to the was the author states, "Never mind that Franz Joseph of Austria had actually started the war. Never mind that Wilhelm had rushed to stop the outbreak of hostilities." This merited a loud WTF from me as the case is built consistently of Wilhelm egging on Austria as the back door to establish military hegemony in Europe. Dons was a pretty awful person yet we are somehow to mind her less because the people loved her and she was devoted to and know how manipulate her often deranged husband. As to Alexandra...oh my. After again providing strong factual evidence of Alexandra's very active role in bringing down the dynasty, the author refers to her "helplessness" and the "perfidy" of the very people she neglected. Aloof, haughty, disinterested and insulated to most people particularly in her role as Tsarina, we are supposed to like her more because those who were permitted to know her intimately found her more sympathetic. Again, the insight to be gained was lost to the author's need to be apologist. All in all , by the end I was just frustrated with the mistakes (cited Wilhelm prorogued Reichstag four times during a period when he wasn't even Kaiser yet and additional editing or careless error) and revising of perspective to provide more sympathy for people may have been sympathetic personally but whose behaviors contributed to the disasters of the 20th century.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Read more like a thesis than a book While this book did contain information and anecdotes I’d not read before, I found the extensive content after 1918 burdensome. I had often wondered what happened to the Kaiser after WWI and was completely ignorant of Emperor Charles I and his wife, however the verbose epilogue before the Epilogue greatly diverted this reader away from the main topic of the book. I give it an “A” for thoroughness, but a “C” for readability.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    Though the stories and writing kept my interest, certain problems with this book made it aggravating. First, the author uses excessive [sic] within his quotations, even for ridiculous things such as a British spelling of a word by a British person, which should not have a sic. Additionally, the author uses unreliable sources for some of his claims including Carolly Erickson, Karl Shaw, and Leslie Carroll, who may be fun to read but cannot count as reliable because they do not use source notes an Though the stories and writing kept my interest, certain problems with this book made it aggravating. First, the author uses excessive [sic] within his quotations, even for ridiculous things such as a British spelling of a word by a British person, which should not have a sic. Additionally, the author uses unreliable sources for some of his claims including Carolly Erickson, Karl Shaw, and Leslie Carroll, who may be fun to read but cannot count as reliable because they do not use source notes and use unreliable sources themselves. Additionally, in anecdotes, even ones with no quotes, usually a source note is included, but for many of them, particularly about Zita, nothing is given. The author also uses the terms heir apparent and heir presumptive incorrectly more than once because the current Queen Elizabeth could never have been heir apparent because traditionally, the monarch is always considered capable of producing a son who would have displaced her. But the overall biggest problem of this book was that there was nothing new in it that wasn't already in another biography of one of these women. This presents a problem because this is certainly not a book a beginner of history or royal of the era would read, but has too many problems and lack of new information for the seasoned reader to be too interested. I would not recommend this book at all.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    Interesting book about the last 4 Empresses in Europe at the turn of the 20th century: Alexandra of Russia; Augusta Frederick (Dona) of Germany; Zita of Austria-Hungary and Mary of England. It reminded me abit of Born to Rule by Julia Gelardi which covered the lives of Alexandra of Russia, Ena of Spain, Maud of Norway and Marie of Romania. Ena, Maud and Marie all appear in this book at some point. Of the four Empresses I knew more about Alexandra than I did of Mary and nothing about Dona and Zit Interesting book about the last 4 Empresses in Europe at the turn of the 20th century: Alexandra of Russia; Augusta Frederick (Dona) of Germany; Zita of Austria-Hungary and Mary of England. It reminded me abit of Born to Rule by Julia Gelardi which covered the lives of Alexandra of Russia, Ena of Spain, Maud of Norway and Marie of Romania. Ena, Maud and Marie all appear in this book at some point. Of the four Empresses I knew more about Alexandra than I did of Mary and nothing about Dona and Zita before reading this book. Its difficult taking so much history and being able to tell the stories of the lives of these four Empresses. Vovk manages it though and the lives of the four Empresses are interwoven pretty much chronologically. Its a lengthy book, but well worth the read. I would definitely recommend reading this along with Gelardi's book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Huston

    Four royal women who ruled over empires during and before World War I. Vovk compares the lives of Mary of England, Auguste Viktoria of Germany, Alexandra of Russia, and Zita of Austria, comparing them together and against the backdrop of the world that they lived in. Repetitious in spots, but on the whole, not too bad. Two of the women, Auguste Viktoria and Zita, I had known very little about before reading this book, and so this one did work for me. Best for royalty nerds. Overall four stars, a Four royal women who ruled over empires during and before World War I. Vovk compares the lives of Mary of England, Auguste Viktoria of Germany, Alexandra of Russia, and Zita of Austria, comparing them together and against the backdrop of the world that they lived in. Repetitious in spots, but on the whole, not too bad. Two of the women, Auguste Viktoria and Zita, I had known very little about before reading this book, and so this one did work for me. Best for royalty nerds. Overall four stars, and recommended. For the longer review, please go here: http://www.epinions.com/review/Justin...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christi

    I found this book to be fascinating. However, I found it to be lacking in an overarching premise. The intent was to discuss the last four imperial empresses, but it really was a mesh of four individual biographies. I would have liked to see it tied together with a thesis better. As it is now, it reads like a text book. And, that's not what I choose to read for fun. There was no humor in the writing and it seemed that the author was more interested in family histories than making the women well-r I found this book to be fascinating. However, I found it to be lacking in an overarching premise. The intent was to discuss the last four imperial empresses, but it really was a mesh of four individual biographies. I would have liked to see it tied together with a thesis better. As it is now, it reads like a text book. And, that's not what I choose to read for fun. There was no humor in the writing and it seemed that the author was more interested in family histories than making the women well-rounded characters (besides if they were religious and good mothers, I don't know much about them personally).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ian Palmer

    A Sad Ending for three Had the Allies worked with the fallen dynasties of Austria and Germany and not toppled them from their precarious thrones, a more democratic Europe might have been born and prevented the catastrophes of World War II. Could the Russian Revolution been prevented - perhaps if Rasputin had not been so prominent in the Russian Court and Russia was democratised. As for the British Royalty the Windsors went from strength to strength. The sad story of four Empresses; one brutally m A Sad Ending for three Had the Allies worked with the fallen dynasties of Austria and Germany and not toppled them from their precarious thrones, a more democratic Europe might have been born and prevented the catastrophes of World War II. Could the Russian Revolution been prevented - perhaps if Rasputin had not been so prominent in the Russian Court and Russia was democratised. As for the British Royalty the Windsors went from strength to strength. The sad story of four Empresses; one brutally murdered, two suffered in exile and one remained.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Luis Delgado

    Imperial Requiem No siempre detrás de un supuesto gran hombre hay una gran mujer que en su momento pudieran ayudarlos en su grandeza. Cada una de estas cuatro emperatrices tienen un lugar en la historia universal y el rol que desempeñaron están maravillosamente narrados en este libro.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Cochran

    I read this book as research for my new book. But I ended up enjoying it for these women - how they came to be in the circumstances of their lives and then how they faced it. It was filled with a lot of letters that seemed like filler material, not really essential to the story. But then I'm not a detail and description person. Good Read. I read this book as research for my new book. But I ended up enjoying it for these women - how they came to be in the circumstances of their lives and then how they faced it. It was filled with a lot of letters that seemed like filler material, not really essential to the story. But then I'm not a detail and description person. Good Read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cece

    This was a very ambitious subject. The author was unable to give equal coverage to all four women. He also skirted past many important events in each of their lives. There were some errors, and some interpretations that are not supported by other biographers. Overall however, it is an interesting approach to see how history was affecting each of these women at the same time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    An interesting book. There wasn't much new on Mary or Alexandra, but the bits on Dona were interesting- she's usually just a background character in books on Wilhelm or her mother-in-law Victoria. Also interesting to read about Zita, who is also less well known. An interesting book. There wasn't much new on Mary or Alexandra, but the bits on Dona were interesting- she's usually just a background character in books on Wilhelm or her mother-in-law Victoria. Also interesting to read about Zita, who is also less well known.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    An interesting, well-researched group biography of the last four empresses of Europe. I found the sections on Zita of Austria especially interesting, as I knew less about her than the others, and because she led a particularly long and eventful life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gina Basham

    Very thorough I enjoyed the clear way the book flowed. It was easy to follow using the nicknames. There was clear dates and historical references to establish a timeline. It was well researched and cited many personal as well as public documentation. I can highly recommend. Gbash

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary Rose

    Really enjoyed the book. Easy to read and informative. Especially enjoyed reading about the tragic life of Empress Zita who I knew little about before reading this book. Some historical inaccuracies noted in regard to events. But overall enjoyed reading about the four dowager empresses.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karen Johns

    Interesting read, covered the end of the Victorian era through the end of WW1

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Very interesting. Learned quite a bit more about WWI era Hapsburgs.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    The subject matter is fascinating, but I wasn't a huge fan of the way the book was organized or the writing style. The subject matter is fascinating, but I wasn't a huge fan of the way the book was organized or the writing style.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lisa G

    Very readable book focused on the last "empires" in Europe and the aftermath of WWI. Very readable book focused on the last "empires" in Europe and the aftermath of WWI.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dara

    It was an interesting read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Great story of four empresses. Knew most of the history already but this was a nice study of the women behind the thrones during WWI.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ariadne

    A very interesting look at the last four empresses of Europe.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Roisín

    one of my favourite books ever!! Fantastically written and such an interesting topic.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    This book was phenomenal. I've gone on some journey or another with three of these four women but to have their stories told all together was eye-opening and inspiring. Excellent read! This book was phenomenal. I've gone on some journey or another with three of these four women but to have their stories told all together was eye-opening and inspiring. Excellent read!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Renee Rude

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