A couple of weeks ago on e-Bay, I came across a book called Infamous Women Paper Dolls, featuring, among other women, Margaret of Anjou. Naturally, I had to see a copy, and it arrived in my mailbox today.
Infamous Women was published in 1994 by Bellerophon Books, which has produced a number of other books in this vein, including Great Women, Henry VIII and His Wives, and Elizabeth I. The book contains a figure for each woman featured and an extra outfit to dress her in, along with a brief biographical sketch of each woman. It’s not possible to use the paper dolls without destroying the biographical sketches, so I’m guessing the idea is to photocopy the pages with the dolls if one is actually inclined to play dress-up. Both the dolls and the costumes can be colored.
Margaret, of course, is just one of the women featured here: Isabella of France, Joanna of Naples, Isabelle of Bavaria, Lucrezia Borgia, Catherine de Medici, Frances Howard, and Catherine the Great are some of the others who have the honor to be included. I can’t really tell what the target audience of this book and the others in the series is. Most people, I suspect, will buy them for the illustrations rather than to actually use as coloring books. The biographies, which cheerfully recount the ladies’ various love affairs, clearly aren’t aimed at a juvenile audience, nor is the nude picture of Semiramis.
The best feature of these books is the illustrations, which are taken from contemporary depictions. Margaret of Anjou’s paper-doll self is based on the portrait medal of her by Pietro da Milano, and Isabella of France’s doll is taken from the Isabella Psalter. (I can’t reproduce the images here for copyright reasons, but if I were Edward II, I’d treat Isabella with respect, because she looks quite displeased here. Margaret, on the other hand, looks rather cheerful.)
Neither the artist nor the writer are credited here. The writer has a certain dry sense of humor: In describing Joanna of Naples’ death, we’re told, “Charles announced that Joanna had died a natural death. This was true, since it is natural for someone held between two feather beds to die for lack of air.” Describing Roger Mortimer’s escape from the Tower, the author writes, “Since most prisons do not offer their prisoners holes in the walls, drugged guards, and rope ladders, many people suspected that the Queen had helped him.”
Of the women in here, there’s only a couple I’m very familiar with, so I can’t make any pronouncements about the accuracy of the biographies as a whole. It’s unlikely that Isabella of France had anything to do with Roger Mortimer’s escape, but at least the author doesn’t regurgitate the old myth about Isabella being locked up in Castle Rising and going mad. As for Margaret of Anjou, she’s credited almost single-handedly with starting the Wars of the Roses, with no acknowledgment that men like the Duke of York had their own ambitions. The “Holy Ghost” statement about Edward of Lancaster’s birth is trotted out, taken, as usual, out of context. Margaret is depicted as being in control of Henry VI from the onset of their marriage, and poor Henry himself is reduced to a saintly caricature. Of course, as this was published in 1994, the author didn’t have the benefit of the recent research into Margaret’s life, though that’s no excuse for chronological errors such as having Margaret fleeing to France after the capture of Henry VI. For the most part, though, I didn’t see any huge bloopers here; in Margaret’s case, what’s most bothersome is the failure to put her actions into context or to acknowledge the difficult position in which she found herself. But perhaps that’s too much to expect from a book entitled Infamous Women, which naturally emphasizes the negative.
As for the play aspect of this book, Margaret’s outfit is provided with sufficient tabs to stay on Margaret. Those wishing to color, however, are advised to use a very sharp crayon, as otherwise one will have the utmost difficulty staying within the lines.
(P.S. How do you like the new blog layout?)
(P.P.S. I’ve started a Facebook group for The Beaufort Family. If you’re on Facebook, join in!)