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The Fascinating Life of a Remarkable Woman - an Editorial Review of "Margaret of Austria"

Book Blurb:

◆ Royalty ◆ Power ◆ Politics ◆ Love ◆ Struggle

Margaret of Austria was the most significant political negotiator of early 16th-century Europe. About as Austrian as French fries are French, she was born in Brussels in 1480, raised in France, married and widowed in Spain, then married and widowed again in Savoy by age twenty-four. In 1506 Margaret’s life turned upside down when her brother Philip of Burgundy unexpectedly died in Spain. With their mother Juana of Castile insane, four children, heirs to the Habsburg empire, were left behind in the Burgundian-Habsburg Netherlands. Margaret stepped in and took the reins. Appointed by her father, Maximilian I, Margaret became governor of the Netherlands, then widened her role to broker the 1508 Treaty of Cambrai where Europe’s princes united against Venice. Ferdinand of Spain, Henry Tudor then Henry VIII of England, Louis XII of France, and Louise of Savoy for Francis I all came to Margaret’s negotiation table. Under her deft diplomacy princes saw reason and wars were averted. Enjoying political power, Margaret avoided remarriage. Then Henry VIII's right-hand man Charles Brandon turned her world upside down. Margaret's court attracted Europe's brightest, including the young Anne Boleyn. Yet halfway through her rule Margaret was ousted by enemies. She won back her position with a comeback strategy as astute today as it was in 1517. Journey to the Renaissance with Margaret of Austria, who shot the fortunes of the House of Habsburg to the stars while setting a winning precedent for female rule in the Netherlands.

Preorder now before price increase on release day. Enjoy women's history for Women's History Month.

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Author Bio:

ROZSA GASTON is a historical fiction author who writes books on women who reach for what they want out of life.

She is the author of the award-winning four-book Anne of Brittany Series: Anne and Charles, Anne and Louis, Anne and Louis: Rulers and Lovers, and Anne and Louis Forever Bound. Other books include Marguerite and Gaston, The Least Foolish Woman in France, Sense of Touch, Paris Adieu,Black is Not a Color, Budapest Romance, Running from Love, and Dog Sitters.

Gaston studied European history at Yale and received her Master's degree in international affairs from Columbia. She worked at Institutional Investor magazine, then as a columnist for The Westchester Guardian. Her book Anne and Louis won the general fiction category of the 2018 Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize.

She is currently working on Margaret of Austria: Governor of the Netherlands and Early 16th Century Europe's Greatest Diplomat. She lives in Bronxville, New York with her family.

Gaston can be found online on Facebook at , or at her website, . Visit her Anne of Brittany Series Facebook page and become a courtier in Queen Anne's court.

Her motto? History matters.

Editorial Review:

She ruled as a true heiress of Burgundy, and she governed the Low Countries with a liberty and an authority that no regent after her would ever possess.” - Shirley Harold Bonner

Years of administering Savoy had prepared her for the task ahead. Armed with confidence in her own abilities, a trusted staff, and imperial backing. Margaret bade her father goodbye in March of 1507, and continued north, then went to the Low Countries. Ahead of her lay the greatest role of her lifetime.

In a curious blend of non-fiction narrative poised in a way to feel like fiction, Rozsa Gaston brings to life the tremendous life of Margaret of Austria. For many who know very little about this powerful woman in history, this book does an excellent job of laying out her life in an episodic way, and the reader gets brief glimpses into her marriages and her rise as a preeminent royal in a very turbulent time.

Her ancestry and connections are astounding, from being aunt to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, maneuvering marriage contracts such as the one between Henry VIII's sister, Mary Tudor, initially to Charles... and taking in a young Anne Boleyn into her court years before Henry gazed upon the bold girl. Also, another famous connection is that her mother-in-law is Isabella of Castile, the mother of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife, and Margaret, herself, even attracts the interest and marriage suits of the likes of Henry's father, Henry VII, and Charles Brandon, the trusted companion of Henry VIII.

The Lord had declared that the meek shall inherit the Earth. But Margaret had not been raised to be meek, schooled as she was first by Anne de Beaujeu, then Margaret of York, and Isabella of Spain. Everything she needed to get done required resolve and firm action to accomplish. Now that she had presided over her first international negotiation, she reveled in the exhilaration she felt for the exercise of power.

This story is, indeed, quite educational and sometimes, as stated, reads more like a non-fiction instructional account of her life, yet Ms Gaston veers off into fictionalized telling at select moments, such as intimate conversations between her and and her husband, Philibert, or with her close companion, the dwarf Neuteken. It is these slices of dialogue when the reader gets a glimpse into Margaret as a person, and when the character starts to develop, yet with the onset again of more non-fiction ambiance, the reader never truly gets to know Margaret as a fully developed character in a fictionalized way.

Margaret need to include the English king and Wolsey in whatever outcome she and Louise of Savoy arrived at. But with each envoy she sent to warm the English to the upcoming talks, she only received back news concerning the king's desired divorce. … Anne Boleyn had gifted Henry VIII with a copy of a new book by William Tyndale …

What is this new work called?” Margaret asked.

The Obedience of a Christian Man and How Christian Rulers Ought to Govern,” her contact related.

And what does this Tyndale say about such matters that Mistress Boleyn thinks to plant in the king's head?” Margaret asked.

Madame, it is said that his book proposes that it is the king of a country who should head up its church, and not the pope.”

That being said, to understand Margaret's role in the politics of the times, and to realize how incredibly astute she was in managing her provinces as Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands, as well as negotiating the Treaty of Cambrai with Louise of Savoy, a treaty hashed out between two powerful women to put an end to the involvement of France in the War of the League of Cognac, with Francis I, Louise's son and King of France, renouncing claim to Artois and Flanders. The treaty also enabled the release of the Dauphin and Prince Henry (future Henry II) to France in exchange for a hefty ransom, which was also negotiated between the two women. Lastly, the treaty arranged a marriage between Charles V's sister, Eleanor, and Francis I.

Is it God who calls you, or is it you who have decided you've had enough?”

That is the question I struggle with,” Margaret confessed. “But my mind and body are weary of this world's affairs. I have less tasted for managing them with each passing day.”

When you are ready, Lady Margaret, God will let you know. At that time we will welcome you with open arms.”

One thing the reader does learn in this book is the immense amount of connection of the royal houses of Spain, England, France, Italy, Germany, etc. With Margaret seeming to have her finger on the pulse of the different courts and political influences she needed to make to keep peace between the nations, she appears in this book to be a most formidable woman in a time when women were seen as mere chattel and pawns to formulate alliances and produce heirs for kings and princes. For that alone, Ms Gaston gives the reader a moment of pause to admire such a lady. However, for anyone wishing for a historical fiction story of Margaret's life, you might take the author's telling with a grain of salt, as it is not strictly in that format. There is definitely more telling than showing, more narration of her life than any delving into her soul, which some of the brief slices mentioned above beg for, and as a reviewer the mind vacillated between an encyclopedic rendering and a deep desire to want to know more about Margaret as a person. The connection between protagonist and reader never fully entwined. That is not to say that this is not a worthy book to read... it definitely is, but the reader needs to be forewarned as to the true intent of the book.... which is, as it appears to this reviewer, to simply educate the reader about Margaret's life, which Ms Gaston does admirably.


“Margaret of Austria” by Rozsa Gaston receives 4 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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