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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Margaret of Austria: Governor of the Netherlands and Early 16th-Century Europe's Greatest Diplomat by Rozsa Gaston is a historical fiction novel about Margaret of Austria, daughter of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, and her marriages and political role. Born in 1480, Margaret was raised to be a queen and betrothed to the Dauphin of France at three years old. However, Charles, now the king, married another woman, and Maximilian sought alliances with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Margaret married Prince Juan, but their marriage was cut short by Juan's untimely death. Four years later, Margaret married Philibert, Duke of Savoy, creating a rare love match. Margaret took an active role in managing the Duchy as her husband had little interest, preparing her for further diplomatic work after Philibert's death in 1504. Margaret's political skills were essential, and she was appointed governor of the Habsburg Netherlands in 1507.
In Margaret of Austria, Rozsa Gaston offers an engaging account of the life and achievements of one of the foremost prominent figures of her time. The book is a well-researched and meticulously crafted narrative, blending historical facts and fiction in a way that renders the story both informative and entertaining. Gaston's ability to balance intricate details of diplomatic events and relationships with the broader historical context makes the book a valuable resource for scholars of early modern Europe. The author sets the stage by providing an overview of Burgundy and a cast of characters that enable readers to follow the complex relationships and political intrigues that shape Margaret's life. Although the book may be somewhat dense for those unfamiliar with the period, Gaston's writing style, infused with lively dialogue and a spirited narrative, keeps the reader engaged. Overall, the book offers a nuanced portrayal of a powerful woman in a period when female leadership was often overlooked, and I think it will be embraced by readers interested in the history of women in power.