chapter  7
18 Pages

Memoirs of Queens and the ‘invention’ of collective royal biography

WithMary Spongberg

In 1821 Mary Hays, Rational Dissenter and feminist radical, published her last work Memoirs of Queens, Illustrious and Celebrated. Although the lives of queens had formed a genre of literature since the Middle Ages, and prosopographical collections since that time often featured queens, the collective royal biography was very much a genre of the nineteenth century and Hays seems to have been the first English writer to produce such a collection. Hays Memoirs of Queens, began a trend among English women writers that peaked during the early reign of Queen Victoria. Although Hays did not really 'invent' collective royal biographies in the nineteenth century, this chapter suggests that Memoirs of Queens marked a shift in the historical representation of queens and formed part of an emerging trend among women writers to position queens as victims of dynastic and courtly politics.