Book reviews / Non fiction / Read Harder

Book review: Memoirs of Lenora Christina

So this was another one from the Read Harder list, number 20 which was a book written in prison. This one looked particularly fun and historical.

Lenora Christina was the daughter of Christian IV, King of Denmark. However, she wasn’t a princess as she her parents had a “morganatic marriage,” which was a marriage between people of unequal rank. Thus, she or any other children didn’t inherit titles and other things from their father, the King.

Anyway, Lenora had an interesting life, toooo much to relate here, but have a read of the wikipedia page.  Through an incredible amount of shenanigans, she ended up charged with treason (or at least her husband was) and was imprisoned for twenty years, continuing to be imprisoned even after her husband died. It was during her confinement that she wrote these memoirs.

How to describe these memoirs? They are alternatively absolutely hilarious and mind numbingly dull. She is obviously incredibly privileged and it comes across in really funny ways throughout the memoirs. What was also hilarious was whoever wrote the intro being incredibly biased towards Lenora, arguing for her innocence. But then there are sections where the narrator talks about Lenora having to go undercover as a man (this is the 17th century) and we get passages like:

“A adventure fit for a novel here happened to our lady. A girl of sixteen, or a little more, believing that our lady was a young man, threw herself on her neck with caresses, to which our lady responded, and played with the girl, but, as our lady perceived what the girl meant, and that she could not satisfy here, she turned her over to Charles…”

WHAT? This wasn’t even the only time women seem to throw herself at Lenora. She was clearly irresistible both inside prison and out!

But that’s no even the best one:

“Our lady, who had always pistols in her carriage when she travelled, drew out one and presented it to him saying, ‘Draw back, or I will give you the content of this.”

Honestly. Why hasn’t this woman had a film made about her yet?

There’s another story where she ties sheets together and scales down a wall to escape an earlier imprisonment. So, basically, the narrator professing some sort of saintly innocence wasn’t all that convincing. Especially when her narrative starts and she professes her own innocence and then lists all the people who did her wrong and who died horrible or lonely deaths.

She went through so many maids (because of course she had maids in prison, it was that sort of time), all who had various faults and were unchristian. She eventually got a dog and a clavichord? All through it, being the model of Christian patience (which she never failed to remind her readers). She eventually was released when the Queen Dowager died, who was apparently the only person still holding a grudge about treason after 20 years.

Given it was the 17th century, it doesn’t have a very good narrative arc, it’s just relaying her day to day, the problems with other prisoners and her maids. So at time it is really quite dull, but I still enjoyed for the weird window into the life of a privileged, if imprisoned woman. Thanks Read Harder, doubt I would have ever picked this one up!

One thought on “Book review: Memoirs of Lenora Christina

  1. Pingback: My Read Harder list | Blogendorff

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