Waller, Maureen 1950-
Waller, Maureen 1950-
Born 1950; daughter of John Gamble (a physician) and Margaret Mary Waller; married Brian MacArthur (a journalist). Education: University College, London, B.A., 1972; Queen Mary College, London, master's degree. Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: Visiting historic houses and churches; travel in Greece, Turkey, India, Italy, and France; reading history, biography, and fiction; theater; art and antiques.
Home—London, England. Agent—Jonathan Lloyd, Curtis Brown Group, Haymarket, London W1, England.
Historian and author. Has worked as an editor at several publishing houses, including Book Club Associates, London, England, 1973-2000.
Seventeen Hundred: Scenes from London Life, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 2000.
Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown, Hodder and Stoughton (London, England), 2002, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
London 1945: Life in the Debris of War, John Murray (London, England), 2004, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Sovereign Ladies: The Six Reigning Queens of England, John Murray (London, England), 2007.
In Seventeen Hundred: Scenes from London Life, historian Maureen Waller provides a vivid portrait of a city that would in time become the veritable capital of the world. But in 1700 the English capital was still an essentially medieval city, with open sewers, foul-smelling streets, rampant disease, and appalling rates of infant mortality. It was also the birthplace of epochal ideas and discoveries, thanks to the likes of Isaac Newton, John Locke, and Edmund Halley.
In Seventeen Hundred, which a reviewer in Booklist called "a superbly written portrait of a city on the cusp of greatness," Waller set out, in her own words, "to hold up a mirror to catch a reflection of the daily life of Londoners…. Their voices well up from letters and court documents … as if for three centuries they have been waiting for an audience." Richard Wunderli in History: Review of New Books quoted Waller on this point and noted the organization of chapters around topics such as "Childbirth," "Death," "Food and Drink," "Prostitution and Vice," and "Religion and Superstitions." Wunderli commented that "this method is valuable for introducing readers to the daily life, the sights, sounds, and smells of London, as if we had just walked into a William Hogarth print."
Sheryl Fowler in School Library Journal called Seventeen Hundred "an enlightening and, in most cases, disgustingly good read," observing that while its value as a work of history is unquestionable, it would also be intriguing to teenage readers fascinated with such topics as tattooing or deformities in humans or animals. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly described Seventeen Hundred as a "radiant book" and noted that "this rigorous, informative, and entertaining text deserves a wide readership."
Waller's book Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown focuses on events leading up to and following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which Dutch nobleman William of Orange and his English wife Mary restored the English throne to Protestant control. This restoration ended what had become by then an aberration, with a Catholic in power; moreover, it displaced an unpopular monarch, James II (Mary's father), in favor of a couple who enjoyed popular support. Historians have tended to treat the Glorious Revolution as a virtual inevitability and to speak of it in the terms used by its supporters, but as Waller shows in Ungrateful Daughters, there is far more to the story.
James had two daughters, Mary and Anne, by a Protestant and commoner named Anne Hyde. In 1673, after Anne's death, James—who had never been very appealing and was now a man of forty, an advanced age at the time—married fifteen-year-old Maria Beatrice Eleanor d'Este of Modena. Maria burst into tears when she saw him, and for the first few years of her marriage, she cried virtually every time she saw her husband.
On June 9, 1688, after fifteen childless years, Maria presented the king with what he most wanted: a male heir. However, this event led to the ouster of James by his elder daughter Mary and her husband William, who assumed power in a bloodless coup assisted by Mary's sister, now Princess Anne of Denmark; James and his second wife and son fled to France and the protection of the Catholic monarch there. While history regards the Protestant restoration as a success, Waller offers a much different account of the story on a personal level. Mary and Anne, as Waller's title indicates, come across in the narrative as ungrateful daughters whose father, though far from a charming personality, had loved them and was deeply hurt by their betrayal, and whose stepmother had showed them nothing but kindness.
Waller makes it clear that James was far from lovable. As observed by Lucy Moore in the New Statesman, she begins the book with an incident that penetratingly illustrates his personality and the reasons why—aside from religious conflict and the treachery of his daughters—he came to the pass that he did. Apprehended by sailors while trying to flee across the English Channel on a cold night in December 1688, James was taken to a tavern where one of the sailors, recognizing the king, bowed before him and asked for a blessing. Wrote Moore: "As Waller observes, James's late brother, Charles II, would have turned this scene into a triumph. ‘The most charming and accessible of kings, he would have allowed them all to kiss his hand, he would have called for a round of drinks and told them stories, and asked about their lives and women. Before long they would have been carrying him back to Whitehall and throwing out the Dutch invader.’ But James thrust the man aside, called for paper and ink, and sat distant and desperate by the fire, brooding on what and who had brought him to this fate."
"Waller's fluent narrative is solidly grounded," Robert C. Jones wrote in Library Journal, lauding the extensive bibliography and notes as well as sixteen pages of illustrations. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly called the book "a highly readable, thoroughly researched family saga that shows vividly how the personal and the political interacted to produce one of the seminal events in British history." A commentator in Kirkus Reviews called Ungrateful Daughters a "lively, instructive history," and Sarah Bradford in the Spectator concluded that "Waller's interpretation is unusual and fascinating."
London 1945: Life in the Debris of War takes a look at the hardship and suffering that was imposed upon London and its citizens during World War II, and how close the city was to total destruction by the time peace finally arrived. At the start of the German advance on England, with the blitz resulting in the threat of bombs dropping on London almost nightly, the country took a strong and unified stance, claiming that the Nazis could do their worst, but that England would never fall to their forces. Londoners prided themselves on being able to withstand the terrors of war. However, after approximately five years, the damage and depression was beginning to build up, with rationing at an all-time high and much of London buried in rubble. Waller's book describes the London of this time, showing both the ongoing courage and the desperation that plagued the city. Her research includes eyewitness testimony as to the conditions as well as both horrific and innocent details that give a vivid picture of what London was like at the time. Benjamin Schwartz, in a review for the Atlantic Monthly, remarked that "although Waller isn't the first to exploit these sources specifically or this rich subject generally … her … book is at once abundantly and discerningly detailed … and her depiction of the daily fabric of wartime life in the capital is unrivaled." Spectator contributor Kate Grimond wrote of Waller: "She writes with a great affection for London and has assembled with skill an enormous jigsaw of statistics and reminiscences to produce a compelling picture of the life of the ordinary Londoner."
In Sovereign Ladies: The Six Reigning Queens of England, Waller examines the lives and reigns of the six women to rule England: Elizabeth I, Elizabeth II, Anne, Victoria, and the two Marys. The majority of these monarchs led the nation through major upheavals and turbulent times, and each contributed much to the history of the country. Waller includes analysis of each queen's husband, where applicable, noting that both Victoria and Mary II allowed their husbands more power than might have been advantageous for their own reputations as strong and capable rulers. In the case of Elizabeth I, Waller discusses her calculated positioning of herself as a bride of the nation and the way she associated herself with the Virgin Mary. She also looks at Elizabeth II's decisions regarding maintaining her maiden name of Windsor, and her handling of the situations regarding each of her sons' marriages, particular the relationship between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews observed: "The groaning shelves of books about English royalty hardly require another volume, but at least Waller's take is refreshingly feminist." Brad Hooper, writing for Booklist, commented that "Waller cogently and perceptively prepares a sequence of profiles," and dubbed the book "history at its most readable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic Monthly, May, 2005, Benjamin Schwarz, review of London 1945: Life in the Debris of War, p. 112.
Booklist, May 1, 2000, Jay Freeman, review of Seventeen Hundred: Scenes from London Life, p. 1648; April 1, 2007, Brad Hooper, review of Sovereign Ladies: The Six Reigning Queens of England, p. 21.
History: Review of New Books, spring, 2000, Richard Wunderli, review of Seventeen Hundred, p. 115.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown, p. 1604; May 15, 2007, review of Sovereign Ladies.
Library Journal, February 15, 2003, Robert C. Jones, review of Ungrateful Daughters, p. 153.
New Statesman, May 20, 2002, Lucy Moore, "The Girl Pretenders."
New York Times Book Review, February 23, 2003, T.H. Breen, "A Serpent's Tooth," section 7, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, April 17, 2000, review of Seventeen Hundred, p. 65; November 25, 2002, review of Ungrateful Daughters, p. 52.
School Library Journal, June, 2001, Sheryl Fowler, review of Seventeen Hundred, p. 188.
Spectator (London, England), May 18, 2002, Sarah Bradford, "Two Marble-hearted Fiends," p. 42; May 1, 2004, Kate Grimond, "Not with a Bang but a Whimper," p. 39.