Ogunquit-NY Press (2017)
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (11/17)
Anne Michaud, acclaimed journalist and author of “Why They Stay: Sex Scandals, Deals and Hidden Agendas of Nine Political Wives,” details a compelling account of couples in the public limelight whose marriages are tainted by disgrace, injustice and dishonor. How and why the wives of these couples stay in their marriages is the author’s focus. Michaud offers nine examples of political marriages that endure in the face of sexual scandal and infidelity. The stories that she presents span the period of 1920 to the present day as well as both sides of the Atlantic.
The author compares the women to the medieval queen, Elizabeth Woodville, grandmother to King Henry VIII, whose loyalty to the Tudor dynasty surmounted her desire for a faithful marriage. Michaud describes five specific characteristics she calls the “White Queen Traits” which she says account for the reasons these political wives stay with their immoral husbands. She describes the “White Queen” attributes as: patriarchal tradition, security, patriotism, family responsibilities and legacy building.
Michaud hypothesizes that today’s political marriages are not so different from the centuries old sovereign unions. In her view, spouses of contemporary statesmen are destined to make the same sort of compromises as medieval queens did due to the unique set of standards and pressures they face.
Recent times also bring to light other factors that may play a part in why these women stay. Michaud invites us to question whether or not these wives might be influenced by a general distrust of the media press. Or, as the role for women in politics evolves, could they be jockeying for their own powerful positions in the government?
“Why They Stay” is well written and has an in-depth group of endnotes that denote the book’s tremendous supporting references. The “stories” are mini histories of time. They serve as informative synopses of the Roosevelts, Kennedys, Clintons and other prominent families. The writer does take a bit of liberty in assuming the source of these women’s beliefs and feelings, whether of conservatism, patriotism or security. At the same time, theorizing and labeling each of the wives with a “White Queen Quotient” makes for an interesting read. While I see the book as more of a political history and social study, others may view it as a tabloid type of journalism. For example, in commenting on Jacqueline Kennedy, the author asserts it was “hardly a patriotic choice (to marry Aristotle Onassis), and for this, Jackie forfeits her White Queen points.”
Anne Michaud’s book is an intricate psychological study of political wives who remain in marriages despite their influential partners’ sexual exploits. The book highlights the similarities between these nine wives and gives particulars as to why their public positions make them more likely to remain in such humiliating relationships.
Anyone interested in politics or the dynamics of couples in public positions would definitely find this book of interest. “Why They Stay: Sex Scandals, Deals and Hidden Agendas of Nine Political Wives” by Anne Michaud is a poignant look at modern political partnerships whose message not only speaks to the validity of marriage in leadership positions but also to the principles and morals of our leaders themselves.