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5.0 out of 5 stars A right royal scandal..., 1 Nov 2004
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kings and Queens of England (Hardcover)
The history of the British Royal Family extends well past 1000 years ago, but for a long time, the date of 1066 has had pride-of-place as the demarcation of the 'proper' lineage, and Brenda Ralph Lewis' book on the kings and queens of England follows suit. Lewis does not pretend to give an extensive or in-depth history here - this being a book with the Reader's Digest imprimatur, it is as one might expect, a summary and overview of the highlights of the reigns. This is not to say that Lewis gives short shrift or lack of attention to her subjects - far from it! But she does concentrate on the highlights (and lowlights) of each subject, focusing a bit more on the more headline-worthy aspects of each reign, as one might expect from the subtitle of the book, 'Murder, Mayhem, and Scandal: 1066 to the Present Day'.
Scandal and attention-getting intrigue is hardly the province of the current generations of the British Royal Family. Indeed, compared to some of their predecessors, the current crop of royals can be considered rather mild in many respects. Lewis details the intrigues around many dynastic shifts - the Wars of the Roses, the race for an heir to George IV, etc. - as well as some of the personal battles - the aforementioned George's ongoing battle with his wife, Caroline, the 'Injured Queen of England', the current Queen's 'annus horibilis', and finally the Charles and Diana split, ending with Diana's death, the point at which Lewis' book on murder, mayhem and scandal concludes.
One gets a bit of a distorted view of the royals from this text, in that one wonders if there is any merit at all in any of the lot for the past 1000 years. In fact, Lewis holds up various figures for their virtues, sometimes against type-casting: Queen Mary Tudor, the first queen to reign in her own right, is nicknamed by history as 'Bloody Mary', but Lewis points out that, in her own time, she was known as a kind-hearted and long-suffering woman. However, there is more than enough juicy gossip to keep the narrative going for several times the page number allotted to this text, so Lewis necessarily had to be selective in her presentation. This is, of course, the story of the English monarchs, so the various tales of the Scottish, Welsh and Irish leaders are only drawn in as they impact the English 1066 - present standard lineage.
Each page is generously illustrated with full-colour photographs, paintings, diagrams, charts and other graphic images. Not a single page is without an image and colour. The text is also laid out in such as way as to make reading very easy and pleasant, with bold face, pull-quote boxes, and other such devices employed throughout. This will make reading a history text much more palatable to younger readers - this text will be of interest to secondary school students and beyond.
There is a useful index, but it is a bit incomplete. The genealogy charts are also drawn so as to focus only upon the key figures in the drama, rather than the whole family, so readers hoping for more complete information in that regard should look to the Oxford History of the British Monarchy, or one of books by Antonia Fraser, among others. However, despite these minor flaws, the book is fun to read - one gets the sense that, had the popular press been around throughout the history of the royals, this would be very much what the stories and headlines would have looked like.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting & Fasacinating Read, 28 Oct 2014
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I thoroughly enjoyed this jolly through our royals from 1066 up until the present.
As you would expect from a `RD' book it is really well illustrated and easy to read. I did though find the early parts of the book a less so, perhaps this was because there were so many changes and related events during this period that it all felt a bit complicated?
Like all history books of this nature it does make you want to expand on certain individuals and events.
The author doesn't hold back on the embarrassing truths of certain royalty and their habits. I had no idea that there were so many gay men & lesbians within our kings and queens, or just how poor some of our royals' hygiene was? Brenda Ralph Lewis writes in a very `Joe Blunt' manner, considering that it's royalty that we are talking about? I quite liked this manner as it adds to the honesty of the book.
Then there's the `Good Time Charleys,' the tyrants and the total incompetents, and that's not to mention the awful tortures and terrible deaths!
Of course some of our nobility did do a great job without any scandal, but that's hardly news worthy now is it? No, this is an excellent read and never less than totally interesting and also a good refresher of the time periods too. I have to say that some of the photographs are just superb - my favourite is the one of the youthful looking Wallis Simpson - it's just lovely.
The only fault I would mention is that my book contained several print errors, though these are easy enough to ignore.
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5.0 out of 5 stars very good, 10 Oct 2013
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Great book. every page is full of coloured pictures and lots of information. A big book to keep for ever. love it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars English Monarchy, 20 July 2010
Excellent book which is informative, but easy to read.I find myself refering to it when I've watched an historic program on the telly, to check details that I might have missed.
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Kings and Queens of England
Kings and Queens of England by Brenda Ralph Lewis (Hardcover - Sep 2003)
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