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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Beginning with Alfred the Great, who became King of Wessex in 871 AD, the author gives us a few pages about each king and queen since then, including some who were never crowned. (Matilda, Jane and Edward VIII are all featured.) Alfred was never really king of England although he gave himself that title, because England was not a unified country at the time. Some of the territory was ruled by the Danes, who at the time occupied a large are of northern Europe, only a small fraction of which is the Denmark of modern times. So beginning with Alfred is a contentious point, but most of the other regional kings of the time and afterwards do get a mention, if only because their rival armies fought plenty of battles. I'm not absolutely clear from this book when England became one country, but maybe there was no clear point. It seems that unity was achieved only temporarily at first, but that it eventually became permanent some time in the tenth century.

Between Alfred's death in 899 and 1066, the year of the Norman conquest, there were various kings that, for the most part, mean something only to historians and students of royalty, but among them was King Canute (more correctly spelt Cnut), who is famous for trying to turn back the tide. So the early beginnings may be fuzzy, but after 1066, things take on the familiar look that I was taught in history lessons at school. For most of the next thousand years, the royal family continued to provide a poor example to humanity. Murder, adultery, divorce, civil war and revolution are among the recurring themes - and let's not forget the wilful destruction of abbeys ordered by Henry VIII.

The book is laid out well, with a chapter for each king or queen. Timelines are provided, giving a quick summary of each monarch's life, while the more substantive text gives more detail about them. It is important to remember that the king was once the supreme ruler (and therefore in direct command of the army); parliament came much later and it was much later still before real power started to shift from the monarchy to parliament. So the monarchy is not as important as it once was and the author acknowledges that it faces an uncertain future once the reign of Queen Elizabeth II ends. There are plenty of pictures, though pictures of some monarchs in any form do not exist. While there are photographs of recent monarchs, others may be represented by paintings, statues or old coins, if these exist.

A book such as this can only provide a general overview, but it does that superbly. If you are interested in the history of British royalty, this provides a good starting point. If you already have a library of such books, you may not need this.
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on 24 April 2013
I've always liked learning about monarchs, but I'd not been for a while so I got this out of the library. I was so engrossed in it that my father decided to get me my own copy, and I'm delighted about that.

This book isn't comprehensive. If you're wanting to know all about a certain monarch, this book won't tell you that, but it's certainly a great starting point. There's a section on every monarch - including the uncrowned ones - since Alfred the Great, plus a part on the Interregnum - the Commonwealth, the Protectorate, and Oliver Cromwell. On average, the sections are 2 to 5 pages long. Some of the shorter lived monarchs only get a page, and some of the more influential ones get more. The sections are set out nicely - each has a timeline, a biography box, and some quotes, pictures and boxes on specific things, avoiding walls of text. The writing is informative without being overwhelming, and lively without being flippant, and it really helps the reader see the subjects as people, rather than just a bunch of facts attached to a face.

Again, with the limited space, this book won't tell you everything, but since reading it I've had a great time doing follow up research on the things it told me. If you already know a lot about this subject, this book may not be for you, but if you're just interested in English monarchs, and want to start learning more about them, then this in an excellent resource.
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on 7 July 2013
this book is an excellent reference book for anyone interested in English monarchial history. It has info on ancient Saxon kings and medieval kings, working forwards in time. If anyone has a "gap" in their knowledge of ancient monarchs, Ian Croftons compilation will help fill that gap.
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on 8 January 2015
I bought this as a present for Christmas, but the receiver has told me that they find this book wonderful, he is a keen historian wanting to be a teacher and says that the layout of the book is very accessible for all ages and very interesting
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on 1 August 2013
I bought this book about 2 years ago in a shop and loaned it to my mother - I never got it back and had to buy this copy for her birthday to get it back. Super timeline of Kings & Queens giving a quick synopsis of all the facts.
Also, a good family tree at the back. Essential if you are watching the White Queen.
Recommend - not a heavy history book
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on 12 June 2014
Excellent ready to hand text on all the kings and queens. Good well-sourced information, links all the monarchy together. Great ready reference.
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on 15 November 2013
This book is brilliant. I bought it after I started watching The Tudors as I needed to understand the dyansties and relationships of all the people at Court. I believe it cost £1 plus postage and worth every penny. The book is arranged chronologically with significant details about each king or queen, usually a page or two per individual so you are not overwhelmed by information. I found it a useful introduction to the history of the English monarchy.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 11 December 2012
I`m not what you`d call a monarchist, and resent standing for the National Anthem, on the rare occasions it`s played, but history is another matter, and once upon a time the many kings and a few queens of England had real power - too much of it - so a book like this ceases to be merely a parade of monarchs, but rather a long tapestry of rulers of this land, a depressing number of whom, it has to be said, were despots, ne`er-do-wells, bigots, bullies or ineffectual fools. But I suppose that`s half the fun of it, that and winkling out the few who were genuinely good, with the best interests of the people uppermost.
Here`s a question, easily answered by this lavishly illustrated book. Which monarch was the last we can see only in painted portraits rather than in photographs? The answer is William IV, who preceded Victoria and reigned for a meagre seven years. Not so surprising in itself, but what did shock me was that I`d barely heard of William IV! William III was the William who ruled with Mary, but - again - who on earth was William II? Well, he succeeded hot on the heels of his dad, the Conqueror, and is the one we nicknamed Rufus, "because of his ruddy features" as author Ian Crofton tells us.
The uncrowned Queen Matilda (who just about reigned for a few months in 1141) is here, along with Harold II Godwineson, the duo Harold Harefoot & Harthacnut (who ruled together!) and the forlorn, ultimately tragic figure of the teenage Lady Jane Grey, whose fragile reign lasted a few days before she was deposed, then murdered a few months later. She sounds like she might have ruled well, given the chance.
Few of the kings or queens of England ruled well, or anything close to it, but many of them were hampered by bloodlines which either had no real right to the throne, or
characters wholly unsuited to such power.
This is a sensibly laid-out book to whet the appetite to discover more. The journey from Alfred in 871 to the present day is made in 250 pages, but along the way we meet some fascinating men and women, who - for good or ill - helped forge the England we live in today.
I noticed one or two misprints, and the only supplementary material is a useful five-page Dynastic Family Trees at the end of the book. But all in all, this is a fine book (especially in large-format hardback) to either browse through or take `a monarch at a time` - trying to remember those dates, who succeeded Sweyn Forkbeard (it was Edmund II Ironside, since you ask), and fitting those eight pesky Edwards into the picture...
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on 23 October 2013
This is a well produced quick survey of England's Kings and Queens from Alfred The Great to Elizabeth II. There are some interesting images and ancedotes. It is a useful survey for signposting to more in-depth study. Beware however, this book is not to be considered for total accuracy therefore, if school students are to make use of it there needs to be some checking of facts. Let me enlighten you...

The entry for Edward VIII is unfortunately inaccurate in several places: Fort Belvedere near Sunningdale, Berkshire, was given to Edward by his father George V in 1929 not 1928 (significant for it was originally found by Edward when he was driving in the area one Sunday afternoon in 1929 with his mistress Freda Dudley Ward). Lady Thelma Furness (another of his mistresses at the time) introduced Edward to Mrs Wallis Simpson on Saturday 10 January 1931 at a weekend gathering at the Furness Leicestershire home Burrough Court, near Melton Mowbray - the book says wrongly this took place in 1930. The weekend was chiefly remembered by Edward as being a fox hunting weekend - in his memoirs he recalls Mrs Simpson as suffering from a heavy cold and not enjoying the damp conditions that was a feature of English country houses at that time. His first conversation with her during this brief acquaintance "... was stilted and banal." In the 'Timeline' on the pages, the date of 1930 is stated as the beginning of Edward's affair with Mrs Simpson - wrong again; the affair didn't begin until 1934 when Thelma Furness had gone to USA and even then, it is only likely that the affair started in February 1935 during a skiing holiday in Kitzbuhel. (It is worth noting that during this holiday, Mrs Simpson was recorded as flirting with James Dugdale, a member of the Royal party, and this almost certainly accelerated Edward's infatuation for Mrs Simpson thus using his will to commence the affair). Mr Ernest Simpson, Wallis's husband, was unable to join the holiday party owing to work commitments but he graciously allowed Wallis to go with Edward and thus unwittingly played straight into Edward's hands. Edward VIII after his abdication, was styled "Duke of Windsor" however, officially this was not created until 8 March 1937 by Royal Accent. Regarding the abdication in 1936, Edward VIII's decision to abdicate almost certainly was finally made on the weekend of Saturday 5 December and Sunday 6 December, although records show that he advised Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in November of his intention to marry Mrs Simpson on or off the throne. The book says that Edward decided to abdicate on 10 December - not accurate - he certainly signed the Instrument of Abdication at 10am on 10 December in the presence of his three brothers at Fort Belvedere.

The entry for Edward VI in contrast is very well written and in the main accurate. No doubt the excellent Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore was to Mr Crofton's hand?

The above is an example of the need for history books and references of today to be accurate and not misleading or popularising. In this day and age, it is easy to misquote or misunderstand history - it is the job of fine authors and commentators such as Mr Crofton to ensure the legacy of accuracy is priority. In the case of the entry regarding Edward VIII, I am sure Mr Crofton would have faired better consulting Mr Ziegler's outstanding biography of King Edward VIII.
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on 21 May 2014
This is basically a reference book, but I found myself reading it as if it were a novel. Amazingly easy reading.
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