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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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HALL OF FAMEon 23 December 2005
Antonia Fraser's 'The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England' has long been one of my favourite books (since my childhood, really), because it has both breadth and brevity simultaneously, a rare feat. Lady Fraser's style is evident here, a non-imposing and non-technical style, that is nonetheless satisfying to all but the most rigourous of academic historians.
Fraser's account begins with the Norman invasion; like many books on royal history, scant attention is paid to pre-Norman figures. Fraser groups the monarchs into categories:
House of Lancaster
House of York
House of Hanover
House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
House of Windsor
Putting together the genealogical tables is a fun exercise--beware here, however, that lesser historical figures are left off the charts (thus, Queen Anne's bevy of children are not represented on the genealogy as none lived to assume the crown or perpetuate the line). Each monarch is given an article about 10-15 pages in length (a good bedtime reading length, I've found). Pictures and paintings help place visually the stories, together with the interspersed essays on coats-of-arms and other topics.
Fraser likes to find the humourous aspects whenever possible. Writing on William IV's distaste for the young Victoria's mother:' 'In 1836 the Duchess of Kent took over a large suite of rooms in Kensington Palace without the King's permission. William was furious. If he died now, Victoria would not be old enough to rule without her mother as Regent. At a public dinner, attended by more than a hundred guests, William said that he hoped his life would be spared long enough to prevent such a calamity.'
His wish was granted.
An ideal gift for anyone, child to adult, who has an interest in the history of the British royals, and a good ready-reference for students, this book is first-rate.
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on 13 February 2001
A rare achievement to write a history book which could never gather dust in a bookcase. This comprehensive guide of royal lives spanning from thenormans to the present House of Windsor is so well constructed it makes anabsorbing read, as well as a useful reference book. It is beautifullyillustrated encompassing portraits heraldry etc. a postive gem
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on 7 April 2007
This book is great

I have read many books on Kings and Queens but this has to be the best.

Each monarch has about 2 pages dedicated to them. In thses 2 pages you will find out alot about each monarch their goodside and badside. There is also a large selection of pictures. Unlike most others, this book offers personal pictures of each of the monarchs.

This great book is a MUST READ for those interested in Britains royal heritage.
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on 21 September 2000
I had been looking for a high quality survey of the history and development of the English monarchy - and I found it here. Trying to cover such a complex subject and long period of time within the constraints of a relatively small volume inevitably means that the accounts cannot be too detailed. Nevertheless, the depth of the material covered, both personal and political, is impressive, as is the crisp writing and the obviously thorough research and editing. Whatever you may think of the monarchy and its future (if it has one), this book is informative, entertaining proof that it has one helluva a past.
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on 22 April 2013
I have recently bought this book in the used market of Amazon.UK. I was expecting a little book with genealogic charts and a few photos and I was treated to a superb book, almost an enciclopedy with colourful photos and a comprehensive text about each dinasty of the Kings and Queens of England. Of course the text could not be extensive but covered the basic facts about each historical era. The only thing I missed was the fact that the book began with the norman Kings (from William the Conqueror) so nothing is said about the Anglo-Saxon Kings (I am curious about Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor) but the rest of the book is very informative, at least from the point of the view of a non-english subject that knows very little about the dinasties. Antonia Fraser is the editor of this superb book and she is one of my favorite authors (I have read her books about Mary Queen of Scots, Charles II and the six Wives of Henry VIII). So wonderful book merits a reimpression!
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on 5 October 2010
This book has long been a permanent part of my library. I had a very well thumbed pocket-sized edition which I bought 30 years ago and I reluctantly had to replace it when it literally fell to pieces. This new larger illustrated edition is very impressive but it doesn't make for easy reading in bed!
Having hauled the thing in to bed, however, I like the length of each chapter - each is short enough not to get too bogged down and yet informative enough to pique my interest. The stories come alive and many times I have gone on to seek out more detailed biographies of certain favourite monarchs. Indeed, many of these biographies are by Ms Fraser herself. A wonderful resource which is good to have on hand for the curious mind and a good standby when one is between books.
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on 10 January 2008
a fascinating look at the lives of some of the most bonkers, deluded, pampered and egotistical people ever to have lived. perhaps the best chapter is that on richard iii, which seeks to dispell the myth that he was one of the bad guys. but it's not BY antonia fraser, it's only EDITED by her. i wouldn't've paid what amazon are asking for it though. i got my copy in a charity shop for £1. richly illustrated and told in accessible language. a great read to enjoy for hours or just to dip into.
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on 5 July 2011
This wonderful book is a must-have for any family library. Gone are the days when complicated lives in your favorite historical novels get mixed up and how interesting to just go to this book and learn more!
It has been one of my most used reference books and a wonderful way to introduce history to young ones. Glossy and beautifully presented I would recomend it as a gift or just an indulgence for historical novel readers.
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on 20 October 2009
This is an excellent consice history of the Kings and Queens of England..an ideal aid to school history lessons. I bought this for my Grand-daughter who saw an earlier copy in my house and this is what she wanted for a birthday present. I have found this book a great sourse of information it is clearly written .it has setteld many a discussion!!!.. easy to read and definately an asset in any book case.
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on 1 April 2014
This is a well-written account of British royalty with what seems to me to be nice balance of their personal lives and public actions. As an American, I found the chronological presentation useful in linking King John of magna marta fame with his son, William, who was featured in the movie Brave Heart and to link Sheakespear's Richard III with the bloody politics during the War of the Roses. The genealogical charts provided helpful detail on the lineage of each monarch but it is necessary to refer to the essays on each monarch to get the actual years of their reign.
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