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Customer Review

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what it promises and poorly researched, 3 Oct. 2009
This review is from: How Fat Was Henry VIII?: And 100 Other Questions on Royal History (Hardcover)
We have seen many of these type of books before that ask random questions that people must wonder from time to time and they generally offer good, albeit brief answers. This book focuses on the British monarchy throughout history and asks questions in categories. Such categories include marriages, assassinations, usurpers, coronations and scandals to name a few.

These books normally have a light and accessible tone, but Lamont-Brown has no personality that springs to life nor enthusiasm into his explanations. It is not high brow or for serious history enthusiasts either as it lacks academic tone and detail. Although detail is something definitely not to be expected in a book like this, you do, at least, expect accuracy, and much research into each question.

I do not claim to be an expert in royal history, but I have read widely on some of the central figures. Whilst I let myself happily read along to begin with and take everything as fact, I was disappointed when I read up on questions that I was already well informed on. Lamont-Brown's information is out of date and he has clearly not read up on each subject thoroughly. Many of the questions that are asked are asked because there are debates among academics regarding the facts, and yet Lamont-Brown has the tendency to take one side and state it as fact with no trace of alternative theories.

For example, I was most shocked at his gliding assertion that Henry VIII wanted to annul his marriage to Anne of Cleves because he was misled by her portrait and that she was "ugly". This has long been rubbished, basically because it makes absolutely no logical sense, and yet here it is in a book that was published only last year. Elsewhere, questions are asked that Lamont-Brown takes nowhere. One such question 'Could Richard III be innocent of the death of the 'princes in the tower?' was completely inconclusive, not offering any reasons for and against Richard III ordering the princes murder, but merely talking about contemporary commentators prejudices and Tudor propoganda. Why put the question in? Weighing up who would have benefited from their deaths may have been better (and Richard III had nothing to gain from their murder as he had them declared illegitimate; if anything, it would put him at a disadvantage, as he would have been suspected of murder and lost favour - and that's precisely what happened). I could and would come up with other examples, but I do not need to drum the point in.

In all, I was disappointed, and after reading his answers that I was familiar with, I could not bring myself to trust his other answers that I am ignorant about. It may have been that I was expecting too much, and this book is merely aimed at an audience that want a quick read of each question during their tea breaks and do not take history too seriously. But that is my main warning about this book. If you do know and love your history, this is not the book for you. If, however, you are someone that would like to get to know some monarchs, no matter how briefly, this isn't an altogether bad book to pick up.
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Location: Northampton

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