This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Review: Royal Affairs

Royal Affairs, Leslie Carroll
3.5 roses

This book is an interesting journey through all the wonderfully entertaining affairs of Britain's royalty. Starting with Henry II in the 12th century and ending with Prince Charles and his marital woes, she includes such jewels as Edward II and his extremely favorite favorites, John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, Henry VIII and his escapades, Mary II's crush on a girl, and the extremely busy House of Hanover . Do not go into this thinking that it is going to be a serious nonfiction; this is a light and fun read with a distinct gossipy feel.

Being fairly well read in the history of the British monarchy (at least up to the Stuarts) I already was pretty familiar with many of the notorious affairs of these royals and was entertained by the fun feel of this book. Ms. Carroll digs a bit deeper into these relationships to give the reader a look at the how's and why's it happened (and it was very common for members of the royal family to have affairs). There are some humorous lines and references thrown in (like when she compares George I's two mistresses to the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella) that make this an enjoyable read. Besides the humor, you can tell that the author did quite a bit of research and had a good time in her writing. Something I found extremely interesting was the amount of money some of these mistresses/lovers received. Carroll even converts the amounts into modern day sums; it is truly amazing how well some of these folks profited! All that being said, I didn't give this one top marks because there are quite a few rumors thrown in to the mix (with no mention that they are rumors or theories) and several historical inaccuracies (though nothing too terrible). There were also some affairs that seemed to be missing: there is no mention of Richard I's questionable sexual preferences; King John's numerous affairs are passed over; Edward III and his mistress Alice Perrers are not found here, even though it is reported that she had great influence over him. While this doesn't detract from the overall work, it just seems odd to me that these relationships were not mentioned anywhere.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading more about the dirtier side of England's kings and queens, the things that most "serious" history books are not going to discuss in detail. If someone is a stickler for historical accuracies, I might caution them to pass on this one but if you're just looking for an entertaining and easy book, this one will certainly fit the bill. It really was a light, easy, and fun read and I even learned more about the monarchs that came after Elizabeth I. Prepare to be a bit amazed; in most cases the truth is so much more entertaining than anyone could possibly make up!

* Leslie Carroll also has a book out titled Notorious Royal Marriages which covers more than just Britain's monarchy.

1 comment:

  1. I've got this book although I'm not sure when I'll get to it. I'm looking forward to it. Glad you enjoyed it.