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Behind The Palace Doors: Five Centuries Of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, And Folly From Royal Britain (2011)

Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, and Folly from Royal Britain (2011)

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3.6 of 5 Votes: 5
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0812979044 (ISBN13: 9780812979046)
Random House Trade Paperbacks

About book Behind The Palace Doors: Five Centuries Of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, And Folly From Royal Britain (2011)

Behind the Palace Doors was certainly a fun read, but it was also a disappointing one. Michael Farquhar is a plucky writer who takes you on a whirlwind tour of British monarchs and the various crises (not scandals) that have beset them for generations. He keeps up the pace, unlike some otherwise gifted royal historians, and keeps a nice balance between assuming you can keep straight dozens of titles and acting as if you need an explanation as to the role of the royal family. I found his antidotes and examinations interesting, particularly how he related different events to the present day, and wasn’t shy about explaining who people were related to—even if it meant looking forward in history a bit (which is refreshing). It was well written technically, and certainly a good lightweight set of stories about the Tudors, Stuarts, Hanovers, and Windsors.Despite Farquhar’s writing and enjoyable material, this book is rather unsatisfying, largely because it isn’t the history of adventure, vice, et al. that the title suggests. Rather, it is a history of political crises. The subject matter is very unevenly chosen (some long reigning monarchs are touched on in passing, less important royals get disproportionately large amounts of time), and leaves the reader wanting a great deal more. To be sure, it does deal with scandal sometimes—from the well-known like Henry VIII’s marital problems to more obscure but even more scandalous events like the marriage of Caroline Matilda of Wales to sexually deviant King Christian VII of Denmark. Most of the stories, however, aren’t so much scandals but political crises related to succession and power. If Bill Clinton had been a royal, for example, this book would have told you about his showdowns with Newt Gingrich. Interesting, certainly, but not the vice, adventure, sex, folly, or anything else promised in the title. In addition, the material is very unevenly covered, which adds to the problems. A large portion of this book covers the transition between Stuart monarchs, and it felt like a book about England under the Stuarts with an exceptionally long introduction and conclusion. Moreover, obvious scandals were missed. It mentioned in passing that Edward VII had some sort of traumatic sexual experience in his early twenties (but didn’t elaborate) then went on to his exciting story—his relationship with his mother, specifically his disappointment with him. That, in a nutshell, is the weakness of this book. Often it avoided interesting stories (some commonly known, some I knew nothing about) to address rather dull ones instead. There didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to this. My final disappointment with this book came with the treatment of George VI and Elizabeth II. I started to wonder if I had switched to a press release by Buckingham Palace. George VI’s pages were all about how steadfast and wonderful he was, his stiff upper lip during the blitz and his great relationship with Churchill, and Elizabeth’s handful of pages, despite the book noting she had reigned for more than a half century, mostly focused on her mother’s comments about how hard it must be for her to live in the public life. My gut feeling is that he is either friendly with the royal family or wants access for a future project—either way, you might have just ended with the succession crisis of George V. In short—if you enjoy learning about the British royals, and don’t mind a heavy dose of the Stuarts, this is a fun beach read. If you’re looking for a book about actual royal scandal, you’re likely to find more in any number of drier biographies. Interesting summary of the monarchy from the more famous times to the present. I assume it's all based on facts that have been verified or it wouldn't be non-fiction. There were some things about the monarchy I really didn't want to know. The book was simplistic in some places and in others the quotes and tidbits of history were compelling. Overall, I enjoyed it, but not as much as I would have hoped.

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A quick and easy to read summary of the English monarchy from the 1500's to now.

It was interesting but hard to keep track of a lot of the people.

pretty interesting info!


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