Queens of England – Book Review

Queens of England coverQueens of England by Norah Lofts is a comprehensive overview of every Queen of England beginning with the wife of William the Conqueror and going through Queen Elizabeth II. It was a remarkably easy read, considering it comprises about 900 years of English royal history. It was also a very engaging read, I learned about many queens I had never heard of, the wives of many kings I had never heard of.

The book, however, definitely had an agenda. While it didn’t ruin the book for me, it definitely dampened my enthusiasm for the the work a little. When I noticed the chapters on each queen start to get much longer shortly before the reign of Queen Victoria (as many pages on Caroline of Brunswick as Elizabeth Tudor? And as many on Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz as Mary Tudor? Really?), I thought that I detected a 19th and 20th century bias. By the time I reached Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II, I realized that a ‘recent history bias’ wasn’t quite what the issue was. The book actually seems to have been written as an apologetic for the modern institution of the monarchy, to establish the long history of English royalty and in doing so argue for its continuation in the person of Queen Elizabeth II.

Lofts directly addressed some specific criticisms against the Queen and in fact attacked what she referred to as the “Age of Criticism.” This aspect of the book made the last two chapters my two least favorite of the book. The book had some other issues as well.

First, Lofts definitely assumed a fair degree of prior knowledge with British history, she would make off-hand comments referring to other events or the fates of the princes and princesses who were the progeny of whatever queen was currently being discussed. As the book was clearly written for a British audience (to whom else would she need to defend the continuation of the monarchy?), perhaps that was actually a fairly safe assumption and, while I was often confused, the nonchalant references sometimes made me simply want to know more about the subjects.

Second, there seemed to be some significant editing errors. There were absolutely sentences, sometimes whole paragraphs, of which I could not make heads or tails no matter how many times I tried. Often these sentences or paragraphs seemed to be flatly contradictory, so I would generally just skip them and read on.

Lastly, I simply wanted more information about many of these women! Some had as little as two pages, including a picture.
However, even with these problems, Queens of England is a book I would recommend to anyone with an interest in royalty, the history of England, or just of the lives of women throughout history.

Buy this book on Amazon: Queens of England

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3 Responses to “Queens of England – Book Review”

  1. Literate Housewife Says:

    It’s amazing how two different people can read the same book and get different things out of them. I read that book in an afternoon. I didn’t really see an agenda to it – until I read your review. Of course it was there. Well, I obviously saw the justification for Elizabeth II, but didn’t really ponder on it. I think that this might have been more of a sticking point for me if I hadn’t seen The Queen. Good review!

  2. devourerofbooks Says:

    She did a pretty good job hiding the agenda throughout almost the entire book. I wouldn’t have seen it either if I wasn’t annoyed that there was so much about all of the recent queens when some of the older ones seemed so interesting! I couldn’t stop coming up with hypotheses for the reason for that and, well, this is what I came up with. It is the history training, I think.

  3. Kings and Queens of England: A Tourist Guide - Book Review « Devourer of Books’ Weblog Says:

    [...] British history and British royal history.  The last such book I read, Norah Loft’s “Queens of England” was very interesting in that it looked exclusively at Queens, whether they were regnant or [...]

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