Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Tudor’

Kings and Queens of England: A Tourist Guide – Book Review

May 2, 2008

Kings and Queens of England CoverThe fantastic thing about books chronicling the rulers of Britain is that, even if they are from the 1970s, they aren’t all that out of date.

I picked up Jane Murray’s “The Kings and Queens of England: A Tourist Guide” from a library bookstore recently because, well, why not? I am unashamedly interested in 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 not; however, it didn’t keep me from getting muddled about the line of succession from Queen Victoria to QEII (all those Hanovers/Windsors seem to have the same names).

I must admit, I’m still a bit muddled about the more recent kings, but this book cleared things up for me somewhat. As interesting as it was to read about all of the Queens, it is somewhat more instructive (to my mind) to read about all of the actual rulers. One thing I also appreciated about this book, in contrast to Loft’s book, is that it is written for an American audience. Essentially, as the title implies, it was written for American tourists to brush up on their royal history before their trip or carry the book around with them and look up a monarch when they see his or her name mentioned somewhere around Britain. Because of this, it also didn’t have the blatant pro-monarchy agenda of Loft’s book, written just four years later.

Obviously no book can cover every ruler from Edward the Confessor to Queen Elizabeth II in an in-depth manner, but I thought Murray did a good job at hitting the high and low points of each ruler. Definitely enough to help American tourists remember the difference between Edward II and Edward IV. The only odd thing about this book was that it started in the ‘present’ and worked its way backwards towards Edward the Confessor. Although this at first interrupted the flow for me, by the end I think it helped me piece everything together.

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Queens of England – Book Review

March 14, 2008

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