Divorced, Beheaded, Died...: The History of Britain's Kings and Queens in Bite-Sized Chunks by Kevin Flude
|Divorced, Beheaded, Died...: The History of Britain's Kings and Queens in Bite-Sized Chunks by Kevin Flude|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A friendly yet never silly, compact guide to those on our throne since prehistory.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 176||Date: September 2015|
|Publisher: Michael O'Mara Books Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
History lives. Proof of that sweeping statement can be had in this book, and in the fact that while it only reached the grand old age of six, it has had the dust brushed off it and has been reprinted – and while the present royal incumbent it ends its main narrative with has not changed, other things have. This has quietly been updated to include the reburial of Richard III in Leicester, and seems to have been rereleased at a perfectly apposite time, as only the week before I write these words the Queen has surpassed all those who came before her as our longest serving ruler. Such details may be trivia to some – especially those of us of a more royalist bent – and important facts to others. The perfect balance of that coupling – trivia and detail – is what makes this book so worthwhile.
It gives itself the remit of fitting in between two other balanced aspects, too, and achieves it brilliantly. On the one side you have the facts-by-rote learning of those at school before me, while since those heady historical days things have changed to exploration of the bigger picture – which has of course left people knowing next to nothing. These little potted biographies – only Henry VIII really getting more than two pages – give us the perfect essentials, and will still probably show the ignorance of much of the general public when it comes to our royal families.
I'm sure many schoolchildren will have been imbued with something Ricardian during 2015, but how many could name the first Plantagenet? Which ruler had no less than nineteen known pregnancies? Which King did the most to act like a Nazi – right down to exiling all Jews, while keeping their possessions for himself, having previously made them wear yellow identifiers? And just how many instances of succession relied on someone called Elgiva (even if the writing here isn't perfectly clear as to how many people of that name that it refers to)?
Apart from that there's utmost clarity, and a great succinctness to proceedings, even if we go back much further than the first recognised king of Britain, named here as Cunobelinus. The breadth includes kings of Scotland and rulers of Wales, as countries in their own right, meaning this is nothing as bread-and-butter as just a list of the kings from the Normans up. It could have been more readable in that it could have had a narrative flow better than such as it has, for those who want the whole piece rather than dipping in on the toilet – at the moment the end of one reign is repeated too easily and broadly at the start of the next biography, but the ethos of the book – to serve as a friendly, welcoming and intelligent guide with all the basics and that pleasant bit more – is more than adequately met.
I must than the publishers for my review copy.
The Queen by Richard Brassey will affirm your basic knowledge of the said record-holder – even if it's really for the young. To widen out into the rest of the world, we recommend History Without the Boring Bits by Ian Crofton.
Divorced, Beheaded, Died...: The History of Britain's Kings and Queens in Bite-Sized Chunks by Kevin Flude is in the Top Ten History Books 2015.
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