The Royal Families of Europe

Geoffrey Hindley, Author
Geoffrey Hindley, Author Basic Books $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0828-4
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In exhaustive detail, Hindley (The Book of the Magna Carta) gives an overview of the state of the monarchy in 20th-century continental Europe. He first looks at the royal families--some of them in exile--of countries, such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Romania and France, where the monarchy's political duties have been assumed by other governmental bodies. Hindley espouses the view that today's hereditary monarchs are ""above politics"" and that, when functioning in their proper capacity as heads of state, they ""embody values of public service and a sense of communal and national identity."" Drawing on dozens of historical and contemporary sources, he traces the impact of WWI and II, and of the Communist Bloc, on various monarchies. The travails of the Bulgarian royals, for instance, began in 1939, when King Boris III was forced to cooperate with Germany but kept his commitment vague. When Hitler pressed him to formally declare war on the Soviet Union, he refused and died shortly thereafter under mysterious circumstances. The throne was left to six-year-old Simeon II, who in 1946 was exiled along with his mother and sister. King Simeon II still holds out for re-enthronement, maintaining active ties with expatriated Bulgarians, in part via a Web site where he posts letters to the Bulgarian people. Hindley, whose sympathies apparently lie with the mostly disempowered aristocracies, gives several examples of bad treatment received by deposed royal families, including the harassment of Constantine II of Greece when he cruised the Greek Islands. Hindley also covers monarchies currently on the throne--with varying degrees of executive power--in countries like Belgium, Monaco and Spain. This account's sentimental subjectivity may appeal to devotees of European monarchy despite the book's dry prose, but it will disappoint more serious scholars of the subject. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
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