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

Michael Farquhar, Random, $15 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-8129-7904-6
Washington Post staffer Farquhar (A Treasury of Royal Scandals) probes 500 years of monarchical mishaps and misdeeds, screaming headlines and gleeful attacks by cartoonists. He uncloaks secrets, schemes, scandals, blood-soaked sheets, public humiliations, intrigues, and adultery. Illustrated with lineage charts and chronologically organized, chapters cover the houses of Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and Windsor. Farquhar begins with "savage bloodletting" during the reign of Henry VIII, so "monstrously obese" that it took 16 yeoman of the guard to lower his enormous coffin. Bonnie Prince Charlie, attempting to reclaim the British throne for the Stuarts, was defeated at the Battle of Culloden, became a fugitive, and "spen[t] the rest of his life as an embittered paper prince." Suspicions surrounded Ernest, duke of Cumberland, after one of his valets was found with his throat slit. With amusing anecdotes, such as Queen Victoria's coronation ceremony going "wildly awry," Farquhar's style is a breezy pleasure throughout. (Mar. 8)
Reviewed on: 01/17/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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