The Fancy Times

Fine Slop for the Discerning Tastemaker

The Lives of the Kings & Queens of England

by Antonia Fraser, originally published in 1975 and edited in 2000.

This one is more valuable as a reference book than for entertainment. It’s especially useful for parsing out the various Henrys and Edwards that have sat on the English throne. There’s also a clear trace of the decline of British monarchial powers starting post- William of Orange. Little whittles in the beginning, then a major slide after the World Wars. 

I didn’t get what I came for with this one, but I also wasn’t disappointed. It’s my fault. I’ve had a lingering curiosity rattling around for years. I’ve been wanting to understand where these monarchies came from. Who’s idea were they, what environment justified it, and why did it become the norm in so many countries for so long? None of these interests were answered by the book. In fact, it’s written for an audience that is at least generally familiar with British history. We begin with the Plantagenets and speed on through to the bastard house of Windsor. 

Credit where credit is due. The content reads easily. The images are big, bold, and resolute. The vocabulary is casual, rather than academic. Sections and their chapters are organized intuitively. The order of the biographies is chronological. The book is large and has a library cover that holds up well. I would recommend it if the monarchs of England are of interest, but don’t expect a tome of detailed history. 

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