Desert Isle Keeper
Kings, Queens, Bones and Bastards
This book isn’t a romance, but it’s one of my all-time favorites and will likely be fascinating for history lovers and for fans of historical romance and straight historical fiction a la Dorothy Dunnett. David Hilliam presents a concise history of all the kings and queens of England, their spouses, their legitimate and illegitimate children, and, in a macabre yet fascinating twist, the circumstances of their deaths and burials. (I bet you didn’t know that several kings’ bodies were lost in various rebellions and renovations!)
This book isn’t particularly long, so Hilliam works quickly in presenting important political details of each monarch’s reign – and personal details as well. Hilliam also provides his explanations of royal intrigues such as the Wars of the Roses and the Jacobite rebellions. Best of all, the author includes many anecdotes that make history come alive, such as Nell Gwyn, an actress and one of Charles II’s many mistresses, stopping an anti-Catholic mob from stoning her carriage by calling out the window, “Don’t hurt me, good people! I’m the Protestant whore!” and William IV’s cranky declaration to the visiting Belgian king, “God damn it, why don’t you drink wine? I never let anyone drink water at my table.”
The book supplies many details, some surprising, on familiar figures like Queen Victoria , who began life as a vivacious young woman rather than the staid old queen we now envision, and who never recovered from her beloved husband’s Albert’s death; and the Prince Regent who barred his scandalous wife Caroline from becoming queen, leading her to bang on the locked doors of Westminster Abbey during his coronation inside. Hilliam also examines the reigns of lesser-known but fascinating rulers: the wildly unpopular father and son, George I and II; Edward I, who built England’s Memorial Crosses (including Charing Cross) to commemorate his queen Eleanor’s funeral procession; and Richard II, a stronger king than the one described by Shakespeare, who, in anguish, ordered a castle to be demolished after his wife Anne died inside. Best of all, the book is written in a conversational style which makes for easy reading, and Hilliam has a dry, delightful wit. This book feels more like People Magazine than a dry history book, but I learned lots of history from it, especially those priceless, hilarious, poignant anecdotes.
After reading Kings, Queens, Bones and Bastards, I actually enjoy my historical romances more because of the context this book gives on the rulers and eras of British history. If you think today’s royal family is interesting, you should definitely check this book out – their ancestors were even wilder. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in British history.
|Review Date:||August 30, 2000|
|Book Type:||Non Fiction|