On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry into Some Strangely Related Familiesby Jeremy Paxman
The notable characteristic of the royal families of Europe is that they have so very little of anything remotely resembling true power. Increasingly, they tend towards the condition of pipsqueak principalities like Liechtenstein and Monacofancy-dress fodder for magazines that survive by telling us things we did not need to know about people we have hardly heard of.
How then have kings and queens come to exercise the mesmeric hold they have upon our imaginations? In On Royalty renowned BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman examines the role of the British monarchy in an age when divine right no longer prevails and governing powers fall to the country's elected leaders. With intelligence and humor, he scrutinizes every aspect of the monarchy and how it has related to politics, religion, the military and the law. He takes us inside Buckingham Palace and illuminates the lives of the monarchs, at once mundane, absurd and magical. What Desmond Morris did for apes, Paxman has done for these primus inter primates: the royal families. Gilded history, weird anthropology and surreal reportage of the royals up close combine in On Royalty, a brilliant investigation into how an ancient institution struggles for meaning in a modern country.
The New York Times
As Paxman seeks to fathom the mesmeric hold of monarchy—particularly British—on our imaginations, his remarkable access lets him spy closeup on today's royals. At a royal house-party at Sandringham, Prince Charles offers a world-weary explanation of monarchy's function: "we're a soap opera." An out-of-the-blue lunch with Princess Diana, who strikes him as a lonely woman who wanted someone to talk to, leads him to ponder the public passion she inspired. And the prospect of meeting the queen at a Buckingham Palace press reception finds the seasoned BBC host with staunch republican sentiments strangely overcome by nerves. Examining how royalty actually becomes royalty, Paxman examines how a monarch finds a throne (Albania invented a king in 1923 and sought an English country gentleman for the post); the matter of producing an heir; royalty's role of being, as one of Queen Elizabeth's secretaries put it, "in the happiness business." This wide-ranging work tackles everything from the enigmatic cuckolded husbands of Edward VII's mistresses to contemporaneous comparisons of the last moments of Charles I to the passion of Christ; George V's abandonment of his cousin the Russian czar; and the sticky finances of the House of Windsor and Charles's eccentricities. Paxman proves a vastly knowledgeable and tartly entertaining guide to a magical realm that is stranger than fiction. (June)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Paxman has written a thoroughly enjoyable book about the British monarchy. He doesn't dwell on the too familiar scandals, but he certainly has some stories to tell, and even readers who have read all the latest books on the House of Windsor will find themselves eagerly turning the pages. One is drawn in immediately by Paxman's story of his overnight visit to Highgrove, Prince Charles's estate, while the amusing saga of the BBC's constant rehearsals for reporting the death of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother assures the most skeptical reader that one is in good hands. We expect to be both informed and entertained and are not disappointed. An additional treat, for those who simply cannot get enough of the world's most famous dysfunctional family, is an impressive 26-page bibliography, which includes some real gems. A self-described republican, Paxman concludes with a lukewarm endorsement of the status quo: "We could easily pack all of them off to live out their lives in harmless eccentricity on some organically managed rural estate. But why bother?" Recommended for public libraries.
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Meet the Author
Jeremy Paxman is a journalist, best known for his work presenting BBC's Newsnight and University Challenge. His books include Friends in High Places, The English and The Political Animal. He lives in Oxfordshire, England.
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What book is it? This is res ninebon my nook