On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry into Some Strangely Related Families

On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry into Some Strangely Related Families

4.8 7
by Jeremy Paxman
     
 

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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 Monaco—fancy-dress fodder for magazines that survive by telling us things we did not need to know about people we have hardly heard

Overview

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 Monaco—fancy-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.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
[Paxman] writes with a wry sense of humor and a keen sense of history . . . [He leads] an entertaining tour . . .
Vail Trail
A detailed, firsthand peek inside the castle walls of the Royal Family . . . For Windsor watchers, [it]'s queen of the pack.

Michiko Kakutani
On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry into Some Strangely Related Families is also modest — and polite — in its ambitions. Very little of what Mr. Paxman — a British journalist, best known for his interviews on the BBC’s “Newsnight” — says is terribly new or revealing, but he writes with a wry sense of humor and a keen sense of history, and he leads the reader on an entertaining tour through the House of Windsor, with some excursions abroad to visit the king of the Albanians and the queen of Denmark.
— The New York Times
Sunday Express
a nuanced, if at times acerbic, look at the institution of monarchy
Publishers Weekly

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
Library Journal

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.
—Elizabeth Mellett

Kirkus Reviews
Popular BBC broadcaster Paxman (The English, 2000, etc.) examines the monarchy's relevance to contemporary British society. Best known for his confrontational interviews on current-affairs program Newsnight, Paxman keeps his scabrous side firmly in check, taking a relaxed, even humorous approach here. The author quickly establishes his affinity for the oft-troubled fortunes of Britain's royals with amusing anecdotes about a visit to Sandringham (quizzed about the purpose of the monarchy, Prince Charles quipped, "we're a soap opera"), the BBC's archaic preparations for the Queen Mother's death and a bizarre encounter with Princess Diana. The author casts his net wide as he sets about his task, demonstrating a vast knowledge of all things royal as he darts back and forth in time, linking various events from the past to those of the present. The bookish, chain-smoking Queen of Denmark (Victoria's great-great-granddaughter) and the sometimes controversial Prince Philip are two of the people interviewed, and the author draws insightful and occasionally humorous jabs from both. Philip rails against the tabloids and even seems agitated that his wife (whom he refers to as "the queen") reads "every bloody paper she can lay her hands on." Paxman keeps a generous distance from his subjects for most of the book, reserving his personal opinions for the concluding chapter, which conveys his belief that the royal family will be around for quite some time. Using the surge of interest in Diana's funeral as a springboard, he points out the inexorable grip the monarchy maintains on our collective imaginations, notes the impracticality of any attempt to break up the royal family and adds interesting notes ontheir historical and mythological value. A witty, edifying treatise. Agent: Michael Carlisle/InkWell Management

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786721566
Publisher:
PublicAffairs
Publication date:
07/31/2008
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
294,653
File size:
494 KB

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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On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry Into Some Strangely Related Families 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
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Why is every one in my room lol
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What book is it? This is res ninebon my nook
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Night!