…[Tinniswood] displays a knack for uncovering the absurd and delightful. A wit borne of a deep intimacy with his subject shows through. It all has the effect of bringing the monarchy down to earth. Behind the somewhat surreal pomp and pageant, Tinniswood reveals the all-too-human reality of royalty.
Free with a B&N Audiobooks Subscription | Cancel Anytime
with a B&N Audiobooks Subscription
An upstairs/downstairs history of the British royal court, from the Middle Ages to the reign of Queen Elizabeth II
Monarchs: they're just like us. They entertain their friends and eat and worry about money. Henry VIII tripped over his dogs. George II threw his son out of the house. James I had to cut back on the alcohol bills.
In Behind the Throne, historian Adrian Tinniswood uncovers the reality of five centuries of life at the English court, taking the reader on a remarkable journey from one Queen Elizabeth to another and exploring life as it was lived by clerks and courtiers and clowns and crowned heads: the power struggles and petty rivalries, the tension between duty and desire, the practicalities of cooking dinner for thousands and of ensuring the king always won when he played a game of tennis.
A masterful and witty social history of five centuries of royal life, Behind the Throne offers a grand tour of England's grandest households.
Related collections and offers
Beginning with Elizabeth I and ending with her reigning namesake, this well-researched, often entertaining narrative illuminates the domestic army of little-known names that manages palatial daily duties and orchestrates elaborate special occasions. Tinniswood (The Long Weekend) describes the behind-the-scenes drudgery of complex Tudor tours of the realm, lavish Stuart masquerades, and the nearly futile efforts of private secretaries attempting to rein in spending (not to mention mistresses, in the cases of Charles II and Edward VIII). Usefully for American readers, Tinniswood explains touchy political matters such as Victoria’s refusal to employ both Tory and Whig ladies of the bedchamber, resulting in a scandal and the famed Sir Robert Peel’s resignation. Twentieth-century royals receive an especially rich treatment, partly because of the advent of television coverage; devoted watchers of The Crown will especially enjoy the nimble analysis of both the narcissistic Edward VIII’s brief reign and Princess Margaret’s doomed romance. In keeping with the sometimes gossipy tone, Tinniswood recounts tell-alls with glee even as he bemoans the lack of privacy for the royal family. Utilizing a Downton Abbey approach, this enlightening narrative allows the royal family mystique to disappear just a little, so those working quietly to maintain the world’s most famous monarchy receive recognition. (Oct.)
"A glimpse into a world where everything is possible for the rulers, because the ruled do all the work: This sounds enchanting, and so Behind the Throne proves to be...The author has a wry humor and a way with a phrase."—Wall Street Journal
"Charmingly erudite...Like a seasoned tour guide, Tinniswood keeps us moving through chambers of wonders, from the Elizabethan to the modern era...Tinniswood is both a careful scholar and a nimble writer."—Washington Post
"Shrewdly observed and engagingly written...A cracking read, packed full of stories which Tinniswood relates with verve and wit."—Spectator (UK)
"Tinniswood (The Long Weekend) explores the inner workings of the well-oiled machine that is the household, servants, and monarchy of Britain...A masterpiece of history that reads like a novel; a true delight."—Library Journal (starred review)
"[Tinniswood] amply, entertainingly, compellingly succeeds in making the case that when it comes to British royalty, it takes a village to make a monarch."—New York Journal of Books
"[Tinniswood] displays a knack for uncovering the absurd and delightful. A wit borne of a deep intimacy with his subject shows through. It all has the effect of bringing the monarchy down to earth."—New York Times Book Review
"[A] juicy new domestic history of the royal household...Tinniswood's magpie narrative is...about boundaries: the walls, literal and metaphorical, that separate monarchs from their people."—Guardian
"Fascinating...Never overly deferential, but humorous and distantly respectful. Our royals are human beings after all...Behind the Throne is a wonderfully entertaining account of life through five centuries of royal households."—Sunday Times
"Behind the Throne, erudite and amusing, bulges with colourful scenes of barely managed chaos at court."—Times
"[A] juicy new domestic history of the royal household...Delicious."—Observer
"This is the most interesting and informative book on the British royalty for many years."—Literary Review
"An intimate and entertaining look at the private lives of monarchs from Elizabeth I to the current occupants of Buckingham Palace...Deft, zesty social history." -Kirkus—Kirkus
"Tinniswood is a wry storyteller."—Baton Rouge Advocate
"Think of Behind the Throne as Downton Abbey meets The Tudors, with a dash of Victoria and a smidgen of The Crown thrown in."—Winnipeg Free Press
"Well-researched and often entertaining...Devoted watchers of The Crown will especially enjoy the nimble analysis of both the narcissistic Edward VIII's brief reign and Princess Margaret's doomed romance...Utilizing a Downton Abbey approach, this enlightening narrative allows the royal family mystique to disappear just a little."—Publishers Weekly
"An enjoyable and lively account of the British royal household from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II."—Choice
"If Downton Abbey showcases a well-oiled machine of domestic efficiency in an English estate, you might think the servants surrounding British monarchs would be held to an even higher standard of discretion and excellence. And, as historian Tinniswood warns, you'd be entirely wrong. The reality, as he explores in this diverting book covering the domestic life at court from Elizabeth to Elizabeth, is both much messier and incredibly interesting...This rare glimpse into royal households reveals the priorities and peculiarities of kings and queens."—Booklist
"A lively, engaging, and endlessly fascinating account of life behind closed doors at the English court. Exploring five centuries of royal servicefrom Elizabeth I to her modern day namesakethis is a must-read for all fans of British royal history."—Tracy Borman, author of The Private Lives of the Tudors
"Both fun and scholarly, this is a back-stage, back-stairs, sometimes backside history of England that focuses on the seamy-side of power, the sights you weren't intended to see and the stories you weren't supposed to hear. Savor it like a good gossip column."—David Starkey, author of Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne and Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII
"Tinniswood's riveting overview of 500 years of the men and women who made the monarchy shows what has changed - and what hasn't. From the courtiers who handled foreign diplomats for James I to the chauffeurs who drove Edward VII, the first royal motorist, the delight is in the detail."—Sarah Gristwood, author of Game of Queens and Elizabeth: The Queen and the Crown
"Behind the Throne is so much fun it's almost a guilty pleasure. Adrian Tinniswood provides an utterly fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the British monarchy, from the realities of the royal chamber pot to bedchamber politics."—Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
"Meticulously researched, rich in detail and hugely entertaining, Behind The Throne is an evocative feast of royal history, from the first Elizabeth to the present, at its page-turning best. From a master historian and story-teller, it is an absolute must for anyone interested in the British monarchy, past and present, and for any self-respecting history lover. A book I only wish I had written, I cannot recommend it highly enough."—Christopher Warwick, royal biographer and historian
When Elizabeth I (1533–1603) went on progress to her various palaces and courtiers' estates, those whom she visited were expected to bear most of the cost, from lodgings for her royal highness to kitchens and accommodations for all of her household and court. One particular three-day visit to a Sir Thomas Egerton reportedly cost him over £2,000 at the time. In her latest work, Tinniswood (The Long Weekend) explores the inner workings of the well-oiled machine that is the household, servants, and monarchy of Britain. Using personal stories of courtiers and hired help from the period, Tinniswood brings history to life through the eyes of those who lived it. Stand-alone chapters for each royal build upon the successive history from Queen Elizabeth I to Queen Elizabeth II. Insightfully covered topics range from the architecture of palaces to explorations of the varying personalities who wore the British crown in this intelligently written chronicle that will appeal to history buffs and laymen alike. VERDICT Tinniswood has crafted a masterpiece of history that reads like a novel; a true delight.—Stacy Shaw, Denver
From bedchambers to ballrooms, a revealing portrait of daily life among the royals.
Steeped in British history, Tinniswood (History/Univ. of Buckingham; The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House, 2016, etc.) offers an intimate and entertaining look at the private lives of monarchs from Elizabeth I to the current occupants of Buckingham Palace. Funded grandly by their subjects, kings, queens, and their families have always inhabited "a cocoon of support to ease their paths through life": cooks, dressers, housekeepers, valets, wet-nurses and governesses, pages, footmen, gardeners, butlers, secretaries, and a hierarchy of staff overseers. "The rituals of royal care," Tinniswood writes, "are there to separate sovereigns from the rest, to remind their subjects that they are not like other people, not even presidents and billionaire executives." In centuries past, body servants included a bedchamber-woman who handed the queen her fan, poured water out of a jug when the queen washed her hands, and pulled on the queen's gloves; a page was called in to put on the queen's shoes. Some 1,200 employees attend to the household of Elizabeth II; her great-great-grandmother Victoria had 921 salaried retainers. Royals were rarely alone. Charles II, annoyed that Whitehall palace was "cluttered with people," devised a set of household ordinances to control the throngs. Royal palaces, the author asserts, were not "like some regal version of Downtown Abbey"; Whitehall, particularly, "was more like a vast apartment complex" with around 1,500 lodgings for countless servants, government staff, menials (who slept in closets), and squatters. Tinniswood cheerfully chronicles the flirtations, affairs, family squabbles, back-stabbing, and jockeying for favor that characterized the royal courts, even giving pets a quick nod. George V, for example, doted on Charlotte, a parrot who had the habit of defecating on the tablecloth. The author also recounts the madness of George III, whose "weeping, insomnia, and feverish agitation" may have been caused by acute attacks of porphyria or, as recent historians suggest, "recurring bouts of manic-depressive psychosis." Some sovereigns, the author admits, "are more interesting than others."
Deft, zesty social history.