Posted By Claire on February 24, 2010
The full title of this book by Raymond Lamont-Brown is “How Fat Was Henry VIII? And 101 Other Questions on Royal History” and it’s a wonderful book which gives you answers to all those nagging royal history questions. It’s just perfect as a present for history buffs or as a treat for yourself as you’re guaranteed to learn something new from this book, whatever your level of history education.
You would be mistaken if you thought that this was a children’s book, although the title and cover may make you think so, because it is a serious, but highly readable, history book which sets out to sift through the mystique of royalty and separate fact from fiction, truth from myth, and history from legend. It does a wonderful job.
The book is divided into nine sections which each have questions within them, along with very detailed answers which draw on historical evidence. Here are the nine sections with some examples of the questions explored in them:-
- Royal Conundrums – Includes “How fat was Henry VIII?”, “Did King Canute harness the waves?”, “Why did Charles II hide in an oak tree?”, “What was the real relationship between Queen Victoria and her Highland servant John Brown?” and “Was Elizabeth I a Virgin Queen?”.
- Pretenders and Usurpers – Includes “Was Empress Matilda an early promoter of women’s rights?”, “Was Lady Jane Grey a rightful queen or a child victim?”, “Who was England’s lost queen?” and “Which rival queen disturbed Elizabeth I’s peace of mind?”
- Royal Marriages and Romances – Includes “Which king expressed his love in stone monuments?”, “Why did Henry VIII marry six times?”, “Was George III a bigamist?”, “Were Queen Victoria and Prince Albert the perfect couple of her diaries?” and “Did British monarchs use contraceptives?”
- Murders, Plots and Assassinations – Includes “Could Richard III be innocent of the death of the Princes in the Tower?”, “What made Queen Mary I “Bloody”?”, “How many plots were there to kill Elizabeth I?”, “Which monarchs were deemed “bumped off” by their doctors?” and “Was Amy Robsart, Lady Dudley, murdered by a queen’s command?”
- Farms and Fads, Values and Vinegar Bibles – Includes “Why was George III called Farmer George?”, “Who rank as the most superstitious monarchs?”, “Why does Queen Elizabeth II have corgis?” and “Which monarch had the most hobbies?”
- Courtiers, Crowns and Coronations – Includes “Did King John lose the Crown Jewels?”, “Which kings pawned their crowns?”, “Who stole the Crown Jewels?”, “Who was the first woman to have a coronation” and “When were jesters and dwarves made courtiers?”
- Quaint and Quirky – Includes “Who was the last British king to lead his troops into battle?”, “Which king invented the handkerchief?”, “Which queen pretended to be invisible?”, “Was King Richard III really a hunchbacked monster?”, “Which monarchs had nicknames or were immortalised in nursery rhymes?” and “Which king joined a sex club?”
- Palaces, Castles and Love Nests – Includes “Which monarch built a love nest for his mistress?”, “Which royal built the most bizarre residence?”, “How many prisons held Mary, Queen of Scots?” and “Which railway station can be dubbed the most royal?”
- Rumour and Scandal – Includes “Which monarch topped the list for siring royal bastards?”, “Which British monarchs were put in prison or appeared in court?”, “Was there a case of incest in the royal family?”, “Which reigning English, Scottish and British monarchs were rumoured to be homosexual?” and “Did the House of Windsor leave their royal Russian cousins to be murdered?”
It is fascinating stuff and I particularly enjoyed the sections related to Tudor history and the question “Which monarch topped the list for siring royal bastards?” – Henry I had 25, Charles II had 16 and William IV had 10! Wow, they were busy kings!
There is something to interest everyone in this book and you’ll find that you just can’t help reading bits out to your nearest and dearest and stunning them with your history knowledge!
But not only does it provide answers to all of these very interesting questions, Lamont-Brown also uses real historical evidence to back up the answers and provides handy charts and lists giving dates and sequences of events etc. There is also a comprehensive bibliography. So, a fun book but also a great history resource and I have found myself dipping into it regularly when researching Elizabeth I and Henry VIII.
So, would I recommend it? You bet! It’s interesting, readable and rather addictive, just don’t blame me if your family flush it down the toilet when they get fed up of you reading bits out!