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Royal Babies: A History 1066-2013 by Amy Licence

Posted By Claire on October 16, 2013

Royal babiesHistorian Amy Licence’s Royal Babies: A History 1066-2013 is a fascinating look at key royal births from that of Matilda (daughter of Henry I and Queen Matilda) in 1102 to the birth of Baby Windsor this year. Note that Prince George is referred to as “Baby Windsor” because the book was written before the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her son, so there are no details regarding his birth.

Obviously, as a Tudor history researcher the chapters on the births of Arthur, Prince of Wales (1486); Henry, Duke of Cornwall (1511); Elizabeth I (1533); and Edward VI (1537) appealed to me, but what I found the most interesting were the chapters about royals that were out of my ‘zone’. It was also interesting to see how ideas about pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and child rearing have evolved over the centuries and the rituals, superstitions and practices that surrounded them.

Royal Babies doesn’t just focus on the births of kings and queens, Licence also looks at the births of those who died before they inherited the throne, such as Arthur, son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and Henry, Duke of Cornwall, son of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Licence also gives the story behind the births, for example, the context/period and details about the baby’s parents, and information on the child’s upbringing and what happened to him/her.

Royal Babies is not a heavy read, it is written in an engaging style which makes for easy reading. The chapters are also fairly short, giving the right amount of detail to keep the reader’s interest without bogging them down. It is the sort of book that you can dip into, rather than read from cover to cover, and enjoy over time. I know I will be reading it again. Royalists will obviously love the front cover, but may be disappointed by the fact that the book ends too early with the chapter on “Baby Windsor” having only six pages and ending before the birth, but the rest of the book makes up for it. It will pique the reader’s interest in a variety of royals and periods, and have the reader chuckling over Queen Victoria’s views on pregnancy and childbirth – she really did hate being pregnant!

My husband can always tell whether I’ve enjoyed a book or found it useful for research by how many page corners I’ve turned down – this one has lots of turned corners! I would recommend it highly to anyone who is interested in British Royal History or those interested in the history of pregnancy and childbirth. A great read.

Royal Babies is fully referenced, with chapter notes and bibliography, and also has full colour illustrations. Here is a list of chapters:

  1. Matilda, 1102
  2. William, 1153
  3. Eleanor, 1215
  4. Edward, 1284
  5. Edward, 1330
  6. Henry, 1386
  7. Edward, 1453
  8. Edward, 1470
  9. Arthur, 1486
  10. Henry, 1511
  11. Elizabeth, 1533
  12. Edward, 1537
  13. James, 1566
  14. Henry, 1594
  15. Henrietta, 1644
  16. James, 1688
  17. George, 1738
  18. Amelia, 1783
  19. George, 1817
  20. Victoria, 1840
  21. Edward & Albert, 1894, 1895
  22. Elizabeth, 1926
  23. William, 1982
  24. Baby Windsor, 2013

Amazon blurb

Babies are born every day, but only once or twice in a lifetime, a child arrives who will inherit the throne. This summer, the nation will be watching as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, delivers our future monarch. There will be predictions, expectations and a flurry of media attention around the new parents but apart from the flashing cameras and internet headlines, this is nothing new. Royal babies have excited interest since before their births, for more than a millennium. When a queen or princess conceived, the direction of a dynasty was being defined and the health and survival of the child would shape British history. Amy Licence explores the stories of some of these royal babies and the unusual circumstances of their arrivals from the Normans to the twenty-first century. 1470 saw the arrival of Edward, a longed-for son after three daughters, born in sanctuary to Edward IV and his beautiful but unpopular wife, Elizabeth Wydeville; he was briefly King Edward V at the age of twelve, but would disappear from history as the elder of the two Princes in the Tower. In 1511, amid lavish celebrations, Catherine Aragon gave birth to the future Henry IX, whose survival would perhaps have kept Henry from having six wives; alas, he was to die after just seven weeks. In 1817 came George, the stillborn son of Charlotte, Princess of Wales; had she not died as a result of the birth, she would have been queen instead of Victoria. This book explores the importance and the circumstances of these and many other arrivals, returning many long-forgotten royal babies to the history books.

Book Details

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (30 July 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445617625
ISBN-13: 978-1445617626
Available from Amazon.com and Amazon UK as a Kindle version or hardback book.

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