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.
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.