What is the point of Kings and Queens? What do they do all day? And what does it mean to be one of them?
Jeremy Paxman is used to making politicians explain themselves – but royalty has always been off limits. Until now. In On Royalty he delves deep into the past and takes a long hard look at our present incumbents to find out just what makes them tick. Along the way he discovers some fascinating and little-known details. Such as:
• how Albania came to advertise in England for a king
• which English queen gave birth in front of 67 people
• how easy it is to beat up future kings of England
• and how meeting the Queen is a bit scary – whoever you are …
No other book will tell you quite as much about our kings, queens, princes and princesses: who they are and what they’re for.
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.