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On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry into Some Strangely Related Families

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  439 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
The notable characteristic of the royal families of Europe is that they have so very little of anything remotely resembling true power. Increasingly, they tend towards the condition of pipsqueak principalities like Liechtenstein and Monaco—fancy-dress fodder for magazines that survive by telling us things we did not need to know about people we have hardly heard of.How the ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 7th 2007 by PublicAffairs (first published 2006)
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Sep 22, 2007 David rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2007
Actually, the third star is a reflection more of my own weakness for royal gossip and similar trivia. Paxman's treatment isn't particularly lively. One senses that an overdeveloped sense of deference is possibly cramping his style, and a deference is the kiss of death to liveliness.

After I'd dutifully slogged through to the end, I remembered that Christopher Hitchens had written a review which appeared in The New York Times:

Reading it again, I'm surprised
May 29, 2015 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking book. A rebublican by conviction when he started the book, Paxman considers all aspects of the British royal family, past and present: their ancestry and history; their relationship with their people, and with God; their day-to-day life in the past and these days; their obligations, rights and responsibilities. It's a closely and thoroughly researched book, but witty too, and written with a light touch. At the end he concludes that, with all its imper ...more
Jun 18, 2012 Stephanie rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008, january
Christopher Hitchens gave it a good review in the New York Times, but I just couldn't get into it. Paxman's writing is just too pedantic for me, and did not make this subject -- the always fascinating one of royal families -- enticing. I did have fun, though, looking through the index and reading snippets. Who could resist reading more about "Hawaii: dynastic incest, 45" or "Zog, King of the Albanians, 30-2, 35, 29-40, 43"?
Mar 03, 2009 Pam rated it really liked it
A droll look from every angle at the British monarchy, it's quirky history and incomprehensible staying-power. For Americans wondering why there's a Queen, anglophiles, and especially fans of Elizabeth II, a fun, insightful, and irreverent book.
Interesting subject that's completely sunk by a mostly dry, boring delivery. Too bad.
Aug 24, 2012 Fiona rated it liked it
Leaves you wondering why we take royalty seriously at all. Another lightweight book from JP but very enjoyable reading about this bizarre institution.
Jun 01, 2008 Marissa rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History Buffs/ Tidbit Lovers
Very interesting book. Read if you like history, interesting tidbits, or royalty (obviously). The author writes in a british dialect and humorously, as all English authors do. Good, quick read.
Harriet Watkins
It was indeed repetitive at times, but I feel if this were kept as a book to just 'dip into' for entertainment, as was probably primarily intended, this would be less bothersome and more of an asset. I didn't necessarily agree with Paxman's prime analysis that logic plays no part in why the British Monarchy is still in place; he seems to contradict himself on this point himself when advocating the advantages of monarchy over a political head of state (his arguments seem perfectly logical to me). ...more
Haythem Bastawy
Apr 04, 2013 Haythem Bastawy rated it liked it
Paxman's On Royalty reads like one of his BBC documentaries, the style is dry and full of flashy buzz words and the content is second rate and not as polite as the the title of the book claims to be. The book starts as an intermittent attack on the queen and her predecessors, interrupted every now and again with flash stories about some of Europe's monarchies. To Paxman the 'short' and 'smiley' queen is inferior in intellect to the rather 'bookish' queen of Denmark who has the air of a 'universi ...more
Simon Howard
May 04, 2014 Simon Howard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This third volume in Paxman’s series on British culture essentially presents a well-argued case for retaining the monarchy, whilst simultaneously recognising the manifold flaws, improbabilities, and injustices of the system. And, actually, I rather agree with his point of view – which, to some degree, makes for a less challenging and engaging read. I always think it’s always more interesting to read things which challenge your views, rather than things which reinforce them – though often, things ...more
Marc Maitland
Nov 26, 2011 Marc Maitland rated it really liked it
This is certainly an interesting read, and written in an easy style by Mr. Paxman. Although it certainly contain his opinions (on the concept of monarchy in general and the House of Windsor in particular) and one can almost hear him utter some of the phrases used (those of us used to his Newsnight style), it is probably as near to an objective analysis of the subject matter as is to be found in print anywhere nowadays.

Some of the chapter divisions are perhaps questionable, with some issues havi
Like Charlie Wilson once said: " (...) and then we fucked up the end game."

I can scarcely believe how Paxman slowly descended into the hell he created in his own mind, and managed to rope me into being a witness. The second half of the book basically had random chapters virtually extraneous contents. Monarchies relationship with media followed a passage about the relationship with god and religion, we seemingly somehow concluded that monarchy is a must if we want to avoid anarchy and that the pr
Frank O'connor
Apr 30, 2012 Frank O'connor rated it really liked it
This is a book about the psychology of monarchy, examined from the perspective of both the monarch and their subjects. Its general theses is that the monarchy, like religion, is an irrational institution but that it answers to deep-rooted human impulses. These are what make it difficult for Republicans to get their voices heard. The thesis probably holds most strongly in England and Paxman fails to examine its opposite - the thriving of republics across the globe without the projected fantasy of ...more
May 14, 2011 Mary rated it liked it
Another of my "ripped-from-the-headlines" background reading picks (remember the Royal Wedding? yeah, seems like a long time ago). Paxman's success in covering several centuries' worth of royal history in 300 pages is mixed, and his efforts to include royal families beyond the British one are uneven, though sometimes the comparative angle is interesting (Albania's attempt to recruit a king). Most of the book concerns the 20th-century House of Windsor and Paxman's search to understand why it stil ...more
Chris Crowley
Jan 13, 2008 Chris Crowley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Camilla Parker Bowles
So the Queen is wittier, shorter and nicer than everyone expects, Charles continues to moan about how unhappy his privileged position is and the rest of them are probably nuts (allegedly!).

Saving grace was the historical content and comparison to other mainly European royalty. There was some interesting insight into the role of the monarchy and the church in the institutions of UK government, but otherwise it was a well written and at times witty recount of one of he more boring UK institutions
Aug 01, 2007 Becka rated it liked it
Shelves: england, humor
Paxman's insider's look into the closed off, eccentric lives of the European (mostly British) royals is irreverent and wickedly entertaining. The colorful historical anecdotes about such matters as the abnormally large head of a Spanish king due to inbreeding and the baby talk that Edward VIII was prone to doing around Wallis Simpson, provide great brain candy under the guise of becoming more educated in European history. Paxman is a bit long-winded at times, but those passages are worth sloggin ...more
Chris Mead
Mar 10, 2008 Chris Mead rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting history/critique of the latter years of the British monarchy (primary focus is from George III, onwards although, really, the attention paid to the Georgians is rather scant) and Paxman seems to do his best to present all sides when asking the questions "What's the point of the British monarchy? Should we keep it?" but he's very, very careful to avoid giving a committed answer of his own beyond "Why should we bother getting rid of it?" (although he presents other's arguments as to ...more
Nov 12, 2007 Papalodge rated it liked it
Before seeing the movie 'The Queen' I again wondered why do the Brits still have the Royals? This book then appeared on the new book shelf at the library. It is low key entertaining, I had to check the book out twice to get through it. You can only take so much at a time. I did learn one thing I had wondered about over the years; Eliz I died from infected tonsils, most authors just mentioned she nodded her head and died. Also saw the movie at the library for free, saved $$. The portrayal of Prin ...more
Feb 12, 2008 Edith rated it really liked it
I wanted less Brit talk towards the end, and more historical shit (this was written by a British journalist so....) But that's a personal thing.

The author discussed the history of royalty, and compared that to its place/function today. Read it after or before you see that Helen Mirren movie, The Queen - they mirror each other. A bit queer they came out the same year even.

Marco Vadalà
A nice book, full of interesting anecdotes. Still, it doesn't really engage the subject as it should: it keeps saying the same things over and over (monarchy as an old institution that miraculously thrives in the twenty-first century) without going deep.
Still, an interesting read for those who are interested in this very illogical (nowadays) institution.
May 14, 2015 Kirsten rated it really liked it
This is a clever kick in the pants, with plenty of dry British wit and chock full of interesting little details. He basically assumes that you know enough about the current British royal family to keep up (you know, you're a well-educated adult who reads the newspaper) - but also talks about a lot of other European monarchs. If you're at all interested in royalty, you'll like this one.
Aug 15, 2007 Becky rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
For some reason, I am strangely interested in royalty. I have no idea why, but it just boggles my mind that this system still exists. I find the kings and queen of history to be so exciting, mainly because they got away with it (for the most part). This book examines are obsession with royalty and what it takes to be royal (either good or bad, doesn't matter).
Sep 26, 2008 Meaghan rated it liked it
Paxman might have called this "On British Royalty," since he barely glances on the monarchs of other countries, and has absolutely nothing on any royalty not from Europe. He provides a stimulating and enlightening discussion on the solemn absurdity that is the British Royal Family, touching on historical figures as well. I was impressed.
OK read..nothing special. I started this with much expectation after reading Jeremy P's The English which is a classic and was disappointed as this one on royalty (not just the British royalty but the institution of Royalty) is not in that league at all. Easy read with lots of anecdotes on members of royalty through the ages but nothing which stays with you after you have finished it..
Jun 12, 2007 M2 rated it liked it
A fun romp throught he world of European royalty from its origins to the present. Paxman's style is pleasantly anecdotal and non-polemic. His conculsions are surprising comong from a BBC newsreader -- that he'd rather have an imperfect but strictly ceremonial head of state in the form of a king or queen than a dangerously powerful combination of prime minister and head of state.
David R.
Nov 08, 2015 David R. rated it liked it
Paxman doesn't seem very infatuated with the British royalty and dishes out a fair amount of criticism of the institution. This one is a fairly candid look at the current lot, some less than stellar forebears, and the current thinking on the future of the British monarchy.
Rufusgermanicus Meelberg
Everything you've ever wanted to know about the royal families of Europe. The whole thing, from beginning to end, is rediculously amusing, and the author skewers both the Royals, and the common people that are obsessed with them.
Viki Allen
Apr 13, 2015 Viki Allen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the subject could have been dry and stuffy, Paxman is able to make a detailed enough book on the royal family and our viewpoint on them. The book is a joy to read and thought provoking in places.
Rebecca Huston
Feb 07, 2011 Rebecca Huston rated it really liked it
A very tongue in cheek and at times, smarmy look at monarchy. Still fun to read, however. Only problem for me -- far too much about Princess Diana.

For the longer review, please go here:
Jul 21, 2011 Adele rated it it was ok
I enjoyed some of the insights into the daily lives of members of the current British royal family, but many of them I already knew, and there were some longish philosophical passages about whether the monarchy should still exist that made me fall asleep.
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Jeremy Dickson Paxman is a British journalist, author and television presenter. He has worked for the BBC since 1977. He is noted for a forthright and abrasive interviewing style, particularly when interrogating politicians. His regular appearances on the BBC2's Newsnight programme have been criticised as aggressive, intimidating, condescending and irreverent, and applauded as tough and incisive.
More about Jeremy Paxman...

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