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Royal Babylon: The Alarming History of European Royalty
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Royal Babylon: The Alarming History of European Royalty

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  791 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
An uproarious, eye-opening history of Europe's notorious royal houses that leaves no throne unturned and will make you glad you live in a democracy.

Do you want to know which queen has the unique distinction of being the only known royal kleptomaniac? Or which empress kept her dirty underwear under lock and key? Or which czar, upon discovering his wife's infidelity, had her
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 29th 2001 by Broadway Books (first published 1999)
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May 20, 2010 Lynne-marie rated it did not like it
I went into this hoping for some good factual evicence about the aristocracy, but found only a foaming of the mouth and as much history as the average reader of European history would gather in miscellaneous readings. That the author has a grudge is so obvious it's beyond painful -- it makes the book one to miss
Isa Lavinia
Disturbingly disrespectful and ignorant about mental illness, its myriad documented causes, and its sufferers.
I was expecting salacious rumours and funny factoids, not the mocking of those with diagnosed illnesses (like porphyria) and their dismissal as "mad" but amusing.

Not even bothering to mention all the factual errors about several royals.
Kagama-the Literaturevixen
Oct 12, 2012 Kagama-the Literaturevixen rated it did not like it
I started reading this book thinking it would be an entertaining retelling of the shocking conduct of the royals.

Instead what I got was a tirade against monarchy,thinly veiled as absolute fact.

I can only assume that this author doesnt believe his readers know anything of history,since he continues spewing out hateful commentds

The author also makes several fact errors,for example in one instance confusing a mother and daughter and in another stating a rumor as fact.The list could go on...

And befo
Dec 25, 2011 Jenn rated it liked it
Again with the lack of footnotes! If this book is to be believed, there hasn't been a sober or sane monarch in all of Europe since the Tudors. However, it's an incredibly interesting read.
Got syphilis? Maybe a little touch of gonorrhea? No problem, you're a king!

Having an adulterous affair are you? Well, if you're the king it's o.k., but if you're just the lowly queen, it's grounds for divorce. Or maybe we'll just ship you off to a convent or an asylum.

Whats that you say? Oh, you're just insane - no biggie, you're still of noble birth.

Um, what do you mean you're a commoner!? Well that, we simply cannot abide!

After all, we must draw the line somewhere...

Therein lies the tone of
Mary Overton
The Onion version of European royalty, except that the stories are true. History can be morbidly fun. Reading this is like watching a gruesome accident -- you are horrified but can't look away.
Some highlights, from a book that is all highlights:
Frederick William I of Prussia (b1688-d1740) whose hobby was collecting tall men for his Potsdam Giant Guards. "The recruits were press-ganged from his own country, or were bought or kidnapped from all over the world. The Prussian King was prepared to sp
Read it in translation - many factual and grammar errors. It is interesting, sometimes funny, but also sometimes disrespectful. I couldn't love it, but also couldn't put it down.
Jul 26, 2013 Maxine rated it did not like it
I decided to read "Royal Babylon" because of my lifelong interest in royalty, mainly British; but I'm quite well informed on most other European royalty as well.

I expected a generous helping of salacious "factoids" and gossipy hearsay, although the author did supply a rather surprisingly extensive bibliography. What I didn't expect was the mean-spirited attitude of the author, whose style can only be described as snarky.

I'm well aware that many royals throughout history have been far from nobl
Maddie Buckner
Jan 01, 2015 Maddie Buckner rated it it was ok
As I was reading this book, with every single turn of a page, the whole entire time I was thinking 'What is wrong with these people?!' Every single King, Queen, Duke, Lady, every single person affiliated with Royalty was just sick, deformed, had some horrible disease, slept with and/or married someone in their family, or was grossly obese!! Honestly, something is wrong here! It was sickening! Yet, this book drew me in for some reason. As nasty and wrong was this book was, it also drew me in . I ...more
Jul 16, 2013 Miriam rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book read pretty quickly, but it did get redundant after a while. It was interesting but repetitive after a while, and the lack of footnotes made it hard for me to take his claims seriously. The organization was also a little disjointed. It did make me want to read an actual history book about some of these people, so that made it worthwhile. I would probably give it 2 1/2 starts if that were an option, but it is not one I will be rereading.
May 07, 2009 Sarah rated it it was ok
It was quite interesting overall, but the author bounced around a lot from monarch to monarch and not in any particular order. I think I would have liked it better if Karl Shaw had been more affectionate instead of contemptuous about his 'subjects' and if he'd maybe put it in a different order that was more orderly. Also, considering Queen Vic is on the cover, she is barely mentioned which I thought was a bit odd.
Jan 13, 2013 Sabrina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There were many times I thought the author added useless comments that didn't support his assessments and were fillers rather than worthwhile information worthy of the readers time. Certainly not what I would consider a historically accurate deep dive but rather a surface-layer portrayal. Great book if you are a history novice but not for a history buff.
Jan 01, 2009 Liana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This has entirely changed the concept of "someday my prince will come", if he does come he won't be Disney's clean cut Prince Charming, he will be a toothless, hunchbacked, insane mongloid and his future wife will look exactly the same, since they are kissin' cousin's. This is exactly my kind of book!
Oct 11, 2011 Liz rated it liked it
The concept was great, but the book was poorly edited and hard to follow. It was difficult to keep the monarchs straight. Additionally, the formatting - separate sections within chapters for different events - was not very readable. A continuous narrative would have been more coherent.
Jan 25, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Is there such a thing as trashy historical non-fiction? If so, then this fits the bill - short chapters on the infamous (and sometimes disgusting) monarchies of Europe. Sex, drugs, murder, and syphillis ....
May 05, 2012 Mandy rated it it was amazing
i loved this book. I have read a lot on british royals but i have to say, i was rather disturbed at just how nuts and inbred they really were. basically the inbreeding did not stop til charles married diana. thank god elizabeth II children has finally stopped reproducing with their cousins!
Melissa Bates
Dec 20, 2012 Melissa Bates rated it it was ok
After the 8th chapter I figured it out: incest, syphilis, and ca-razy people. At first it was entertaining and slightly enlightening but the same formula over and over got dry.
Ian Wood
Apr 11, 2015 Ian Wood rated it did not like it
This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here. Graphic and children's reviews on the blog typically feature two or three images from the book's interior, which are not reproduced here.

Note that I don't really do stars. To me a book is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate it three-
Jun 13, 2013 Buffy rated it it was amazing
It was quite interesting to learn about the darker side of these people who affected the lives of so many. When I think of princes, princesses, kings and queens my mind conjures up noble people who are committed to ruling their countries. Obviously, I knew that many of them were corrupt and prone to indulging in their desires, whatever they may be, but I still usually think of them as being very wise. Or at least more intelligent than the average person. As I read this book, it became apparent t ...more
Dec 21, 2016 Chris rated it it was ok
An impulse read promoted on my library shelf, and I have regrets. I suppose there's some entertainment here if you can swallow the writer's snarky attitude and overlook the total lack of substantiation for the allegations. I feel queasy.
Christopher Roth
Feb 12, 2015 Christopher Roth rated it it was amazing
A jolly good read, well researched, and very snarky. Genealogical charts are good--there's nothing more infuriating than a book about royalty *without* genealogical charts--but they should have been more thorough. If you're going to bother, then include everyone mentioned in the text.

One of the things that stands out here is that, among all the debauched, degraded, depraved royals, when you get to the Russians--Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, etc.--then when in every aspect--sexual devianc
Jun 06, 2007 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the real life of the European Royals throughout the ages, not just the fantasy
Shelves: greatreads
Good stuff. It is quite a long read as it is filled with information and spans generations of the 5 major houses of Europe. At points, without a strong background in European History, it was hard to keep track of who was who, in relation to the modern English Monarchy. But the book is amazingly entertaining and eye-opening. As a coworker said, if they taught this reality in schools, kids would actually be interested and excited about history.

Did you know that almost every royal had a harem of mi
Jul 05, 2012 Krystal rated it liked it
Karl Shaw writes history for the people who love the gory details and the gossip. His prose is irreverent and amusing. In "Royal Babylon", he writes about the notable European royals of the last three centuries. More specifically, he writes about their many flaws: insanity, in-breeding, philandering, over-spending, corruption, etc.

A warning: Don't read Shaw's works with a hawk's eye for perfect detail and reference. He does not do foot notes. He provides a bibliography, but not cites within cha
Sep 13, 2013 Kayla rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book and thought it was fascinating to see a 'behind the curtain' look at some of the world's most famous royals. I have always enjoyed history and reading about royals. For some reason it has always just fascinated me. The best thing about this book is that you can basically start at any chapter you like - you can skip around, read only a couple doesn't matter. I really liked that, although I read it from cover to cover.

At parts throughout the book you'll see a 'sn
I'm really looking forward to reading this book; I've been following various monarchies for ages, but I know the European ones best...and naturally, they're cesspools teeming with all kinds of bizarre factoids. :) Which, coincidentally, Shaw is excellent at capturing in quite succinct prose. :)

I'm having an exhausting time with this one, though, for partly the same reason as with Royal Scandals, but this one is a bit more difficult because Shaw doesn't supply all the helpful charts & stuff.
Jul 23, 2012 Kathy rated it liked it
There were a lot of crazy facts in this book, but not having a good historical knowledge really kept me from enjoying this book fully. Also, the way that it is organized is hard to follow. The author jumps around sometimes. Other times he just assumes you know certain things that probably not many Americans know. There should probably be a special edition that is published in the us with a glossary or appendix to give details of how royalty works and give some historical background. I ended up l ...more
George Ilsley
Oct 05, 2015 George Ilsley rated it it was ok
An effort to sensationalize centuries of royal scandals. Very quick to judge people as "insane" (anyone who is rich and powerful can easily be seen as insane). Very hard to follow at places, as the threads of history become tangled, and Shaw tries to cram as much scandal and inferences as possible into every sentence.

From the timing of this publication (1999) it appears to be attempt to cash in on Diana's death and the scrutiny of the royal family that ensued. Read from today's perspective, the
This is one of the broadest accounts of European (and some others) royalty throught the ages, which is nice because most focus exclusively on Britain. I love the history here but I found the content to be a bit disorganized and repetitive. Still, if you are interested in the effects of inbreeding, the Royal line and how they're all related to each other to this day or just interested in European royal history, I recommend this book.
Apr 11, 2012 Traci rated it liked it
This was entertaining for the most part... I knew a lot of the little tidbits already and they made me chuckle. Towards the end, however, I found myself less willing to read the book because it felt repetitive. I started to skim through sections because I was sick of reading about Kings having dozens of affairs and raping women like it was a rite of passage (while on the flip-side if the wife had an affair she was divorced and sent packing... it only seems fair). Jerks.
Nov 19, 2007 Meaghan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: royalty buffs
This is not meant to be an in-depth look at the entire lives of European royals, only at their flaws -- and they had a lot of them. This book was well-researched and deeply absorbing, and in addition to covering the usual suspects in France and England, it went into detail about the more obscure German and Italian royals. It's full of titillating tales that would make for good, if slightly disgusting, cocktail party conversation. I recommend!
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