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On Royalty

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  320 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Jeremy Paxman discusses how the role of our head of state has changed over the years and what the implications have been. With characteristic intelligence and humour, he looks at every aspect of the monarchy and how it has related to politics, religion, the military and the law.
Published February 1st 2007 by Viking (first published 2006)
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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
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"?
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.
Leaves you wondering why we take royalty seriously at all. Another lightweight book from JP but very enjoyable reading about this bizarre institution.
Interesting subject that's completely sunk by a mostly dry, boring delivery. Too bad.
Simon Howard
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
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
Borislava Velkova
Високообразователно (оттук научих например, че преди ДНК анализа самоличността се е установявала чрез сравняване на уши; че "наш" Фердинанд е бил забърсан за бг престол в няква виенска бирария, както и всички пикантни подробности около обезглавяването на Чарлс I), а на доста места и силно забавлително четиво (да речем, първа глава започва със следния цитат от Монтен: "Дори на най-високия трон на този свят можем да поставим единствено своя задник."), представляващо един "опит да разберем по какъв ...more
Haythem Bastawy
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
Frank O'connor
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
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
Kayla Tornello
I was underwhelmed by this book. The title caught my eye, but the writing was disorganized and rambling and I got bored early on. It was an interesting topic, but the execution didn't do it justice.
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
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 Crowley
Jan 22, 2008 Chris Crowley rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
Eric Mccutcheon
Definitely more of a book geared toward British readers about the state of their own monarchy and not so much about the system in general. It has some interesting moments but nothing more.
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
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..
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.

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.
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).
Marco Filippo
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rebecca Huston
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:
Jun 01, 2008 Marissa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
On odd but enjoyable blend of critique, how-to, and ultimately...endorsement. But despite that, even Hitchens liked it and I enjoyed it as well, though would have liked less British focus.
This was a very enjoyable read and the perfect book to read just before the Royal Wedding on Friday. Jeremy Paxman provided a very interesting mix of history, anecdotes and insider trivia.
It is somewhat amusing but a third of the way in, it made me wish the book had been sorted differently- by era, country- something other than by theme. It was all over the place.
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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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