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Royal Panoply: Brief Lives of the English Monarchs
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Royal Panoply: Brief Lives of the English Monarchs

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  796 ratings  ·  68 reviews
From medieval conqueror to Renaissance  autocrat to Victorian Empress to modern melodrama, Royal Panoply  is the story of some of the most fascinating people in world history.

With her trademark blend of probing scholarship, lively prose, and psychological insight, Carolly Erickson focuses on each monarch’s entire life---from the puny, socially awkward Charles I, to the cho
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2003)
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3.96  · 
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 ·  796 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Jill Hutchinson
If you know your history of the British monarchy, you probably won't find much new in this book which covers the Kings/Queens from William I to the present monarch, Elizabeth II. I must admit that there were a few "iffy" statements regarding some monarchs' sexual preferences which I don't believe have ever been verified by historians. Other than that, each ruler is profiled (with paintings added which you can bet looked nothing like the subject) in a few pages highlighting their successes, quirk ...more
Greg Strandberg
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is a really good book if you want to know a little on each of England's 40 monarchs. For the most part, these were bad people. Most of them drank too much, spent way too much money, and had all kinds of sexual affairs. A lot of them neglected their duties so they could collect art, for instance. It's really no surprise that the people took more and more power back over the years.

There were some good monarchs, but I'd say that of the 40, only 10 or so had really redeeming qualities and help
Oct 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I've read many books about the English monarchy, being an Anglophile and all that, but this is the best, most entertaining one-volume summation of all the Kings and Queens in order. There's just the right amount of information on each for an overview, and Carolly gets into the psychology and early lives (to the extent possible) about many of them, rare in most histories. Highly recommended if you want to get a walking familiarity with a thousand years of English history.
This is an extremely handy reference book for the Royal Monarchs from William II to Elizabeth II.
Susan Liston
The more you know about a subject the nitpicky-er you get, and there were some strange "facts" here that I know are just either not true or not known. (Which of course makes me wonder what else is wrong that I didn't catch because I don't know.) One example, she says that the bones of Richard III were dug up and thrown into the River Soar during the time of Henry VIII. ? I've never even heard that one before, no "perhaps", "no rumor has it", no "legend says" no "allegedly", a statement of fact. ...more
I started reading this book because I have a few ancestors who were medieval British monarchs and wanted to learn more about them. (I can't say that I am proud of this heritage now that I know more about them.) I liked that the author gave a brief summary of each king or queen's life. Short enough to fit in an average of 8 pages, but detailed enough to give some insight into their personalities. By the last third of the book I was getting pretty bored. Not so much a reflection of the author or h ...more
Charlene Vickers
Feb 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
Lots of historical blunders here, and some jarring quirks in diction and syntax. For example, Ericksen confuses the words "homosexual" and "homoerotic"; although this is often deliberate among the Pat Robertson/Rick Santorum crowd, here it seems (or at least I hope it is) inadvertent. That's the most striking (and the post potentially teeth-grinding) example, but there are others.

As for the factual errors I mentioned, here's a bunch from one biography: Richard I wasn't gay. He's known to have ha
Great for anyone intersted in learning about the English Monarchs, but not wanting to spend an eternity reading all the biographies that are out there about them. Each one has a 5-10 page summary. Having read other bios on a few of them, Carolly Erickson pointed out other aspects of their lives and reigns that other biographers didn't mention. She was decent to Richard III. That's why she got three stars. If she had been better, it would have been higher.
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I checked this out at the library just to skim and use as a source of reference. But when I started reading it, I couldn't stop and didn't want to even skip a paragraph. The author took British History that could be so dull and gave it life. If you are interested in the monarchy, I highly recommend this book.
Mar 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
A fairly interesting group of short bios of British kings from William I to Elizabeth II.
Yasmin Halliwell Fraser Bower
Brief lifes of the English Monarchs is a compilation of biographies of all the monarchs, being each one explained briefly in 10 pages. I honestly thought this book was gonna leave a lot of things out, because there are a lot of Kings & Queens and not too many pages, but it was actually a flat book. It did not explain the essence of the person. For example, Henry VII? It didn't specify why or how many wifes he killed and it was relevant in his story.

So, for me this book was a little too shal
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Engaging, short biographies of all of the English monarchs, how they came to power, their personalities & pitfalls. Well-written, though at times repetitive with information when discussing the history that led to the fall of one monarch and the rise of another, which some may actually find helpful. The only thing that would have helped would have been the addition of family trees to help visualize lineage.
Jo Clark
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 2nd time I've read this book. I've loved it both times. A very entertaining way to learn more about the English Monarchy. I've enjoyed other history books by Carolly too. I'd love to see her write a similar style of book following the Queens, wives and mothers in more detail, even though it would probably be double the volume!
Nicole B
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in lives of English monarchs
Excellent overview on the lives of all of England's monarchs starting with William the Conqueror. Each biography is brief but very informative. Would recommend to anyone looking to get a general understanding of the lives of English monarchs.
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this though I suspect that some artistic licence has been taken i.e. the location of the body of Richard III being different from what is now known (under a carpark).
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
That was a great overview of the English Monarchs! Very helpful in putting each reign in context. In future editions I hope they include family trees and perhaps a picture with each entry.
Carol Blakeman
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It really was a good overview of the modern kings and Queens of England.
Rebecca Dimond
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History nerds. I mean, buffs. ;D
For starters, I went in to the bookstore hoping to find a book about the extremely dysfunctional Habsburgs on the bargain book shelf. That was a fail; it seems that Barnes and Noble's bargain section is now filled to the brim with asinine, vapid trash - 400 page books about American muscle cars, self-help garbage, and craft books for kids (because when I was a kid, nothing excited me more than origami). They do, however, also carry an adequate selection of history books, though many of them focu ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great introduction on English royalty. It also filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. I always enjoy books with short sections like this that can lead me to exploring these areas more in depth. There is no through story here though - each chapter is mostly independent and I wonder if this would be better read slowly and casually as your interest in these Kings and queens come and go. It's definitely something I'm glad to have on a bookshelf to reference when I feel the need.
Aug 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
I’d love to start off this review by giving you an all-around basic idea about what the book is about, but there’s a lot more to this read than meets the eye. Unlike many of the other books that I enjoy for the pure pleasure of reading, Royal Panoply served much more than just this purpose.

Besides its impressive array of English monarchs beginning with William I all the way to Elizabeth II, this book features impressive details that go beyond simply describing royal lives, conquests and fates. C
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-books
This book gives thumbnail sketches of the kings and queens of England, from William the Conqueror to the current Elizabeth II. If you're looking for a book to teach you about English history through the lives of the monarchs, you should look elsewhere. Although the important events of each reign are mentioned, this book is really about the monarchs themselves. What Erickson does best is make them all human. Whether they've been vilified (i.e., King John of Robin Hood fame and Richard II) or lion ...more
Aug 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Glimpses of the lives of each of the British monarchs from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II. A great book for getting a basic idea of the highlights of each reign and popularly held opinions regarding each monarch and his/her life plus a few less well-known tidbits (to me) (little facts like when George I came to rule England all the general public knew of him was that he was a German general who had locked his beautiful wife in a tower for twenty years and killed her lover after he discove ...more
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am loving this book! I can't remember when I bought it or where I found it-I suspect in a homeschool catalog. It has an entry on each of the English monarchs and it is helping me tie the eras and their history together into an integrated whole! The only drawback that just glared at me was the last chapter on Queen Elizabeth. I really dislike history of current figures because they are still living their history. The section on Elizabeth II was written early to mid 2000's and is dated in its an ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm actually really interested in this book. It has came at quite the surprise because other than the mandatory reading in my british literature class I had never before shown an interest in the monarchs of England. That being said, Carolly Erickson's brilliant modern writing style and ability to to grasp the reader from page one has made this read quite enjoyable.

My only grievance thus far is with every chapter a new monarch is introduced and for the most part their heir (or in the case of a fe
Dec 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Being interested in history, and especially the history of the British monarchy, this was a areally helpful book. It was comprised of essays on each monarch, but the flow was great and easy to follow. It's crazy how the deaths of the eldest sons have affected the way the royal line has worked, as alluded to by Erickson herself in her introduction. There were so many deaths of "heirs to the throne" that it makes you wonder if destiny really does have a hand in things. What if Henry VIII's older b ...more
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fun to read, but kind of uneven. Each king or queen gets a brief entry, and there's a lot of interesting and sometimes scandalous facts included. However, sometimes things like exactly how the succession came to be aren't clear, assuming I think that the reader would already know. The author also seems pretty opinionated, saying things like that during the current queen's reign, regard for the monarchy was at the lowest level ever. That seems debatable---what about times like when Oliver Cromwel ...more
Dick Edwards
Apr 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a very useful and interesting book. Ms. Erickson has managed to include most of the relevant facts about each monarch, and made it very readable. My main criticism is that there should have been descendency charts covering all the monarchs. I also think that there was not enough emphasis on the importance of the Civil War that took place in the mid 17th century and the revolution that took place in 1688. Nevertheless, I plan on keeping this volume handy during future readings in English ...more
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: reference
In 331 pages the author covers every monarch from William the Conquerer to the present Queen. Although the bios are brief, I never had the sense that they were abridged versions of longer works. Each has a personal and illuminating aspect to it. 'They' say that it is much more difficult to write something succinct nuch as a short story than something longer such as a novel. In the non-fiction world, Carooly Erickson has succeeded inj producing 39 excellent short 'stories.'
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
This book was extremely helpful to me in my nonfiction project of investigating British monarchs. Thorough overview of each monarch with analysis included in the account. Probably too general for someone more expert, but a good fit for someone like me who wanted less than a full length biography.

The art in the book reflected the phases of history and art development and accentuated the content in a relevant and colorful manner.
This one is good if you want surface level details of the English royals, but that's not to say there aren't some really juicy ones in there, like James I's straight-up bad attitude throughout his entire reign and Edward VIII supporting Nazism, apparently (which, ew). Other than that, it's neither great nor terrible as far as non-fiction on the English royals goes. Just an interesting read to pass some time.
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Distinguished historian Carolly Erickson is the author of The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, The First Elizabeth, Great Catherine, Alexandra and many other prize-winning works of fiction and nonfiction. She lives in Hawaii.