'Totally gripping - a factually accurate version of 1066 And All That' - Boris Johnson
Gimson’s Kings and Queens whirls us through the lives of our monarchs - from 1066 and William the Conqueror right up to Queen Elizabeth II and the present-day - to tell a tale of bastardy, courage, conquest, brutality, vanity, vulgarity, corruption, anarchy, absenteeism, piety, nobility, divorce, execution, civil war, madness, magnificence, profligacy, frugality, philately, abdication, dutifulness, family breakdown and family recovery.
Written in Andrew Gimson’s inimitable style, and illustrated by Martin Rowson, Gimson’s Kings and Queens is both a primer and a refresher for anyone who can't quite remember which were the good and bad Edwards or Henrys, or why so-and-so succeeded to the throne rather than his second cousin.
Published in August 2015, to coincide with the moment (in September) when Elizabeth II will (barring accident or shock abdication) become the longest-serving English monarch ever, Gimson’s Kings and Queens will be the most entertaining and instructive book on the English monarchy you will ever read.
I bought this book upon the realisation that I knew very little about most of my country's monarchs. Although my schooling covered the Tudors in some depth, most of the other monarchs other than our recently departed Queen remained a mystery to me. This is a book that you can judge by the cover as Gimson does as he promises and delivers brief biographies of every monarch. What I enjoyed about the book was Gimson's humorous tone and the fact you can tell through his writing that he has a genuine love of the subject. Although I personally would've liked to have known more about most of the topics covered that wasn't the aim of the book. My one gripe was I found some of the entries to be repetitive as Gimson would often cover the succession of a monarch both in their biography and that of their predecessor. What I did enjoy was the final reflective paragraph on how our now King Charles will handle the role of monarch. This even more poignant given his mother's recent passing and I did get slightly emotional reading the entry on Elizabeth II. It would be remiss of me not to mention the brilliant illustrations from Martin Rowson which enhanced Gimson's writing style perfectly. Overall I received the education I wanted from this book and am eager to learn more. The biggest recommendation I can give here is to say that, based on this book, I've purchased Gimson's tomes on British Prime Ministers and US presidents, which will be the next two books in my challenge.
Overall it was an enjoyable book and had a good range of factual detail despite being able to maintain its purpose of being brief. The book contains many different extracts from other sources, whether it be from the words or writings of people living at the time of the specific monarch, which accompanies the author’s descriptions well. My only negative opinion about the book is that it can get confusing, especially if you read many pages at once as you could be reading through decades or even centuries of history in one session. However, there is a detailed family tree which can be used to stop some of this confusion and can be regularly referred back to. Finally, the images at the beginning of each chapter not only match the witty tone but also give even more detail to the reader and helps to introduce the next monarch.
Review - A very interesting short history of the English monarchy. What really attracted me to this particular history when I flicked through it in the shop was the caricatures that top each monarch's personal history. It really gives a sense of the characters of the people behind the monarchs and what their most memorable characteristics were. The history itself is quite detailed for such a short book, and covers all the major points for each monarch. The only addition I can think of is a bibliography to outline the best further reading for each monarch, that way it encourages further reading and research.
General Subject/s? - Plantagenets / History / Tudors / Stuarts / Windsor / Victorians / Hanoverians / Georgians / Wars of the Roses / Monarchy
Having learnt nothing about the monarchy at school (in Texas, we focused on Texas history, surprise surprise), I was seeking a book to provide an accessible and historically accurate history of our kings and queens. This book filled that role ideally. I come out of it more knowledgeable than when I went in, with a top level understanding of the thread that spun the English, British, and European monarchies together and their impact on our everyday lives. Tidbits of facts will be remembered, such as the reason men leave the bottom button on waistcoats undone is because Edward VII became too fat to do his up and the people imidated him out of loyalty. My only complaint is that some of the chapters seemed to focus more on the monarch's court or children rather than the monarch themself.
Good, but I did not like it as much as his Brief Lives of Prime Ministers. Occasionally he mistakenly strayed into "1066 and All That" territory, a humorous take on British History. The problem is that condensing an average reign of 24 years with events leading up to that reign is difficult in an average of 7 pages per Monarch. But like the "Prime Minister" book it is a good quick reference. It amazes me that the Monarchy made it through the reigns of King George I-IV all either disinterested or incompetent (and the slightly less inept) William III.
Disappointing. I bought this book whilst reading his Brief Lives of US Presidents which I found really interesting. This, however, as an earlier piece is a let down. His USP is being under 250 pages and this is a big mistake as it sacrifices a fair and comprehensive assessment of each monarch - his chapter on Mary I is especially simplistic and poor, totally adhering to stereotypes and failing to incorporate more recent revisionist historiography that has revived her reputation.
This book was soooooo good!! Loved it from start to finish. If you are interested in the monarchy as much as I am you will like this book. It’s a great introduction to each of the monarchs, giving you a brief history and then if one fuels your interest you can find other books to give you more information. The illustrations were just fantastic!
I liked the writing, found it a very easy read with fairly short chapters to. Personally I think this is one of the best brief history on the monarchy books I’ve read. Highly recommended
Really enjoyable read. I should have studied history but dropped it in favour of geography for GCSE. This is something I genuinely regret. But, school was twenty years ago, and I read so I decided to get a good overview of the Kings and Queens of England via this book.
It's excellent. Thoroughly researched, well written, with all the unflinching detail of people who never thought they'd be judged by the general population. I am now armed with enough information that the next time my buddy asks me which one exploded his way into the grave, I know.
An absolutely first-rate, modern and upbeat interpretation of the British Monarchy and its evolution; it showcases a brief history of each monarch and their virtues and vices. It also serves well as another attempt at explaining the key to the Monarchy’s survival and its success in pushing through even the most testing times such as the interregnum and the abdication of Edward VIII. I hope it will serve me as a worthy source in writing my dissertation.
Love this book. Informative and easy to read. Contained not only the important facts, but the more entertaining snippets of information such as which monarch was the first to name Great Britain, the first to eat ice cream, who created Eaton and Cambridge Colleges and what happened to the thieves who tried to steal the crown jewels. Great for those who don't want a heavy detailed account of who's who and who did what, but just what I need when I read a lot of history fiction and need to brush up on where I am in the timeline. Definitely recommend.
Exactly what it says and does it well. Short chapters on each monarch, full of facts, but written in an enjoyable and humorous style. I'm sure there will be details missing, but as the title says brief and gives you the joy of researching the ones you more specifically want to know about. The illustration for each chapter added to the style brilliantly and I'm sure this is a book I will dip into again and again for a quick refresher on 'which King was that again?'
I started out getting very cross when he seemed to present speculation as solid fact - I don't think it's certain how Robert of Normandy met William the Conqueror's mother - but it settled down into an entertaining and clear canter through British History. I took this out of the library, and liked it so much I bought a copy. High praise!
3.5 stars. I bought this in Battle, as after the Hastings tour I realised I didn’t know much about our kings and queens (apart from the Tudor’s and Stuart’s). The UK has amazing royal history, and although I can’t promise to remember all of it. I have a much better understanding of how we got to the royal family we have today.
Good overview of the royalty of Great Britain and Ireland. There were a few scenarios and facts that I didn't particularly know about. Interesting for someone who maybe doesn't know a lot about UK history of kings and queens.
Looks like a children's book, or a whimsical take on the royals, but it combines a light-hearted style with factually correct info, and as such is very well done. Not perhaps a book to read from cover to cover, but rather one to dip into every now and then and to come back to when.
I’ve been really enjoying watching Victoria the past couple of weeks and have recently started watching The Tudors which follows Henry VIII. I find myself looking up facts whilst watching to see how accurate the programmes are, but the main thing I look up is who proceeded and succeeded each monarch. What relation was everyone to everyone? I came across this book which detailed all the monarchs in order of succession from 1066 up to our current Queen, Elisabeth II. So, I thought it would be the perfect read for the reading challenge category: A book about history or set in the past. This is a very easy to read account of all of the monarchs; the only confusing parts are the events that occurred. I got a little confused with some of the battles and all of the names being mentioned. It was relatively easy to keep up with the family tree sides of things, though, which is exactly what I wanted. It was astonishing to read that we’ve not had that many successful or liked monarchs and astounds me that so many could just be thrown off the thrown. The monarchs of days past certainly had more of an influence over the country and more control over how it was run. This has certainly dwindled in more recent times, and they now have to remain more impartial and let the government run the country for them. I can’t image a revolution nor the Queen being overthrown and losing the crown in battle in this modern era (but maybe when Charles is King?). The crown brings a lot to our country, and it has taken me until I’m in my 40s to really appreciate the Royal Family and to understand everything that they do and the revenue that they create. I’m glad we have such a long-standing history and that it continues to this day after so many countries have lost their royals long ago. This book was a great insight into the timelines and family tree, how there are different surnames throughout history, and what each monarch brought to the throne. A brilliant read, and at only 258 pages I really easy-read that doesn’t bog you down with too many unnecessary details.
This is a great and easy red for those who want a quick introduction to British history and the lives of some truly fascinating and important historic people. It's factual and correct, although a bit over the top royalist when it comes to the twentieth century. A short intro to monarchs and their contribution to history and world events, and how it has formed our current day.