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The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England, Revised and Updated

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,788 ratings  ·  104 reviews
This essential reference is a concise, accessible guide to the great dynasties of English royalty. A collection of biographical sketches that encompasses the period from the establishment of monarchical power by the early Norman kings through the reign of Elizabeth II, The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England tells the stories of many monarchs and their colorful lives— ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 25th 1998 by University of California Press (first published January 1st 1975)
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Jan 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Amusingly, and hardly surprisingly, this became much more conservative as it got closer to the current day. One author even goes so far as to look back longingly at the golden age of the past when people didn’t get divorced and newspapers didn’t print stories about the love lives of the royals. I guess this book knows its audience – I mean, you are probably most likely to read a book by this title if you think the monarchy is a good thing and are a conservative old fool in a nursing home (or a c ...more
Sep 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: british-history
I'm still trying to find a very good reference guide for British monarchs - this isn't it. Though on line reviews of the book are usually favorable one person said this just doesn't work for someone who reads a lot on the subject and they we're right. They did avoid a lot of controversy and tried to see both good and bad in some reigns which I think is just too unbiased. Some reigns were utter failures. I don't know who wrote the section on the Tudors, but it was pretty bad. Especially the secti ...more
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really informative and enjoyable read. Story being the essence of history (of good history, at any rate), this collection of biographical essays chronicling the lives of each of England's rulers (post 1066 - pre Norman monarchs are not dealt with here) makes for a very engaging and illuminating tour of English history as a whole. I got this volume at a used library sale a number of years ago and have frequently skimmed various parts. But after watching The King’s Speech and being also ...more
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020
Condensing the lives of more than nine centuries' worth of monarchs into one single volume of under 400 pages is no small task. What this collection of concise portraits of every single English king and queen regnant from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II by various authors lacks in depth, it makes up for in breadth. The authors try to convey a balanced account of both the most celebrated and the most maligned among their subjects and generally succeed in this venture. An informative, short ...more
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's very entertaining to learn about the highlights of the lives of every king and queen in England as written by a modern writer with a modern sense of humor. It also makes me feel really smart to be able to talk about the accomplishments made by random kings and queens like Edward III (Reign: 1327-1377) or Queen Anne (Reign: 1702-1714). There were gradual advances toward the establishment and reliance on parliament and a prime minister. It's also amazing how many gay kings there were. Within ...more
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anglophiles
Profiles of the personalities of each monarch from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II. Historical details themselves, such as the American Revolution, are mentioned briefly in context of the overall reign (Cromwell is omitted entirely, for those wondering). I was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned; never did I find the material dry or boring - definitely recommended!
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good primer of British royal history and arcs across the different Houses (Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, Windsor, etc.). Written 20 years ago but I think the last two decades (with the exception of a number of royal weddings and births) have been relatively placid compared to the dramas and calamities witnesses by this longstanding “firm.” Enjoyable read!
Tara Lynn
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned very much from this book about the monarchs that I was less familiar with. A great overall brief exposure to the whole history of the British monarchy. I'm glad I read it. ...more
Nanette Williamson
Mar 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
A really interesting collection of essays about the British royal dynasties, part history, and partly just gossip. I enjoyed it and listened to it in part because it's read y one of my favorite narrators, Donada Peters. ...more
A sort of Cliff Notes for history of the British monarchy. Each king and queen is subject to a profile of main accomplishments and personality, usually with a choice quote. My ignorance was only mildly assuaged, but there was a nice sense of continuity over the centuries (with only gap the effective rule of Oliver Cromwell). The noble ones who loved their subjects interspersed with the ones who were power mad, or just mad, and other who only wanted to make and spend their money on luxury or sin. ...more
This was a little more in depth than The Tudor Treasury, which was good but sometimes it was a bit dense, but maybe that's just me! Also I liked that it went beyond just the Tudor Monarchs because I wanted to read about James I and VI too as he's Mary, Queen of Scots' son, so that was pretty interesting. I would definitely recommend this if you're looking to read up on British Monarchs, as it goes from 1066 right up to Elizabeth II. ...more
Ashley Birk
Jul 17, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not written by Antonia Fraser, merely edited by her. It is not anywhere close to her usual standards of writing. If you're an Antonia Fraser fan, I suggest skipping this one. ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Good reference book.
Andrew Canfield
May 01, 2022 rated it liked it
The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England provides brief biographical sketches of nine centuries worth of English monarchs. The book starts with William the Conqueror's 1066 invasion and briskly move through the ongoing reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Readers looking for reference material on the island's Anglo-Saxon days do be aware that they will need to look elsewhere.

There is as much, if not more, attention paid to the familial and personal aspects of England's kings and queens as there is t
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-royal

In the Introduction, Antonia Fraser quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson, saying, "There is no history, only biography," which sums up this book nicely, as it is concerned just with the biographies of the monarchs of England, not with the history around them, and the quote does make a good point that human history is simply made up of biographies of people. But this book is just about the people who worn the British crown from William I to Queen Elizabeth II.

I loved the section on the Plantagenets, the Tu
Jan 12, 2022 rated it really liked it
There really is no wonder that so many works of historical fiction have been based around the lives of various Kings and Queens of England! (For example, the wonderful Wolf Hall trilogy) I had thought that perhaps these non fiction accounts of the English monarchy from the Normans through to the current Elizabeth II might be a bit dry . . . but far from it! Nearly every individual biography is filled with drama of one sort or another! There is intrigue, greed, arrogance, defection, conspiracy, a ...more
Gal Amir
Oct 11, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely bad history book. It is composed of short biographies of English monarchs. One may think they lived and operated in a vacuum. There is not the slightest consideration of technological, economical, societal and other factors. The industrial revolution is not mentioned. The black plague is briefly mentioned. Dynasties, battles and religious differences are discussed in some detail, but these discussions are pointless without any mention of the societies in which the dynasties quarraled, ...more
Tori Douglass
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m obsessed with this book. I love history but the blood, gore, and torture of the Dark Ages has always been a little hard to stomach. This book doesn’t focus on those specific aspects at all, giving only a fun and fascinating run down of each monarch. Mainly it focuses on dates, conflicts (because English royalty lol), marriages, births, along side some very intriguing bits of palace gossip. I’ll definitely read this again.
Feb 22, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have never been overly interested in the kings and queens of England but thought this was a gap in my knowledge of history, so this book was a great overview of each potentate starting with William the Conqueror (1066) up to Elizabeth II. Antonia gives a fair overview of any strengths and weaknesses in each ruler. Unfortunately when it comes to the current queen she refuses to identify any weaknesses other than that of her children. Perhaps time will give perspective.
David Parker
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. I re-read it all the time, usually when I'm trying to get to sleep. I know that sounds like the opposite of a good recommendation, but there's something restful and comforting about reading a short but excellently written and edited biographical sketch of some British monarch. If you're interested in the subject it's a great handy reference. And good for insomnia. ...more
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! A lot of stuff in here that I did not know.

Books like this are what make me love History so much. Antonia Fraser knows how to write a fact based book without having it sound like some text book the teacher is pushing on you in junior high school.

If you are a history lover like me and are curious to know how Great Britain became Great Britain, this is a great place to start!
Lisa Hall
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A compendium of the rulers of England beginning with William the Conqueror. Compendium may not quite be the right word. There isn't a lot of depth, but you're given enough of each ruler in order to get a general grasp of who they were and what they did to pin them to memory. Great if you're just starting out with British history. ...more
Karen Terney
Sep 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was very interesting. I didn’t know much about the English dynasties. Is it sad that there is comfort knowing the world has survived really terrible rulers many times? And, people have given their lives for really awful rulers who used them for their own purposes without guilt. History does repeat itself.
Mar 03, 2022 rated it liked it
Enjoyable enough though it does contain some historical inaccuracies which some of my fellow reviewers have already remarked upon.

I felt that it was to quick in describing some of the monarchs but that is probably because I can never get enough of Henry VIII (and more specifically, connected with Henry, Anne Boleyn), Elizabeth I, the Four Georges etc
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that I have had for a long time (1977), and which I have read and also dipped into at different times when I want a history of a time in England. I have found it to be a good resource, although limited as all these short histories are.
Michael P.
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Written by experts on their subjects, this is a great introduction to the sweep on the English monarchy. I was flabbergasted at how few degrees separate George III, who lost America, and Queen Victoria. Well, she did live a very long time.
I listened to this book. The writing was solid throughout and I felt it did a good job including sufficient detail within such a broad swath of history. It was good to be reminded of the reigns about which I had read before and to have an introduction to the eras I need to learn more about.
Tom Schulte
With a few pages on each sovereign arranged chronologically, this feels a bit like I image those books generated from Wikipedia content. I doubt if I will ever be able to separate the Williams, Henrys, Georges, and Edwards in my mind...
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Given to me by my grandparents, I remember reading it from cover to cover. Before essays were a part of my life. Ahh... Those were the days!
Andi Towner
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like history and enjoy learning about British royal family this is the book for you.
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Antonia Fraser is the author of many widely acclaimed historical works, including the biographies Mary, Queen of Scots (a 40th anniversary edition was published in May 2009), Cromwell: Our Chief of Men, King Charles II and The Gunpowder Plot (CWA Non-Fiction Gold Dagger; St Louis Literary Award). She has written five highly praised books which focus on women in history, The Weaker Vessel: Women's ...more

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