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Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  508 ratings  ·  86 reviews
The royal household might be described as a domestic institution on a massive scale. Those in service to the monarch held traditional titles, and as with any large group working in close proximity, there were many feuds as well as considerable accomplishments. The stories told are interesting and illuminating about how the British monarchy works.
Hardcover, 402 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Basic Books (first published September 27th 2018)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
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 ·  508 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read Adrian Tinniswood's book on the Verney family and since that moment I have become a great fan of the Author. And his latest book does not disappoint readers who are interested in history and who have already gained some knowledge but would like to learn something about the details which are usually, but not always, left behind in the context of battles, fights for the crown and other historic developments. Adrian Tinniswood's takes a magnifying glass and looks for details which may not ha ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a mildly interesting but overall unremarkable book, with a title that doesn’t quite describe its content. While the book is billed as covering the workings of the British royal household over several centuries – from Elizabeth I to II – it seems to spend more time on the personal lives of the monarchs and royal families themselves. Also, the narrative seems to be determined by just whatever information is most available about each reign, which means it doesn’t trace consistent subjects t ...more
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not as good as the WSJ review made it out to be. I was expecting more on the actual logistics of running the royal household. There was some of that, to be sure, and it was interesting. But there was also a lot about backbiting, jealous courtiers that was far less interesting. Tinniswood chose to narrative the book chronologically (from Elizabeth to Elizabeth), but it seems like it would have been better to organize the material topically. His treatment did at least provide good summaries of the ...more
Moniek Bloks
Sep 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household takes a look at the workings of the royal household, above and below stairs. We begin with Queen Elizabeth I and end with the second Elizabeth 500 years later. I enjoyed the first parts of the book but as it also focusses heavily on the timeline and major events, which most will be familiar with, it can become rather repetitive. It became less and less about the workings of the households and more about the Kings and Queens inv ...more
Nov 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This was a fun and informative read, although was thematically and structurally scattered. Each chapter supposedly covers the following Royal's house life and the lives of servants, workers and administrators, however, the author mainly talks about whatever stories they think were interesting or gossipy for that monarch's reign. Sometimes the lives of the domestic workers intersect with the main points in each chapter. Other times the "domestic" aspect of the history feels shoehorned into the pi ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
So I am making an assumption here that most people who will pick this book up are interested in British history and/or the monarchy. If you are, like me, then don't bother with this because you will learn nothing you don't already know. Mad King George and his bouts of insanity? Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend? Charles and Diana? Queen Victoria and the men in her life after Philip? All stuff that probably most people know if they were alive in the 90's, watch The Queen, or have seen a movie ...more
Nov 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, britain, adult
This book is rather groundbreaking for what it attempts to do: provide snapshots of daily life as a royal through the centuries. When I started the book I thought it would focus on the lives and activities of the staff, so found myself wondering at the many digressions into the activities of the monarchs themselves. Tinniswood offers us a peek into these grand households and their inner workings. There could have been more photographs, but overall a detailed, significant contribution to the shel ...more
Margaret Sankey
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Richly detailed history of the royal household from the Tudors to the present, with Tinniswood picking out the bizarre and elaborate rituals that persist and get things done behind the scenes, like Queen Victoria's dinner orchestra, the dressers, grooms of the stole (stool, literally), drivers, bodyguards, cooks and nannies. Assembled from primary sources, this is a look behind the curtain over the centuries. ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A great read for royal enthusiasts and those interested how things work behind the scenes. The author examines the courts from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II.
Stephanie Kline
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Many thanks to Basic Books for sending me a copy of Adrian Tinniswood's most recently-published book (it hit shelves October 2nd). As always, I was thrilled for the chance to read and review another new "royal" book, which incorporates some of my favorite history.

This book spans the reigns of Elizabeth I through the current Queen Elizabeth II. The subject of the book focuses on the most intimate details of life "behind the scenes" at the British royal court, and how those roles, responsibilitie
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that purports to reveal the roles of the people behind the throne. But the first 20% or so seems to be a laundry list of expenses and payments. I guess there aren't a lot of details available about the earliest appointees but it is almost like reading spreadsheets. As more history was recorded and more books printed the details pick up steam.
In addition to the payments we get stories of the roles these people played in the lives of the monarchs. By the Stuarts we are getting the
Jessica Wilhoite
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, reviews
This book was extremely interesting. As an American, I had no idea what it took and still takes to run the monarchy behind the scenes, or in this case, behind the throne.

I have such respect for those that have devoted their life to their country to serve as the sovereign because it can't be easy to have so many people around you all the time, to help you dress and, like Henry VIII, someone to watch you go to the bathroom. 3.7 stars.

I voluntarily reviewed this book on Netgalley. #netgalley #behi
Emily Moon
Jan 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This was an interesting insight into the life and experiences of the monarchs of Great Britain from the perspective of those that served them. However, at times, it seemed to focus too much on the monarchs stories at the expense of the servants themselves who sometimes got lost in the narrative. But, despite this, it was engaging and well written!
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it
I felt the information presented was not quite satisfactory. There was history about the royals and some overview of the staff but I was hoping for more staff and less royals. I can read about royals anywhere, but there isn't much available focusing on the people who made the royal spectacles possible. ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Behind the Throne by Adrian Tinniswood gives the reader a glimpse into the massive world of “employees” or courtiers holding up the working sides of the royal household. Beginning with Queen Elizabeth I to the present day Queen Elizabeth, this book details how the needs and wants of the ruling families have been helped and sometimes hindered. I loved the anecdotal style of this book. It has interesting “behind the scenes” stories that help to bring the history alive.
Thank you to Basic Books and
Gayla Bassham
Not really what I had hoped -- I wanted to read about royal servants but this is really a collection of anecdotes about the private lives of the British royal family. And a lot of the anecdotes are entertaining, but on the other hand many of them were already familiar to me. (If you saw The Favourite, feel free to skip the Queen Anne chapter.) Probably a better book if you consume less media about the Stuarts and Mountbatten-Windsors than I do.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I bought this book primarily because of the “upstairs/downstairs” description. As I read, however, I found that the royal household is more of an upstairs, downstairs, sub-basement system. This book focuses on the downstairs—the lords and ladies with titles that sound like they work but really the people that do the work are, for the most part, unnamed, unknown, and unmentioned in this book. The book is well written, and I did enjoy some of the stories presented. The best part was learning about ...more
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2019, royalty
I thought this might be along the lines of Robert Hardman's work looking at the evolution of the modern court, but the author often got sidetracked by history happening before the throne. The upside is that I got the best overview I've had to date of the Commonwealth and the Stuarts which is where my knowledge in British royal history has a blank space. The downside is that it overall it wasn't quite what I'd expected and that was disappointing. ...more
Mar 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
Some of the information was interesting, but overall, the book was very dry and dull. The information wasn't presented in any logical order, either chronological or topical that I could tell, so, I just couldn't get into it. ...more
Countess of Frogmere
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
Oct 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
A behind the scenes look at those who serve the British monarchy from the time of Elizabeth I through Elizabeth II. Not surprising, the early years have limited information with the nobles that filled specific offices with hundreds of unnamed servants that provided the royal family with nearly every type of support that can be thought of. From cooks and bakers, grooms and masters of the hounds, carriage drivers and boatmen and chauffeurs, body servants and maids and dressers and valets, housekee ...more
Anne Morgan
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Adrian Tinniswood's Behind the Throne explores the lives of English royalty from Queen Elizabeth I to Queen Elizabeth II through the eyes of those who served them. In a light, conversational style of writing, Tinniswood examines how costly Elizabeth I's 'visiting' her nobility was and the incredible lengths nobles needed to go in order to house and entertain her- not only in a way fit for royalty, but also in a way fit to recommend them to Elizabeth the next time she had a gift to bestow. It is ...more
Maura Heaphy Dutton
Beautifully presented, but a bit superficial, flitting from topic to topic that could be described as "royal personal life" like a distracted May fly. I felt that Tinniswood's decision to deal with his material chronologically was a big mistake -- Elizabeth I is represented by a chapter on "Royal Progresses," and the chapter on Charles II goes into great detail on his mistresses, and, unavoidably, the focus on George III is largely on his episodes of "madness," so later references to royal trave ...more
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a peculiar book which turned out to be not at all what I thought it was going to be. While I will read just about anything with a picture of Queen Elizabeth on the cover, very little of this book was about her reign. I think the most important amount of information I could give anyone looking to read this book is that it’s primarily about the House of Stuart and secondarily about the House of Hanover. There’s also a bit of a rush through Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II at the end a ...more
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
With a lot of books about Royal History, you really only get to see one side of the operations, that of the Royalty themselves. I liked this book because it shows what it was like to be the Royalty, the lowest man on the totem pole and everything in between. This is a carefully researched and interesting look at daily life and operations in the Royal household. The author does not hold back on the truths she has uncovered in her research and it made for a thoroughly interesting read.

As an autho
The purported goal of this book was to tell readers about the staff behind the royal family. The authors starts out that way, but ends up telling the story of the royals with tidbits of their staff thrown in. It was interesting and I have a much better sense of what kind or queen ruled when. I was disappointed that the author lost some focus, though, because I was interested in what various positions did and how they evolved. I was particularly interested in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and w ...more
S.C. Skillman
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An engaging and highly informative read about the members of the Royal Household who have served our monarchs since the time of Elizabeth I, this book concentrates not on the actions of the great but upon the details of those who have served them and made sure things happened around them on the most basic level. I found this a delightful and often revelatory read, in particular how badly the royal finances have been handled over the centuries, with even Queen Victoria refusing to stop paying peo ...more
MaryJo Hansen
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book that dedicated anglophiles will find absorbing and others may think it's too much information. Adrian Tinniswood has really dug into the lives of the people behind the thrones of most of England's rulers, starting with the Tudors and ending with Elizabeth the Second. You will find stories of equerries, ladies-in-waiting, private secretaries, keepers of the purse, maids, other above-stairs employees and important figures whose names usually do not go down in history but who help run the mo ...more
Nicki Markus
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-non-fiction
Behind the Throne is an enjoyable journey through history. Naturally, for any history buff, the major timeline events will already be familiar, but I love the way this book portrays them in a different light, from another point of view. With plenty of anecdotes and 'behind the scenes' action, Behind the Throne is a fascinating review of monarchy through the eyes of those who serve, rather than those who reign. All in all, it is a book sure to appeal to both scholars and general history fans--wel ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
I wanted to love this book based on the title, but found myself thoroughly disappointed. I am a huge fan of Liza Picard, and expected to find insights into the lives of the ordinary people who lived in palaces in centuries past. It wasn't until I got to Elizabeth II that I figured out what this book really is. It is a collection of historical gossip, interspersed with numbers of Pounds, people and goods. The book is almost entirely focused on royalty, despite its title, and in the basest gossipy ...more
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Adrian Tinniswood has worked as an author, broadcaster, lecturer and educational consultant for nearly 30 years in both Britain and the United States. Tinniswood studied English and Philosophy at Southampton University and was awarded an MPhil at Leicester University.

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149 likes · 86 comments
“When Victoria’s ministers broke the news to her about the rising expenses, the waste and extravagance in her household, she was genuinely appalled. Her bed broke, and she refused to let her servants have it mended because it would cost too much. She ordered fewer kinds of bread at breakfast. And in a move which surprised her staff, she commanded that toilet paper should give way to newspaper squares in the castle lavatories at Windsor.” 0 likes
“Married women were required to wear a court plume consisting of three white feathers; unmarried women wore two white feathers. The feathers had to be prominent enough for the sovereign to separate wives and spinsters at a glance. Those in deep mourning were allowed to wear black feathers. Women were also expected to wear a full train, not less than ten feet six inches long.11” 0 likes
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