Royal Procrastinator

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the autumn of 1792, a few months after Louis XVI’s overthrow, the historian, geographer and ex-priest Jean-Louis Soulavie arrived at the abandoned palace of Versailles with official permission to examine the former king’s archives. In the library on the fourth floor of the royal apartments, just below the smithy

Gloriana’s Twilight

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

John Guy’s new book is devoted to the last nineteen years of Elizabeth I’s life, but why call them ‘The Forgotten Years’? Who has forgotten them? Certainly not historians. In 1995, Guy himself edited an influential collection of essays entitled The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court & Culture in the Last Decade, which sparked off […]

Prince of Pleasure

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Vita Sackville-West described Edwardian England as ‘a world where pleasure fell like a ripened peach for the outstretching of a hand’. One hand that would certainly have been greedily outstretched was that of Edward VII, whose extravagant, pleasure-loving nature in many ways defined his kingdom, as Richard Davenport-Hines demonstrates in this entertaining book in the […]

Virginia Rounding on the Royal Ladies and Glamour Girls of Biography

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘Don’t talk too much. Listen instead. Don’t ever appear surprised; it looks provincial. Don’t reveal your ignorance by asking for explanations. You can learn a thousand things without anyone realising you didn’t know them already.’ These words of advice were uttered by Madame de Maintenon, mistress and eventually morganatic wife of King Louis XIV of […]

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Delirium Regens

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Early in October 1354 Giannino di Guccio, a merchant of Siena, was told that he was the lost heir to the kingdom of France. He had been switched soon after birth by his wet nurse and then taken away. The man who told him this was Cola di Rienzo, the governor of Rome, who then […]

Doomed From Birth

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Leanda de Lisle’s ably executed biography of the unlucky Grey sisters starkly illuminates the perils of being a princess in sixteenth-century England. Although at the time few people disputed that it was undesirable for a woman to rule the kingdom, the Tudor dynasty’s dearth of male heirs meant that these three great-nieces of Henry VIII […]

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RLF - March