by Michael Farquhar

Random House, $15.00, 310 pages

Princess Diana should have long been aware, given this history of the British Royal Family, that having a ‘crowded’ marriage, ‘there were three of us in that marriage,’ she used to say, was not a bit out of the ordinary. Obviously she embraced the fantasy, as most young girls do, that her prince would be undeniably hers and hers for life. But throughout the ages, as this Royal tome suggests, mistresses were a much greater part of everyday life than say, taking baths. Which leads one to wonder….oh, well that’s another story.

Michael Farquhar’s account of the over five hundred years of the British Monarchy gives one a rollicking good time, much akin to reading the gossip columns of the Daily Mail or turning to that forbidden ‘Page 3’ in The Sun. From the infamous King Henry VIII and his ‘off with their heads’ attitude to the current, more stoic, Monarch Queen Elizabeth II one is constantly left aghast or in stitches at the madness and mayhem of this relatively common uncommon family. Behind their jewels, money, and fame lays a family with an unending search for romance, the quest for greatness, and what transpires often confounds the best of them. OK, so they did do things on a more grand scale such as Bonnie Prince Charlie’s final uprising in 1745 or to the extreme, with King James I’s obsession with hunting witches. A sign of the times, perhaps?

Now, having a Princess that was a ‘stripper, essentially’ (and all that surrounded the ‘Delicate Investigation’ of this Royal bride) does get a bit daring. As does having a ‘murder mystery’ hidden among the branches of one’s family tree. But for those looking for that fairy tale ending, the sweetness of the love story of Queen Victoria and Albert foreshadows it all. Albeit her coronation was, shall we say, a bit unrehearsed. But such foibles only serve to endear us to the British Royal Family. This little gem of a book serves as a perfect reference guide. Each chapter, with its own summary, reads like an adventure unto itself. It is like taking up with an old friend after an extended period away; it’s just enjoyable.

The disappointments arise with the more modern day royals especially with the current Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, when one is left wanting, well, more. But that is the sign of a good writer when even the disappointments don’t really disappoint.

Reviewed by Kathleen Godwin