Wednesday, September 9, 2009

51. A Brief History of British Kings and Queens by Mike Ashley

I didn't really intend to read this straight through, it just sort of happened. I reached a point where I thought, I could finish this...and then I had to. It's a comprehensive guide to the British monarchs, but I think I would appreciate something more detailed, with more evidence.

Ashley likes to shake up stereotypes, but he doesn't provide proof for his assertions. That's understandable in a book like this, but when he states that both Bloody Mary and Edward VI inherited congenital syphilis from their father Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I escaped it, I want to know more. I'm somewhat of an amateur Elizabethan scholar, and I've never heard that before. Where did he get the evidence to suggest that? Ashley praises the infamous Macbeth, and seems to think Richard III wasn't all that bad. He criticizes Richard Lionheart and mostly lauds George III. Elizabeth I does escape any unusual censure, though Victoria was apparently only any good because of Albert. William and Mary both get accused of homosexuality.

I haven't read any other standard work on the kings and queens of England (barring several biographies on Elizabeth I), so I don't know how Ashley measures up. Perhaps there is a way to provide more evidence in succinct fashion. Recommended to scholars and as a reference for interested parties.

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