A Treasury Of Royal Scandals

Written by Michael Farquhar
Review by Margaret Barr

Writing in a vividly ironic style, Farquhar exposes the excruciating, ridiculous, poignant, stupid, and incredibly weird activities of the ruling classes — royal, imperial, and papal. His compendium, drawn from the darker, stranger depths of European history, is both entertaining and informative, as clever as it is creative. Illustrating six of the seven deadly sins, the author identifies each with a royal personage: Elizabeth I (envy), Louis IV (pride), Empress Anna of Russia (wrath), George IV of England (gluttony), Queen Mary of England, consort of George V (covetousness), and Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor (sloth).

Peter the Great could easily have been called Peter the Creepy: his cabinet of curiosities contained teeth he pulled from his subjects’ mouths himself. In the section on Royal Family Feuds, Farquhar explains complicated dynastic conflicts (Wars of the Roses) and simple ones (the Battling Bonapartes). Chapter titles are as sharp as the text can be: “Swimming in a Shallow Gene Pool,” and “Drool Britannia” are but two examples.

Humorous but never frivolous, always illuminating, Royal Scandals contains many useful family trees, detailed timelines for every monarch noting famous events during his/her infamous reign, and a select bibliography. A must for the history lover.