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Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, and Folly from Royal Britain Paperback – March 1, 2011

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Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, and Folly from Royal Britain + A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories History's Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors + A Treasury of Great American Scandals: Tantalizing True Tales of Historic Misbehavior by the Founding Fathers and Others Who Let Freedom Swing
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Washington Post staffer Farquhar (A Treasury of Royal Scandals) probes 500 years of monarchical mishaps and misdeeds, screaming headlines and gleeful attacks by cartoonists. He uncloaks secrets, schemes, scandals, blood-soaked sheets, public humiliations, intrigues, and adultery. Illustrated with lineage charts and chronologically organized, chapters cover the houses of Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and Windsor. Farquhar begins with "savage bloodletting" during the reign of Henry VIII, so "monstrously obese" that it took 16 yeoman of the guard to lower his enormous coffin. Bonnie Prince Charlie, attempting to reclaim the British throne for the Stuarts, was defeated at the Battle of Culloden, became a fugitive, and "spen the rest of his life as an embittered paper prince." Suspicions surrounded Ernest, duke of Cumberland, after one of his valets was found with his throat slit. With amusing anecdotes, such as Queen Victoria's coronation ceremony going "wildly awry," Farquhar's style is a breezy pleasure throughout. (Mar. 8)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review

A "snappy chronicle of English kings, queens and knaves proves 
a terrifically accessible history of English dynastic dysfunction...With the focus on the curious personalities themselves--and there are plenty, from monstrous Henry VIII to her limpid steadiness, Good Queen Bess--hilarity and pathos abound. Despite the surpassing familiarity of many of these tales, they become irresistible and even moving in Farquhar's able hands...
[A] lively rendition of the British imperial blues." -Kirkus Reviews

  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.
-- Portland Book Review


"A well-researched popular retelling of some outrageous periods in the lives of perennially intriguing rulers. A good selection for lighter history reading on the lives of British monarchs and really good scandals."--Library Journal

"Those looking for choice examples of royal ignominy can open the pages of Farquhar's new compendium." -The Washington Post


"Imagine the history of the monarchy as told by the British tabloids and you have this rollicking account of kings and queens gone wild." -People
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812979044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812979046
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Farquhar, a former writer and editor at The Washington Post, is the bestselling author of numerous books, including the critically acclaimed Behind the Palace Doors and Secret Lives of the Tsars, as well as the popular Penguin "Treasury" series: A Treasury of Royal Scandals, A Treasury of Great American Scandals, A Treasury of Deception, A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans, and his latest title, Bad Days in History. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Mercedes J. TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 28, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you're new to the royals, or just looking to get a quick lesson in the juicy details of each monarch since Henry VIII, then this is a book for you. I know a whole lot about very few British monarchs (Henry VIII, his offspring, and Charles II), but pretty much nothing abut everyone after James I. This book was an entertaining introduction to those various Kings and Queens...the men and women they loved, the mistresses they kept, and the children they hated.

Overall, if your a fan of the British monarchy, or even if you have a favorite monarch but don't know anything about the rest of the clan, I definitely recommend this. It's a quick read with the book being divided into sections according to the reigning family (the Tudors, then the Stuarts, and so on). Then there are individual chapters in each section given to each monarch of that particular family. There's a very brief explanation of how that person came into power, but the majority of each chapter is the sharing of the more unsavory details of that persons reign. Is it intellectually stimulating? Absolutely not. Is it an amusing way to pass a few lazy afternoons? Definitely.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Alshab on March 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
The cover of "Behind the Palace Walls" promises a rollicking journey through royal history and does not disappoint. But in the midst of the many entertaining stories of over-sexed kings and murderous queens are several poignant stories of courage and fidelity that make this collection all the more engaging for its humanity. Farquhar is a wonderful writer who clearly relishes his topic. Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mandy's Royalty on April 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
"The King was now overgrown with corpulency and fatness." - Edward Hall

Ah, King Henry VIII! The monarch had once been an attractive, strapping young man. As he got older, he got crankier, fatter, and more dangerous. Just ask his wives.

Washington Post editor and history buff Michael Farquhar returns with another witty and meticulously researched book about the dirty linen of powerful people - namely, royalty. In his previous book, "A Treasury of Royal Scandals", Farquhar includes the crowned heads of Europe but now devotes his new work entirely to the most colorful - and often reprehensible - characters within the British monarchy itself.

"Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, and Folly from Royal Britain" is a veritable circus of debauchery and bad luck, striking pale the antics of today's royals by comparison.

Husband and wife monarchs William III and Mary II ruled together after James II (Mary's father) was ousted from England. Angry at his expulsion, he plotted to regain the throne by killing his own daughter and son-in-law.

"I was told of dreadful designs against me [by James' supporters, known as Jacobites]", she wrote, "and had reason to believe if their success answered their expectations, my life was certainly at an end."

It makes Fergie's antics look a bit weak in comparison, doesn't it?

Farquhar is known for his previous works on the tomfoolery of historic hedonists. They are filled with his trademark wit and shrewd observations, and his new "Behind Palace Doors" carries on this exquisite tradition. Farquhar's deft and sophisticated pen makes otherwise heinous royal folly fascinating and fun.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rosamaria on January 6, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of three books I bought to read at the beach. This one is actually well-written, humorous, and filled with useless information they don't teach you in college seminar. Some might consider these tidbits fodder for small talk at "mandatory fun" functions.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anne Omniuss on May 3, 2011
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I have a degree in History and I am obsessed with British History so anything new I can find, I try to get. I was expecting to be disappointed with this book because other reviews described him as having a tabloid type writing style. I didn't find this to be the case. The writer certainly isn't writing with a particularly scholarly tone but I don't think that is a negative. This book isn't for a history scholar but for a more general audience. For a history geek like me, this is a nice light fun read. Surprisingly, considering as much as I have read on British history, that have been a few things in the book I didn't already know. If you want a serious book read David Starkey or Simon Schama (both very good writers) but if you want something more accessible give this a try.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ann on April 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
I read this book backwards! Because of the upcoming wedding of William & Kate, I wanted to know about the relationships between William's parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Michael Farquhar reveals these ancestors in an enjoyable and informative style and tells all you want to know. Whether you go in the front or the back door of these PALACE DOORS, you are in for a Royal treat. A. M. Lynch
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tom-in-Michigan on August 10, 2011
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I enjoyed this book. I found it to be very readable. Nothing too in-depth, but a series of short anecdotes about each of the monarchs from Henry VIII to Elizabeth II. It's a very good survey of the subject.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"National Enquirer". There's nothing wrong with Michael Farquhar's new book "Behind the Palace Doors" that a tweaking of writing style might not fix. He has carefully chosen British rulers since the Tudors' reigns and presented them from a "personal" angle. The historical facts are true as are the effects of the facts on history, but somehow Farquhar's writing makes the Kings, Queens, and others highlighted in his book seem as if they sprung from the pages of the "Globe" or "The National Enquirer".

Now, as a history-jock, I'll take my history in almost any form but I do appreciate good writing. Nothing is worse than a deadly-dull writer dealing with material, that in those very deadly-dull hands has emerged on the written page with as much "oomph" as a dead flounder. Michael Farquhar's writing is too much the other way.

One of the good points about Farquhar's book is that he chooses people and incidents to highlight that have remained hidden - for the most part - in other popular histories. I did learn from Farquhar's book - which really is the point of the book having been written in the first place - I just wish it had just been presented in a more toned-down form.
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