The sub-heading for this book is: The History of Britain’s Kings and Queens in Bite-Sized Chunks. That’s a pretty accurate description. Some of the biographies are less even than that, only partly due to a lack of any surviving/reliable knowledge of the person (some of our leaders are considered myths rather than real people, such as Arthur). That means the book is heavily weighted toward the more famous and more recent monarchs.
Ironically, you probably want the reverse as the big names (Alfred, Harold, William, Henry VIII, Elizabeth, Victoria, etc) are those you’re more likely to have encountered elsewhere and had much more written about them.
Having said that, if all you want is a chronological list of monarchs and who they were then this is ideal and the succinct nature means the book doesn’t drag (entire books have been written on some of these people, but you’ll get no more than a few paragraphs here).
It does have some weird repetitions, where it would tell you about a king or queen and mention the acts of a subsequent monarch, only to say the exact same things when detailing that king or queen a few sentences later.
The audiobook, while read perfectly well, did have some occasional glitches, leaving me wondering if I’d missed a word or perhaps even jumped a sentence.
Worth noting that it covers not just England, but also the rulers of Scotland and Wales.
Despite the abbreviated details, I did learn some things, such as the name of Britain’s first king: Brutus. He’s considered legend, supposedly coming from Troy and being a descendant of Aeneas, the founder of Rome. It’s even claimed his name is where the word Britain comes from.
Another aspect the book highlights is the inter-connected nature of the European states, with people and royal families swapping between them constantly.
The book’s great if you want to understand the royal line a bit better and find out who ruled between the landmark moments and monarchs of British history, it’s like a Cliff’s Notes version. That does make it quick to read and you won’t get bogged down, but this would only be a jumping off point. Ideal for those who get bored by history or by books which explore the endless minutiae of it.
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Audiobook copy of the book
Reviewed: 8th March 2013