Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Alarming History of European Royalty by Karl Shaw

Royal Babylon: Alarming History of European RoyaltySUMMARY (from Goodreads): An uproarious, eye-opening history of Europe's notorious royal houses that leaves no throne unturned and will make you glad you live in a democracy.

Do you want to know which queen has the unique distinction of being the only known royal kleptomaniac? Or which empress kept her dirty underwear under lock and key? Or which czar, upon discovering his wife's infidelity, had her lover decapitated and the head, pickled in a jar, placed at her bedside?

The Alarming History of European Royalty is history, but not as they teach it in school, and it underlines in side-splitting fashion Queen Victoria's famous warning that it is unwise to look too deeply into the royal houses of Europe.


The Alarming History of European Royalty deals with its subject in a sensationalistic manner. It mainly focuses on history of mental illnesses and sexual exploits of European royals, scandalising their behaviour.

The book is written in a tabloid-like style, which I disliked. Not only it focuses on bad things, it is at times also disrespectful, for example, when making fun of King George VI and his stammering problems.

Moreover, there are many inconsistencies or confusing information in the book, showing the lack of research behind them. The factual errors, such as stating the years of birth and death incorrectly, are also disturbing. One of such errors that strikes out is the one saying that Prince Albert died three years before he was born. These kinds of things are not just ridiculous but also unprofessional. The book obviously lacks some editing and revision. I must stress I read the book in translation, therefore some errors might have occurred during the translation process, but I find it hard to ascribe the majority of mishaps to the translator.

However, all the shortcomings put aside, I still could not put the book down, mainly because the information on all the connections between European royal families is intriguing.

Finally, The Alarming History of European Royalty provides some interesting data, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. The truth, I believe is always somewhere between scandalizing and sanctifying people.

RECOMMENDATION: This book is not to be taken as a serious read about history – if you want that, pick up a different book. But if you want to learn about all the true (or perhaps not so true) scandals of European courts and are willing to give some slack to the writing and inaccuracy, The Alarming History of European Royalty might be an interesting read. 


  1. Interesting book. Good review!

  2. I'm fascinated by royalty so this looks like it would be right down my alley!


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