Kings and Queens of England: A Tourist Guide – Book Review

The fantastic thing about books chronicling the rulers of Britain is that, even if they are from the 1970s, they aren’t all that out of date.

I picked up Jane Murray’s “The Kings and Queens of England: A Tourist Guide” from a library bookstore recently because, well, why not? I am unashamedly interested in British history and British royal history. The last such book I read, Norah Loft’s “Queens of England” was very interesting in that it looked exclusively at Queens, whether they were regnant or not; however, it didn’t keep me from getting muddled about the line of succession from Queen Victoria to QEII (all those Hanovers/Windsors seem to have the same names).

I must admit, I’m still a bit muddled about the more recent kings, but this book cleared things up for me somewhat. As interesting as it was to read about all of the Queens, it is somewhat more instructive (to my mind) to read about all of the actual rulers. One thing I also appreciated about this book, in contrast to Loft’s book, is that it is written for an American audience. Essentially, as the title implies, it was written for American tourists to brush up on their royal history before their trip or carry the book around with them and look up a monarch when they see his or her name mentioned somewhere around Britain. Because of this, it also didn’t have the blatant pro-monarchy agenda of Loft’s book, written just four years later.

Obviously no book can cover every ruler from Edward the Confessor to Queen Elizabeth II in an in-depth manner, but I thought Murray did a good job at hitting the high and low points of each ruler. Definitely enough to help American tourists remember the difference between Edward II and Edward IV. The only odd thing about this book was that it started in the ‘present’ and worked its way backwards towards Edward the Confessor. Although this at first interrupted the flow for me, by the end I think it helped me piece everything together.

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