Although I'm still not back to my normal reading self, watching a documentary on Windsor Castle last Sunday put me in the mood for some English history, and I ended up thoroughly enjoying Leslie Carroll's Royal Affairs: A Lusty Romp through the Extramarital Adventures that Rocked the British Monarchy. Of course it wasn't a book that's going to win any awards for historical research or writing, which is probably what I liked about it. (At one point the author refers to a woman's "boobies," which did seem a bit too casual, even for a casual history.)
But for the most part? A really well-done, engagingly written specific history. Specifically focusing on the many love affairs engaged in by royals of both the female and the male persuasion. Some of them had a lot of mistresses, and at least one had ten kids by his royal mistress (William IV, who ruled from 1830 to 1837), which leads me to believe that royal types had a lot of time on their hands (although not as much time as President George W. Bush, who has taken hundreds of vacation days in his eight-year tenure, including a week off to get primo seats at the 2008 Olympics).
I thoroughly enjoy getting my history through books like this. If I had to find a metaphor for it, I guess I'd compare it to the misdirection I use when I wrap my cat's medication in raw tuna, and she gulps it down happily because she's a total tuna whore. Hm. Making me an adultery story whore? Okay, I guess the metaphor breaks down. But you know what I'm saying. This book covers the years from the mid-12th century (opening with the Angevins and Henry II) to the present day of Charles and Camilla, so it's impressive in its scope. It's also got a nice little bibliography, although no index, which marks it for what it is, a nice little piece of historical nonfiction fluff. And that's okay. It still hurts me to find nonfiction without an index, but I'm taking deep breaths and trying to deal.
Below? My favorite anecdote from the book, about Nell Gwyn, the mistress of Charles II, who ruled from 1660 to 1685. Enjoy!
"To the lower classes she became a cult heroine. Nell was the goddess of the guttersnipes...and there were others who countenanced Nell's presence in their king's bed more easily that that of his Papist mistress Louise de Keroualle. At least Nell was a protestant. In 1681, during a time of open anti-Catholic sentiment, Nell's coach was stopped in an Oxford street by a mob who believed the passenger to be the detested Louise. The shade was lifted and out of the window popped Nell's pretty face amid a profusion of red curls. 'Pray good people, be civil. I am the Protestant whore!' she cheerily announced, turning the jeers of the angry swarm into a rousing chorus of cheers." (p. 207.)