A book I should have read BEFORE going to Great Britain.
17 December 2009
While Mr. CR and I were in Great Britain in October, I was embarrassed because every time something came up about the royal family, I kept forgetting who was who, and who was the parent of who, and who the Queen Mother was, and how they were all related. I rather think Mr. CR expected me to know that kind of stuff, as I spend every possible moment I can reading about Great Britain, watching BBC programming, or looking at British online newspapers.*
What I should have done before we went was read Richard Hough's very interesting, very comprehensive, but not too overly detailed historical biography, Born Royal: The Lives and Loves of the Young Windsors. Now, the "young Windsors" he's referring to there are not William and Harry and Co.; he is in fact talking about the children of King George V and Queen Mary of Teck: David, Bertie, Mary, Harry, John, and George.
And that's where the confusion comes in. Who the hell are these people? Well, now, thanks to this book, I can clear that up for you: David is Edward VIII, who abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson; Bertie is King George VI, who became the father of the present Queen Elizabeth. Bertie (King George VI) married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, also known as Queen Elizabeth, but when Elizabeth II (the current Queen) took over, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon became the Queen Mother. Whew. Got that? All of this leads me to believe that the English monarchy needs to 1. start picking some different names, and 2. stop calling their children by multiple names, and then having them change their names when they become the monarch. That's not too much to ask, right?
I really enjoyed this one. It's a very readable history, and, at 300 pages (and packed with pictures), it gives you just enough personal and family details to keep you interested. In a weird twist of fate, Mr. CR read this one before I did, and we've had a great time talking it over. We are in agreement that old King George V (father of the "young Windsors") was kind of a, well, it's late and I'm tired, so "prick" is the only word that's coming to mind. The book also includes a truncated family tree, and Mr. CR and I are also in agreement that we're stunned these royal families all turn out as well as they do (hemophilia notwithstanding) when you see how closely related they all are. Did you know that the present Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip are both great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria and third cousins? Well, now you do.
*I can't help it. They're just more interesting than our newspapers. Plus that way I can pretend I live there.