Housekeeping, the historian Adrian Tinniswood reminds us, has always been a vexing business. Never more so, perhaps, than in 17th-century England, what with dogs and servants urinating 'all over the place;' house guests consuming 'twenty-four lobsters and 624 chickens' in three days; scurvy and sweaty armpits at every turn...All of which and a great deal more — details of childbirth, for example, of laundry and latrines — are tastefully revealed in Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household, Tinniswood’s charmingly erudite tour through five centuries of, well, cosseting.
A book...about the cleaners, the cooks, the dusters and squeezers, a glimpse into a world where everything is possible for the rulers, because the ruled do all the work: This sounds enchanting, and so Behind the Throne proves to be ... To the degree that monarchy is always in great part a performance, Mr. Tinniswood’s book raises the question of what 'private life' really means for rulers, if not the ruled. Our notions of public and private need to be discarded as we think of the past, especially as we consider royalty ... Mr. Tinniswood excels in describing...extravaganzas, together with a whole raft of royal weddings and funerals, coronations and even ceremonies ... The author has a wry humor and a way with a phrase ... He also delights in the absurd ... Frankly, who could resist?
Money often takes centre stage in Behind the Throne, Adrian Tinniswood’s juicy new domestic history of the royal household, which begins with Elizabeth I and ends with a future king who – if the stories are true – is not inclined so much as to squeeze out his own toothpaste ... I didn’t admire Behind the Throne half so much as Tinniswood’s brilliant last book, The Long Weekend, in which he served up life in the English country house between 1918 and 1939; this volume, romping through several hundred years of history, wants for its beady focus. Nevertheless, it’s often delicious – as piquant as the green salad with which Edward VIII liked to eat his cold grouse.
Covering 500 years—from the first Elizabeth to the second—and covering a retinue that always numbered in the hundreds, Tinniswood has his hands full ... While it’s clear, therefore, that there is more to this story than Tinniswood tells or can ever hope to tell, it’s clear as well that he amply, entertainingly, compellingly succeeds in making the case that when it comes to British royalty, it takes a village to make a monarch.
Adrian Tinniswood, a respected chronicler of the country house, is back with a study of the domestic staff who stage-manage royal lives, from washing their bed linen to grooming their horses ... from a fun, elegant narrative, Tinniswood rather freezes as he moves into modern times. It’s a shame, for there are many resonances. Elizabeth II has about 1,200 employees, the same as Charles II in the 1660s, but an increase of one third on Victoria. The royal household may do different things — writing embarrassing memoirs, for one — but characters such as Bobo, the Queen’s dresser, Paul Burrell, Diana’s butler, and Charles’s former valet Michael Fawcett were cast centuries ago. Sadly, Tinniswood chooses not to go there.
Adrian Tinniswood’s handsomely produced Behind the Throne is full of such pleasing details, as it takes us on a fascinating snoop into the studies, kitchens and bedrooms of various monarchs from Elizabeth I to the present queen ... Behind the Throne is a wonderfully entertaining account of life through five centuries of royal households, and a succession of families that are entirely unlike and yet uncannily similar to our own. Hence, surely, the enduring fascination.
If Downton Abbey showcases a well-oiled machine of domestic efficiency in an English estate, you might think the servants surrounding British monarchs would be held to an even higher standard of discretion and excellence. And, as historian Tinniswood warns, you’d be entirely wrong. The reality, as he explores in this diverting book covering the domestic life at court from Elizabeth to Elizabeth, is both much messier and incredibly interesting.
...Tinniswood offers an intimate and entertaining look at the private lives of monarchs from Elizabeth I to the current occupants of Buckingham Palace. Funded grandly by their subjects, kings, queens, and their families have always inhabited 'a cocoon of support to ease their paths through life': cooks, dressers, housekeepers, valets, wet-nurses and governesses, pages, footmen, gardeners, butlers, secretaries, and a hierarchy of staff overseers ... In centuries past, body servants included a bedchamber-woman who handed the queen her fan, poured water out of a jug when the queen washed her hands, and pulled on the queen’s gloves; a page was called in to put on the queen’s shoes. Some 1,200 employees attend to the household of Elizabeth II; her great-great-grandmother Victoria had 921 salaried retainers. Royals were rarely alone ... Deft, zesty social history.
Beginning with Elizabeth I and ending with her reigning namesake, this well-researched, often entertaining narrative illuminates the domestic army of little-known names that manages palatial daily duties and orchestrates elaborate special occasions. Tinniswood describes the behind-the-scenes drudgery of complex Tudor tours of the realm, lavish Stuart masquerades, and the nearly futile efforts of private secretaries attempting to rein in spending ... Utilizing a Downton Abbey approach, this enlightening narrative allows the royal family mystique to disappear just a little, so those working quietly to maintain the world’s most famous monarchy receive recognition.