Given its extensive timeframe and diverse cast of characters, Crown & Sceptre could easily have become little more than a potted history of Britain from 1066 to the present. But while Ms. Borman offers deft and thoughtful assessments of every reign, the chronological approach is enriched by details that help to humanize her subjects ... A judicious selection of illustrations not only shows how monarchs have sought to shape their own public image—notably the striking portrait commissioned by Elizabeth I to commemorate naval victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588—but also the way in which critics have subverted convention.
Borman offers brisk descriptions of the circumstances each monarch met in assuming the crown and nimbly sketches his or her character and talents ... Though dynastic troubles are woven into the fabric of British history, it is only one element in this lucid, character-rich book. Throughout, Borman traces the changing relationship between a weakening crown and the growing power and makeup of Parliament, the country's true ruler since the 17th century.
While [Borman] doesn’t ignore the institution’s darker aspects, she’s nevertheless in thrall to its 'other-worldliness' — its magic and mystery ... Borman embraces a huge task, which she carries out reasonably well. A book of this sort requires not only biographical sketches, but also a solid historical context and an analysis of the monarchy’s evolution according to time and taste. The author is quite good with the sketches, but her background knowledge is occasionally shallow and inaccurate, especially when covering the 19th and 20th centuries ... The main fault of this book, however, is that there’s not enough of the weird and wonderful stuff that makes the monarchy enthralling and, to some, repugnant.
... entertaining ... not a deep dive; it is an effective, quick walk through the players and their times. The narrative is generally amusing and it has the instructional benefit of helping readers keep the Williams, Henrys, Edwards, and Georges who have occupied the ancient throne straight.
Tracy Borman's Crown & Sceptre brings us in short, vivid chapters from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth herself, much of it constituting a dark record of bumping off adversaries, rivals and spouses, confiscating vast estates and military invasions. It is also an account of the rise and steady diminishment of royal power. Borman offers brisk descriptions of the circumstances each monarch met in assuming the crown and nimbly sketches his or her character and talents—or lack thereof ... Though dynastic troubles are woven into the fabric of British history, it is only one element in this lucid, character-rich book. Throughout, Borman traces the changing relationship between a weakening crown and the growing power and makeup of Parliament, the country's true ruler since the 17th century.
An elegant and evenhanded chronicle of the British monarchy ... Borman’s capsule histories highlight achievements...as well as scandals...and lucidly explain court dynamics and political, religious, and military matters ... Enlightening and accessible, this is a superb introduction to one of the world’s most enduring monarchies.
Impressive ... Borman outdoes herself in this expansive survey. Writing with a fluidity and grace matched by her authority on the subject, the author makes the stories of each monarch, from the incompetent to the sadistic to the praiseworthy, interesting and memorable. Despite more than 500 pages and countless kings and queens, she keeps the pages turning, providing adequate context and vivid and personal portraits of her subject ... Borman observes that the British monarchy has prevailed because it understands that its power is largely symbolic, shaping and supporting British culture and an enormous tourism industry. After reading this splendid book, readers may bet on its survival, at least in this century ... A superb synthesis of historical analysis, politics, and top-notch royal gossip.