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.