Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Lives of the Kings & Queens of England

In many old-fashioned one-room classrooms, pictures of the America presidents hang above the chalkboards. They hang in a line from Washington to whatever president was in office during the historical period being recreated in the classroom. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, ...

I imagine visiting a historic recreation classroom in England. Would I find a lineup of prime ministers? Probably not. In England, people measure history with their kings and queens. William the Conqueror, William II, Henry I, ...

Living in a nation that spun off from Great Britain, we retain a high interest in that nation's past, study its history, and watch countless programs from the BBC. We are fascinated by the lives of the ancient and modern monarchs and enjoy stories that take us back hundreds of years. For those of us who get all the Henrys, Edwards, and Georges confused, Antonia Fraser brought together profiles of the monarchs in The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England.

I listened to Lives on audiobook - 10 compact discs that on average cover 100 years per disc - entertainingly read by Wanda McCaddon with her Scottish accent. This does not really allow for great depth on all the monarchs, but I did get a good general sense about role of the monarch in the business of the British nation. Fraser's team of authors also included many details about the personal lives of the kings and queens. The tone is generally sympathetic despite all the revelations of avarice, lust, paranoia, and murder.

I listened to the book over a two-week period, letting each reign sink in to my brain slowly. I discovered that I knew much more about the Tudors than any other royal family. The other sections included many stories that were new to me. NowI want to read about the Georges about whom I know so little.

The Lives of the Kings & Queens of England. Audio Partner, 1999, 2004. 10 compact discs. ISBN 1572704330

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