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"For those who seek coherence beyond the weekly wrap-up offered by PEOPLE magazine comes a book that ponders the deeper effects of this slow decline of the world's last great monarchy....An interesting overview of what has happened to royalty."
Divorce and separation. Steamy telephone tapes. Brewing custody battles. Embarrassing photographs. Is the House of Windsor self-destructing? The brilliant writer A.N. Wilson, whose biographies include C.S. Lewis and Toltoy, sets out to answer this vexing and fascinating question in his spectacular new book. An observer and writer of great style and an Englishman of particular opinions, Wilson is uniquely placed to rail about the royal follies even as he defends the monarchy's usefulness. He asserts that the Windsors have actually gained in political power under Elizabeth II, and puts all the naughty goings-on in a historical context. A riches-to-ruin saga as bizarre as any novel, THE RISE AND FALL OF THE HOUSE OF WINDSOR is by far the most intelligent--and most surprising--account of the catastrophe that the Royal Family have brought on themselves.
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Wilson (Jesus, 1992, etc.) turns his attention and considerable wit to the crisis of Britain's Royal Family--elevating the tabloid debate about Diana and Charles and the rest of the clan so that we see them as players in the possible collapse of the monarchy itself. When the queen was in her teens, Wilson says, ``it was decided that she should be instructed in the mysteries of the British constitution, and she was sent off to Sir Henry Marten, the Vice- Provost of Eton....'' Marten munched sugar cubes and taught Elizabeth II the ideas of the Victorian editor Walter Bagehot--who, Wilson explains, believed that ``the function of a constitutional monarch was to warn, to encourage, and to advise.'' It was Bagehot who also created the idea that the monarch was to exemplify Christian family life. Wilson contends that Elizabeth personifies this Victorian ideal: It's Prince Charles who's the problem. Not only is he--judging from his marital lapses--no moral pillar, but he is, claims Wilson, a pompous ninny (``He knows little and retains little of what he is told. Like many second-rate minds, he is fond of posturing and attitudinizing''), so blind to his responsibilities that--in a speech, in an apparent effort to seem original--he nearly scotched the crucial General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations of 1992 by disagreeing with his government's position. Wilson concludes that all of Elizabeth's heirs are hopeless; but, finding value in the monarchy itself, he proposes that the Windsors step aside in favor of a new line of monarchs to be headed by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the quietly intelligent heir of King George V--an event that, Wilson admits, is unlikely to occur. A thinking person's irreverent, entertaining, and knowledgeable guide to the monarchy. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
Wilson poses the question "Can the British monarchy (and the House of Windsor) survive?" The ensuing discussion is interesting, but wading through the unsubstantiated allegations is tiresome. In particular, Wilson objects to Prince Charles, whom he finds totally unsuitable to be king, based principally on the fact that Charles did not attend Eton and that he made what some consider an ill-judged speech in 1992 while the British government was engaged in delicate trade negotiations. Wilson first defines the monarchy today as having only three functions and then sets out to prove that Charles and the Windsors cannot fulfill them. He contends that Britain needs a wholesome royal family to act as role models and fulfill various ceremonial duties but who are, as individuals, too dull to inspire public interest. Wilson is the author of numerous novels and biographies (e.g., C.S. Lewis , LJ 2/15/90; Eminent Victorians , LJ 6/1/90). Buy this if you must, but there's nothing new in fact, just interpretation.
- Katharine Galloway Garstka, Intergraph Corp., Huntsville, Ala.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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