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JAMES A. FRERE
The British Monarchy At Home


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Panther, London, 1965
(first published by Anthony Gibbs & Phillips in 1963)
price: 5/-; 184 pages


The blurb on the back:

The British Monarchy At Home is NOT just more adulation.
It's an amusing, highly informative, sometimes iconoclastic expose of Britain's Royal families from James I to the present day - in fact an apter title might be 'The British Monarchy When It Thought Nobody Was Looking'. The Establishment may not like all it reveals, but the ordinary reader will be glad to know that Royalty are human, fallible and not at all Divine.

JAMES FRERE, F.S.A. was born in 1920 and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He was appointed Bluemantle Pursuivant of Arms in 1948, which post he held until 1956 when he became Chester Herald of Arms. At the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II he was in charge of all arrangements for dress regulations.


A mass-market paperback about the private lives of British royalty over four centuries? There's really only one question to ask: how scurrilous is it?

Well, this one looks sycophantic, and all that stuff on the back about the Bluemantle Pursuivant of Arms (something to do with The Goon Show?) doesn't augur well, but actually it's quite fun and - for the period - it was really pushing the boat out. This was six years before the TV documentary The Royal Family, which was when the Windsors finally succumbed to the lure of the mass media, with all the horrors (for us) that have ensued. To have a courtier rehashing tales of Caroline of Brunswick and Mrs Keppel was going it some.

Nonetheless, it still pulls its punches - you wouldn't guess, for example, that George II died on the loo, or that George III's brother was the subject of several assassination attempts by the troops he was supposed to be commanding or that George IV's brother was widely suspected of having murdered his valet in an attempt to conceal their gay affair. If he's quiet on the past, you don't expect to get many startling revelations of Princess Margaret's coke-habit. And indeed you don't get any.

If, however, you're into the public portrayal of this bizarre little British institution, it's a decent book. And Frere's warnings that royalty needed to make more effort to connect with the modern world may even have had some influence on the Queen agreeing to do that TV show. You also get some heavily staged photos like these of the future George VI:

the Duke of (Dwight) York

and of the present royal family:

The Family


ARTISTIC MERIT: 3/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
1/5


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