6 Royal Books for the Blue in Your Veins
Thank you Netflix for reminding me that no, my obsession with all things fancy and British was not just a thing of my childhood. It's a thing forever. Season two of The Crown - so good - is now very much in my past because I binge watched it in like two (maybe three) days, and now the world is grey and boring. What to do? The librarian in me demands that I run to the stacks. Thankfully, there's no shortage of British drama to be found there.
For the sake of this list, I was hoping to draw up something more representative of royalty globally, since there are nearly thirty sovereign monarchs in the world today. If that's surprising, it's because they're low drama. There are Middle Eastern, African, and Asian monarchies ranging from the absolute King Mswati III of Swaziland to the Emirs of Kuwait who have to be approved by their National Assembly. There are many residual monarchies in European nations like Denmark and Luxenbourg. Somehow, they manage to be professional and keep their drama under the radar. It helps that they are generally open to keeping pace with the current century. The personal motto of King Gustaf of Sweden is "For Sweden - with the times." And while that doesn't roll off the tongue so much, it may explain why no American Netflix viewer is familiar with his family.
So back to what we know and love, the grist of tabloid headlines.
1. 'The Diana Chronicles' by Tina Brown
Fuck yeah, Tina Brown! If you haven't read, seen, or heard about my favorite Brit abroad, then climb out from underneath your rock and read this book. Tina Brown (of Vanity Fair and The Daily Beast) has such a fantastic writing style. She's journalistic, salacious, and thoroughly British. Only she would use the word "palaver" as if it were a shared word with her American audience. She tells the story of Diana's infamous marriage to Prince Charles, her rise to fame following her marriage, and her untimely death, all with a keen eye for detail and a sense of urgency. Can a biography feel like a spy thriller? With Tina Brown at the helm, absolutely. Also, her lack of deference to The Crown feels downright naughty.
2. 'Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World' by Charles HRH the Prince of Wales
Oh my god, this is what happens when the dorkiest guy in the room is heir to the royal throne. How did Diana ever tolerate this guy? Oh wait, she didn't very well. Charles...what can one say about him? He likes to describe himself as someone who cares. He does care, and if he were not a prince, he would volunteer at the neighborhood animal shelter and write letters to his elected officials about local concerns and barely register on the global radar. But he is actually Elizabeth's heir so what he chooses to write gets a global stage. Harmony is Charles's version of An Inconvenient Truth but less interesting and compelling. For example: "I began to realize that the great juggernaut of industrialization relies upon a somewhat aberrant kind of language - a man-made one - which articulates a world view that ignores Nature's grammar." And so he goes. What's more interesting are the so called "black spider" memos, a series of letters Charles wrote to various elected officials trying to pressure them toward political actions. Charles claimed he was acting as a private citizen, but the Guardian called bullshit and sued for access. Ten years of legal fighting later, the Guardian won and we can now read them online.
3. 'Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself' by Sarah Ferguson
Why didn't Pixar give Finding Dory this subtitle?? You know it's going to be good when a super wealthy former princess needs to "find herself." Sarah Ferguson, or Fergie, as we all met her, was married for ten years to Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. Her husband was weak-willed, Sarah had an actual personality, and the press didn't like that she gained weight when she was pregnant. All of which spelled disaster for their fairytale life. Post royalty, she's mostly made a living as a brand ambassador for Weight Watchers, but this book makes me think writing should really be her focus. Here, we explore Native American spirituality, whatever it is that Dr. Phil does, and the healing power of horses. I think drugs or a lot of wine go well with this one. Then you can read it with an accent, feel fancy, and join Sarah on her personal journey with Oprah.
4. 'Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate, and the Throne' by Christopher Andersen
Elizabeth and Camilla in the same title, WOT? I would like to say this title plays out with a similar sense of intrigue that Tina Brown's wonderwork does, but not quite. It's pretty spoofy on Game of Thrones, but sadly without dragons, whitewalkers, or the Lord of Light. Andersen is clearly very interested in the future of the crown and explores the machinations presumed to occur when Elizabeth dies. Will Camilla ever be Queen of Britain? It could happen. Or Charles could abdicate. (Please Charles, please abdicate. No one wants King Charles.) Andersen paints Kate Middleton as a gentler Cersei Lannister, (potentially) working behind the scenes to ensure her husband's ascension. We'll all be there, watching with popcorn.
5. 'Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings' by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
Not a book about the Britons. Princesses Behaving Badly is a compendium of stories about women you've never heard of but were freaking awesome. Every single one of these ladies deserves an episode of a Netflix series devoted to them. McRobbie's vignettes cover a huge swath of history, from ancient Egypt's Hatshepsut to modern day's Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. All of McRobbie's subjects managed to overcome the roles assigned to them and assumed positions of power or influence. Some of them made a difference in the course of world events (Princess Noor Inayat Khan), some led rebellions (Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi) and some went out with a bang (Marie Antoinette). All gave the patriarchy the bird and none wrote self-help books. They win.
6.'Hawaii's Story' by Hawaii's Queen by Liliuokalani
And finally something (relatively) closer to home. Did you forget that the United States annexed the sovereign nation of Hawaii in order to make it a state? Hawaiians haven't! Liliuokalani's straightforward, detailed, regal account of her life, regency, and diplomatic relations is the stuff of film. Her tome is heartbreaking. It is the journey of an islander into the modern American land-grabbing world, in which she transforms from one who might someday lead her people to one who saved them from slaughter. In the same way that Diana Spencer will always be the People's Princess, Liliuokalani will always be Hawaii's Queen. And maybe she should be everyone's Queen. She was poised, intelligent, creative, and made hard, hard choices. That we could all be as royal as she.
Have any royal titles to share? Leave them in the comments!
To leave a comment