While on vacation, I got to do some reading. I kind of fell into a book called A Treasury of Royal Scandals by Michael Farquhar. The subtitle of the book is "The Shocking True Stories of History’s Wickedest, Wierdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors."
Boy howdy, did this deliver. After reading this, one could conclude – with ample justification – that there’s isn’t much worthy in the sea of monarchy that covered Europe for the last two millennia. The book is a categorical list of every half-crazed, oversexed, and cruel murdering ruler that plagued the good people. Ranging from discussions on the murderous proclivities of several Roman Emperors in a row – Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero – to the hellish marriage of King Edward VIII to the waspish Wallis Warfield Simpson, the book is a quick easy read of about 300 pages. The stories are grouped by loose categorization – lusty monarchs, murderous ones, and villanous turncoats.
At times, Farquhar gets a little chummy with his language, downgrading the prose to all but conversation level. It works for most of the book and results in easy-reading but some of the phrases felt too informal. Also, the book’s focus is – with one exception – entirely focused on western European monarchies, and mostly those of the last seven hundred years. It does touch on the tsars of Russia in a few places but those are far between. Aside from the information offered a on a few Popes, there is little written between the early Romans and Norman England circa 1100 AD. I would have also liked exposure to some older information, or some from eastern Europe or from the Orient. In all fairness to Farquhar, he has written some other similar books, so maybe that will be forthcoming.
All in all, it makes for interesting reading. A lot of people extol the virtue of certain authors for building their feuding families and the intricate backgrounds of their character affairs and betrayals, such as George Martin in his Song Fire and Ice series. This book is a reminds us that, if nothing else, truth is stranger than fiction.