Review: Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, and Folly from Royal Britain by Michael Farquhar

by Michael Farquhar

Publication Date:  March 1, 2011
Random House


Spanning 500 years of British history, a revealing look at the secret lives of some great (and not-so-great) Britons, courtesy of one of the world’s most engaging royal historians

Beleaguered by scandal, betrayed by faithless spouses, bedeviled by ambitious children, the kings and queens of Great Britain have been many things, but they have never been dull. Some sacrificed everything for love, while others met a cruel fate at the edge of an axman’s blade. From the truth behind the supposed madness of King George to Queen Victoria’s surprisingly daring taste in sculpture, Behind the Palace Doors ventures beyond the rumors to tell the unvarnished history of Britain’s monarchs, highlighting the unique mix of tragedy, comedy, romance, heroism, and incompetence that has made the British throne a seat of such unparalleled fascination.

• stories covering every monarch, from randy Henry VIII to reserved Elizabeth II
• historical myths debunked and surprising “Did you know . . . ?” anecdotes
• four family trees spanning every royal house, from the Tudors to the Windsors


Behind the Palace Doors is a fun and quick read through the lives of English monarchs, from Henry VIII to the present queen, Elizabeth II. Told in short chapters, author Farquhar takes readers through five royal houses (House of Tudor, House of Stuart, House of Hanover & House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and House of Windsor) and gives a brief summary of each monarch’s reign. Having read a lot on the Tudors I didn’t really find anything new on them that I hadn’t already heard, but I really enjoyed the chapters on the Stuarts and the Hanovers. Farquhar’s writing wasn’t overly-entertaining or witty, but nor was it too dry and he actually inspired me to find more books to read on some of the more interesting subjects in the book, such as Arbella Stuart and George III.

Behind the Palace Doors is great as a straight read-through or one to keep on the nightstand to pick up every now and again. The antics and idiosyncrasies of the kings and queens of England never fail to entertain!



  1. This sounds fun -- I read a previous book of his -- Sex With Kings, maybe? -- and it was v general but entertaining. Still, I think his books are fun for people who think history is unsexy and boring!

  2. Well this looks fun, the cover alone makes me giggle!

  3. I feel like I need to say "God Bless You" after House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha....

  4. I have another of Michael Farquhar's books and enjoyed it so much. (A Treasury of Royal Scandals) I'm going to have to read this one now, too!

  5. When I saw 500 years of English history, I thought, oh my, this is going to be somewhat tedious, but your review makes clear that the opposite is true; the fact that the author structures it in short chapters that can be picked up and put down rather than read straight thru is a real plus.

  6. Nice review. I think this might be worth picking up and reading.

  7. I have been thinking about getting this one. I like the format. It makes it easier to read.


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