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“Got syphilis? Maybe a little touch of gonorrhea? No problem, you're a king!
Having an adulterous affair are you? Well, if you're the king it's o.k., but if you're just the lowly queen, it's grounds for divorce. Or maybe we'll just ship you off to a convent or an asylum.
Whats that you say? Oh, you're just insane - no biggie, you're still of noble birth.
Um, what do you mean you're a commoner!? Well that, we simply cannot abide!
After all, we must draw the line somewhere...
Therein lies the tone of this witty book. At times quite funny, but mostly just sad, this book is what you might call a "National Enquirer" style full-disclosure article about monarchies in Europe. While entertaining to me, I don't believe this book has mass appeal. You really need a strong stomach to finish the book and not throw it across the room.
Three centuries of madness, debauchery, drug addiction, sex and adultery among the kings, queens, lords, ladies, and nobles of Europe are discussed at length. The history between the covers of this book is truly horrific, especially when one considers that it is not a work of fiction! This is a record of inbreeding, serious insanity, mass philandering, spread of STD's, and even Nazi sympathising, the likes of which I hope to never see again!
Now I realize that I am only seeing these things through the narrow lens of my own cultural mores here, but come on! These people were truly sick. And while they were busy with their many psychoses, they were practically ruling the world! It's a wonder anyone survived, royal or otherwise.
Contained within this volume are three thrilling centuries filled to the brim with mass suffering, war, national upheaval and slaughter for the majority of people, while a very privileged minority wallowed in massive excess and madness, for no better reason than a documented history of inbreeding (to preserve the royal lineage, of course) and a fairly savvy sense of self-preservation (and the funds to ensure it). This book certainly presents us with a damning indictment of the divine right of anyone to rule anybody.
In the end however, I must report that Royal Babylon is history lite at it's best. It's gossipy and has a sort of cotton candy consistency. You should not pick it up if you don't have a sense of humor about its subject matter. I cannot recommend it for the serious student of history, but it definitely was an amusing and entertaining, quick summer read.”
Susan wrote this review Friday, October 3, 2008.