Monday 4 April 2022

Shaw, Karl "Royal Babylon"

Shaw, Karl "Royal Babylon: The Alarming History of European Royalty" - 1999

I love to read about history. I love non-fiction, I love historical novels, anything to do with what happened before us. In order to know what happened, in order to help that it doesn't get repeated, in order to quench my thirst for knowledge.

This book is a little different. It's non-fiction and gives you lots of information, including some great family trees of all the different royal houses in Europe. Mind you, it is more or less just the one house that spreads out everywhere.

But there is more. We don't just hear who lived when, who married whom and why, no, we get to know what went on behind the scenes, who had an affair with whom (and how many), who was insane (almost all of them because of the terrible in-breading - not that that was any news), why did they change names, what did they do to keep their status.

I have heard several comments about this book, whilst some were pretty negative, some I didn't agree with, others I did (no footnotes), others were pretty funny and accurate: The Onion version of European royalty (Mary Overton), it has entirely changed the concept of "someday my prince will come"(Liana from California), trashy historical non-fiction (Jennifer from Colorado)

A witty book about madness, snobbery, infidelity, a gossip column about royalty. And if we look at what their ancestors did, nobody should complain about the royal house of Windsor today because here are a few divorces, as they are in most common families nowadays.

From the back cover:

"An uproarious, eye-opening history of Europe's notorious royal houses that leaves no throne unturned and will make you glad you live in a democracy.

Do you want to know which queen has the unique distinction of being the only known royal kleptomaniac? Or which empress kept her dirty underwear under lock and key? Or which czar, upon discovering his wife's infidelity, had her lover decapitated and the head, pickled in a jar, placed at her bedside?

Royally dishing on hundreds of years of dubious behavior,
Royal Babylon chronicles the manifold appalling antics of Europe's famous families, behavior that rivals the characters in an Aaron Spelling television series. Here, then, are the insane kings of Spain, one of whom liked to wear sixteen pairs of gloves at one time; the psychopathic Prussian soverigns who included Frederick William and his 102-inch waist; sex-fixated French rulers such as Philip Duke D'Oreleans cavorting with more than a hundred mistresses; and, of course, the delightfully drunken and debauched Russian czars - Czar Paul, for example, who to make his soldiers goose-step without bending their legs had steel plates strapped to their knees. But whether Romanov or Windsor, Habsburg or Hanover, these extravagant lifestyles, financed as they were by the royals' badgered subjects, bred the most wonderfully offbeat and disturbingly unbelievable tales - and Karl Shaw has collected them all in this hysterically funny and compulsively readable book.

Royal Babylon is history, but not as they teach it in school, and it underlines in side-splitting fashion Queen Victoria's famous warning that it is unwise to look too deeply into the royal houses of Europe."


  1. It's all the gossipy and scandalous parts that make me want to read this one now. ;D

    1. Exactly, Lark, it's almost like reading Hello! magazine from the middle ages until today. LOL. It was also quite informative as to who is related to whom and what the different royal houses were.

  2. Sound like a book I would like. Does not matter how many books you read about these people, there are always something new popping up. Love the cover picture.

    1. I think you might, Lisbeth. I even thought I might have seen it on your page but that doesn't seem to be the fact.

      And yes, the cover picture is hilarious and prescribes the book quite well.