After trouncing through Royal Affairs and Notorious Royal Marriages, Leslie Carroll casts the net of debauchery, scandal, and plain old nastiness wider in Royal Pains: A Rogues’ Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds.
From this introductory sentence, it should be clear that Royal Pains is not a traditional history nonfiction title. Written by an author of historical fiction and supported by a bibliography so scanty it would make most historians swoon, Royal Pains, nonetheless, should not be criticized for failing to be what it’s not–a serious work of history.
Rather, Royal Pains succeeds at being just what it was intended to be–a delightful, frothy romp through the generally hilarious antics of some of history’s better and lesser known European aristocrats.
Written with an accessible, conversational tone, Royal Pains waltzes through the life stories of notables such as King John, Vlad the Impaler, and Ivan the Terrible. Adopting a free form structure to her chapters, Carroll anchors them primarily with the guiding principles set out in the book’s title–brats, brutes, and bad seeds–as opposed to a chronological structure or an overall theoretical underpinning.
I, however, most enjoyed the chapters about some of history’s lesser-known royal pains. In the time of the Tudors, there was Lettice Knollys, the copycat cousin who stole Queen Elizabeth’s favorite Robert Dudley. Then there was Pauline Bonaparte, the bodacious, randy sister of the equally lusty Napoleon Bonaparte.
Full of fun and jest, Royal Pains will surely be appreciated by fans of historical television shows like The Tudors, which focus on the intimate intrigues and personal failings of the aristocracy.