I must first recommend a card and gift shop in South Kensington which is called Medici. Turn right out of South Ken tube and it’s about a 30 second walk on the right. I always, always use this place for cards, gift wrap etc. From tasteful to vulgar and all points between. Huge selection, friendly staff, I defy you to leave empty-handed.
Anyway, poking around in there about a year ago, I picked up a book called Divorced, Beheaded, Died… The History of Britain’s Kings and Queens in Bite-Sized Chunks (I’ll call it DBD from here). At 168 pages, it is exactly as described. It is the type of book that every child should own, one that a lazy GCSE candidate could use for cramming when it’s almost too late.
My guilty secret is that I use it all the time. Yes, I could reach for my Companion to British History or The London Encyclopaedia, but quite often you just need a quick backgrounder while you’re doing something else, and for that purpose, it’s perfect. Queen Anne: I knew virtually nothing. Now I know enough for the moment to tide me over. The Saxon Kings of England: Dark Ages (are we still allowed to call them that?) is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we should all know the basics, I think.
An example of something I got out of DBD just this morning: George I was the fifty-eighth in line to the throne and only got the gig by virtue of being the highest-ranking Protestant.
My DBD often resides in the lav. Frequently I used it for bedtime reading when too tired for the heavy stuff. At the moment, it’s right next to me, in case I need a quick look-up and can’t be bothered with Wikipedia, which can often be somewhat turgid.
DBD has an excellent index and is written by Kevin Flude, a musuem curator and lecturer. Cover price is £9.99 but you can get it from Amazon for five or six quid.
Which book is your guilty secret?