Cover image for The Oxford illustrated history of the British monarchy
The Oxford illustrated history of the British monarchy
Cannon, John, 1926-2012.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford [England] ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
ix, 727 pages : illustrations (some color), color maps ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA40 .C29 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The rich pageant of Britain's history emerges nowhere more colorfully than in the story of its kings and queens. This spectacular book offers the most authoritative account of the British monarchy ever published for the general reader. With over 400 illustrations--a third of them in color--it traces the crown's full history from Anglo-Saxon times to the present.
The authors present a vivid picture of the lives of individual monarchs as well as of the monarchy as a political and social force. They begin the story in the fifth century with the rise of recognizable kingdoms in Scotland, Wales, and England and conclude with a discussion of the crown's constitutional role, which emerged in Queen Victoria's reign, and how this has affected the symbolic and popular monarchy of today. Along the way, we gain a clear view of how key traditions evolved: the right of succession, coronations and marriages, oaths of loyalty and military service, the granting of lands and titles, and the propagation of a powerful image of royalty.
The book not only explains the monarch's political struggles and styles of governing; it is filled with fascinating details that give the story life. We learn, for instance, that Elizabeth I's famous journeys to various corners of her realm were not simply to show her off to her subjects: "The standard of Tudor sanitation," the authors note, "meant that the royal palaces became unbearable after several weeks of occupation and the court's absence for several months in the summer gave an opportunity to clean up." We discover that Victoria's coronation was "a splendid mixture of majesty and muddle": when it came time for the Archbishop to bestow the ceremonial ring, the already befuddled cleric placed it on the Queen's wrong finger, "causing considerable delay [and] some pain." And we read George VI's touching wedding message to his daughter (the present queen): "Your leaving us has left a great blank in our lives but do remember that your old home is still yours."
Supporting the text and carefully selected pictures are sidebars on each of the monarchs and on key general themes; color maps; an illustrated section on royal residences and tombs; a consolidated list of monarchs; genealogies; annotated lists of further reading; and a full index with personal dates.

Author Notes

About the Authors:
John Cannon is Professor of History at the University of Newcastle. Ralph Griffiths is Professor of History at University College of Swansea.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Big and beautiful, this lushly illustrated volume traces the history of the millennium-old British monarchy from the immediate post-Roman period, when the concept of kingship was still vague at best, to the present day, with Queen Elizabeth II occupying a secure place on the throne and in the hearts of the people. In a swiftly moving but comprehensive narrative, the authors, both British professors of history, examine the evolving character of kingship, always keeping in mind that the monarchy is an institution stamped at every turn by the individual personalities of the men and women who wear the crown. This book is perfectly suited to the general reader: lovely to look at, wonderfully helpful as a source of specific information, a delight to read straight through. Without being cumbersome, it gives a distinct feel of the nature of Britain's hallowed monarchy through all its epochs. Appended: photographs and textual descriptions of all royal residences and all royal burial places; family trees; bibliography; and index. BH.

Choice Review

Cannon and Griffiths's splendidly illustrated book is a survey of the development of the British monarchy since the fifth century. It has six chapters: "Diverse Origins, c. 400-1016"; "The Age of Empires', 1016-1216"; "Monarch and Nation, 1216-1509"; "Governing Monarchy, 1509-1689"; "Mixed Monarchy, 1689-1820"; and "Popular Monarchy, 1820-1988." Drawing upon secondary sources, the authors (both professional historians) tell a familiar story but do so with good sense, clarity, and conciseness. Equal attention is given to the personalities of the monarchs and to the evolution of the institution of monarchy. There is little discussion of mystique, perhaps because the authors are determinedly unsentimental about their subject. The illustrations, some 400, depict more strikingly than the text the glamor and changing character of monarchy. The book has an illustrated section of royal residences and tombs, a consolidated list of monarchs, and an excellent annotated bibliography. As a survey, the work is without peer. Highly recommended for general and undergraduate readers. -J. A. Thompson, University of Kentucky

Table of Contents

1 Diverse Origins, c.400-1016
2 The Age of `Empires', 1016-1216
3 Monarch and Nation, 1216-1509
4 Governing Monarchy, 1509-1689
5 Mixed Monarchy, 1689-1820
6 Popular Monarchy, 1820-1997
Royal Residences and Tombs
Genealogies of Royal Lines
List of Monarchs
Further Reading
Illustration Sources