Read The Decline and Fall of the House of Windsor by Donald Spoto Online


A portrait of the royal Windsor family follows Queen Victoria through the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and covers the relationship of Charles and Camilla, Diana's emotional roller coasters, and the Duke of Kent's lovers. Reprint....

Title : The Decline and Fall of the House of Windsor
Author :
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ISBN : 9780671002305
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 544 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Decline and Fall of the House of Windsor Reviews

  • Diane
    2019-04-11 05:25

    I include myself among the throngs of people who have moderately enjoyed the ups and downs, and comings and goings of the royals of Great Britain, and took up this book to see if there was something fatal that some of those royals had done that would warrant a title and judgment such as Decline and Fall. With the marriage of William and Catherine (Kate), and the birth of their son Prince George, I figured this author was a bit overly pessimistic about the House of Windsor. He didn't in fact convince me that the royals themselves have destroyed the monarchy. (The march of time and democracy have erased the purpose of the British monarchy as currently structured.) I have instead come away with the conviction that the very structure of life as a royal is mind-numbing, enervating, and in the end, soul-destroying. I do not exaggerate. Donald Spoto chronicled the lives of those on the throne or close to it from before Victoria onward, demonstrating that their lives nowadays are filled with the purposes others assign to them, forbidding the royals themselves from having any abiding purpose motivated by inherent talents or interests. No amount of charity patronage can replace freedom of self-determination in what one would choose to do. No amount of pageantry and respect for the history of crown and country can replace crafting one's own contribution to history. Having one's life scheduled a year in advance, every year of one's life, is a burden that lies hidden in the current structure of the British royal system. Finally, sadly, it has come to be that the royals exist to perpetuate themselves, and to justify to the British taxpayers their existence and privilege, since their role to advise and caution the parliamentary government is formulary at best. They and the British people may think that the royal family represents the best aspirations of the people as a whole, but that inspirational and idealistic role has been absorbed in the frenzy of media fame and abetted by widespread misbehavior. The family and the media need each other for sales and marketing of themselves, and to maintain their status quo and privilege.British royalty is, to put it radically, slavery very, very prettily dressed up, fooling us but probably not all of them, into thinking that because they have money and houses and clothes and travel, and mix with the glitterati, they aren't deprived of dignity as self-determining human beings in the family of man.

  • Jennifer Gelert
    2019-03-29 23:18

    I have always been a fan of British History. From The Tudors, then the Stuarts and now the Windsor's. I was surprised to read of Victoria's children and the lives they led. Without the press hounding every move they made, they led lives that were just as bad as today's royals. It seem there was always this idea that royalty was more moral than the common man. To know that several of the children had numerous affairs, had drinking problems and parent issues helps explain some of the problems of the current group of Windsor's. How it seems that none of the Prince of Wales were given anything to prepare them for the kingship. How these royal children did not know how to give or receive love or even how to function in the real world. No wonder they are all so unhappy.This book ends with the divorce of Charles and Diana. But the drama never ended. From her tragic death, to Charles finally marrying his mistress to William and his Kate just wanting to live a normal life.I don't think being born royal and having all that money and prestige is worth the unhappiness they are living.

  • Tamara
    2019-04-11 22:23

    It is necessary, when reading this book, to do so with a very large grain of salt. Because only then does one have the tools with which to attempt to reconcile its greatest disparity: it is a book about the British monarchy, written by an American author.Not, of course, that that should preclude Mr. Spoto from writing an objective, thorough, and well-researched and fascinating tale - in theory. And, perhaps, in the hands of a more able writer, that is exactly what this book would have been. Instead, however, it seems to have been written by a cynic, whose every word choice is tinged with pessimism, derision, hyperbole, judgment, and the slightest bit of jealousy. (This may not be because the author is American, but I think even an anti-monarchist English author might have had a touch more deference about his phrasing.)The author takes the rather progressive (if not incorrect) point of view, as evidenced from the first (the title, The Decline and Fall, does not invite optimism or confidence), that the British monarchy is no longer effective - or even in existence at all. This last is obvious in his thesis, from one of the earlier chapters: "If honesty and sincerity, duty and dignity are among the hallmarks of good character, Queen Victoria was indeed an admirable human being and raised the monarchy to a deserved respect. In the absence of those virtues, it is easy to understand how her progeny, a century later, effected the collapse of that institution." (By the way, if you are confused as to what Queen Victoria is doing in a book about a royal House that has its origins a hundred years after she came to the throne, you are not alone.)And Mr. Spoto continues in the same vein throughout the rest of the 400+ pages. He appears to have donned a pair of rosy glasses, in which the past (instead of just serving as a counterpoint) is seen as far more favourable to the present, for he spends much time bemoaning the loss of such virtues as those listed above, and hearkening back to "simpler" times. (Nowhere is that clearer than in his descriptions of the deaths of the past few monarchs; with Queen Victoria, he says farewell in a tender, moving way, and by George VI (the last late monarch), he has a single sentence to describe the event before moving on.) In that, he very much embodies a paradox: comfortable in the embrace of the past, he resorts to doomsday predictions of the future of an institution he, by default and as an outsider, does not and cannot understand.Additionally, not content to merely act the historian-biographer-chronicler, he becomes (to my unending chagrin) more the speculative-psychiatrist to his increasingly petty and two-dimensional cast of characters. The defects he identifies in this cast almost invariably spring from "mommy" or "daddy issues," and he is not sparing in his criticism, both of parents and children, delighting in their every misstep.To underscore how negatively he views the Royal Family (of whatever generation), he employs the phrase "to his/their/her credit" as departure from this criticism - and only every so often.The only person who is wholly exempt from this ill treatment at the hands of Mr. Spoto is also, not coincidentally, the only American: Wallis (formerly Simpson), Duchess of Windsor. Considering it is she who very nearly caused the actual Fall of the House of Windsor, there is a large amount of irony in that. He is so sympathetic to her, that some people - who by all other accounts are deserving of just praise and credit, such as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (formerly the Duchess of York) - are presented as unmitigatedly unreasonable and cruel as a result.To his credit (rather a mean-spirited little phrase, isn't it?), Mr. Spoto does have a nice grasp on the English language, and employs a wide variety of words. That being said, however, he does not have a similarly nice grasp on the meaning of "irony," misusing it with amazing frequency, or "anorexia," using it too often as a synonym for "thin" or "ill" to even be considered just an oversight on the part of the editor. He also is not very imaginative with descriptions, for once he finds a nice phrase that he likes, he repeats it ad nauseum (he must have compared Wallis with Greta Garbo at least five times, and he definitely called Edward VII "mercurial" three times on the same page - I counted).His favourite word, to describe just about everything, is the very unkind "absurd": the monarchy is absurd; the Royal Family is absurd; the Church of England's precepts are absurd; the actions of the new generation of Royals are absurd (to the point that, had he been writing after August 1997, I almost think he would have said that Diana deserved what happened, which is horrifying); thinking is absurd; money is absurd; civilisation is absurd; writing books is absurd.And I would have given this three stars, despite all that, because of the inclusion of some very charmingly amusing stories (for example: "Perhaps the most memorable moment of their very grand wedding and reception [the wedding of Mary, Princess Royal, to the Earl of Harewood, in 1922] occurred when the nearsighted novelist E. M. Forster bowed deeply to the cake, taking it for Queen Mary."), if it had not been for this atrocious (or perhaps, absurd) sentence, which embodies all that I hate about historians overstepping their bounds: "What may be the emotional health of little Beatrice and Eugenie, like that of Princes William and Harry, remains to be seen."

  • Audrey
    2019-04-20 00:29

    p. 362: "The fact was (and remains) that the British monarchy canonizes the most entrenched system of arbitrary social stratification and class distinction in the developed world. Openly representing rank and privilege in an era committed to democracy and the triumph of classlessness, the Crown stands for the class system, for the right of inherited wealth and status. The monarch embodies not so much the aspirations of a people but the aristocracy itself - all the terms and hierarchies that once defined England instead of the mixed society it aspires to be. In England an entitled gentleman is inferior to a knight, who stands beneath a baronet, who is beneath a baron, who stands beneath a viscount, who is inferior to an earl, who stands beneath a marquess, who is inferior to a duke, who is less than a royal duke, who bows to the King or Queen. One has to go to the Vatican to find a hierarchical structure as quaint."Donald Spoto's book, published in 1995, dishes the dirt on the British monarchs (from Queen Anne, the last Stuart who ascended the throne in 1702 to Queen Elizabeth II and her progeny) in his somewhat restrained way typical of his celebrity biographies. What you find within The Decline of the House of Windsor is a bunch of desperately unhappy, emotionally stunted mediocrities leading idle lives, unable to make anything of themselves because of their restrictive and archaic social status.Spoto is quite sympathetic to Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee whom King Edward VIII abdicated the throne for.This is already an enjoyable book but what makes it even better is if you picture Scott Thompson ("Hell-oooooooooo!" from Kids in the Hall) in all the parts about Queen Elizabeth II. For example:"During an international crossing in 1976, the royal yacht Britannia suffered frough seas after leaving Bermuda. A Force 9 gale was announced; the ship pitched at a forty-five degree angle, then lurched over a crest and rested once more with its deck pitched at an opposing forty-five degrees... When the queen departed the dining room after dinner, the ship was still rolling badly, and as she gripped a sliding door she slid with it. 'Wheeeeeeee!" cried the Queen as the Britannia shuddered and her chiffon scarf blew around her head. 'Wheeeeeee!" squealed Her Majesty again, like a child on a thrilling ride." HAHA

  • Rho
    2019-04-16 22:20

    Loved this book. Written well before the "redemption" of the royals but a good fast read. The book starts back with prior monarchs and families. The book was published before what the present Queen termed her "annus horribilus" and the death of Diana. There are tidbits I did not know about the Queen Mum and some of Victoria's children. I did not know the reasoning behind the British royalty refused to allow Nicholas and Alexandra an escape from their persecutors in revolutionary Russia. It was interesting how George V had a vision to modernize the concept of royalty. Now we have Charles and Camilla who when this book was written would have been most unbelievable.

  • Jessica Gettel
    2019-04-06 00:28

    Skims over a great deal. Bounces around in time, does not include a family tree or any photographs. He rarely cites sources, so the book is borderline fiction. Also, the author could have put the thesaurus down! He over complicates the book by using antiquated phrases and unnecessarily large (and again outdated) words and terms in an attempt to make the book seem well written. I'm sure there are many other books that do the job of providing a history of the British monarchy without being so convoluted and BORING. AVOID AVOID AVOID.

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-18 05:31

    It's hard to agree with the reviewer who called the Windsors "ordinary", as they are a family in a family business like no other. Plenty of honest history and trashy scandal made this a fast read. The book was published before what the present Queen termed her "annus horribilus", but there are plenty of rattling skeletons from previous generations, including how the British royalty refused to allow Nicholas and Alexandra an escape from their persecutors in revolutionary Russia.I wouldn't cite it in a research paper, but I enjoyed reading it!

  • Phillip
    2019-04-05 04:32

    I had no intention of reading the whole book, but somehow got caught up in it. It is a revelation as to just how appallingly mediocre this family really is. At the same time, one cannot help but feel sorry for those trapped into life as a "royal"- unable to pursue any personal happiness, encased in an antique system of ceremony, forbidden by law to marry anyone not approved by Parliament, every move lived in the glare of a public light that demands a perfect British family yet forbids any semblance of normalcy in their human lives. Poor Wills and Harry.

  • Katherine
    2019-04-22 03:41

    Loved the details about the monarchs prior to Elizabeth II but not so much the newer stuff.I think because there has been so much media coverage particularly since the 1980's that some of the information feels less believable than the information from earlier periods.There was obviously quite a bit of research gone into the book but like every book of this type you need to take some of it with a grain of salt.

  • Darla Ebert
    2019-04-18 00:39

    Having read other histories of Royals, I nevertheless was impressed with comparatively new information that gave me a fresh sense of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I felt was stepping into the pages of those particular chapters of English time periods. The latter days, after World War 2 were predictably sensationalized and "done to death" already. I'd recommend the book for the first 250 pages

  • Katherine
    2019-04-11 22:23

    I was looking for an overview of the Windsors, and this book was perfect. I have a better understanding now of "who was who". The most interesting part of the book for me was the account of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's relationship, his abdication, etc. It's one of those stories referred to so often but I never knew much about it.

  • Wendy
    2019-04-07 22:35

    Interesting perspective on the history of the royal family. It ends before the death of Princess Diana.

  • David Seay
    2019-04-09 21:21

    I absolutely loved this book !!! Sat down and read the entire book, could not put it down !!!!

  • Jan Sample
    2019-04-10 02:30

    Gives great insight to the reasons for the dysfunctional behavior of the royal family members - My heart went out to those who are involved in the "firm"

  • Charlene
    2019-04-07 01:32

    Nothing new here. Book is now outdated as it stops with Wm and Harry just children If you like to read about royalty you might like the book Found this at a book sale