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Brewer's British Royalty: A Phrase and Fable Dictionary by David Williamson. Published by Cassell, Wellington House, 125 Strand, London WC2R OBB. 1996, in paperback 1998. 392 pp. Charts. £14.99.

The stated aim of this book is to provide a handy reference tool for readers of history and biography. The book covers all aspects of British royalty from the ancient Britons to the present day. This book provides interesting facts and fables about the lives of the kings and queens condensing a wealth of information that is readily available. However, it expands information on some of the lessor known members of royalty. Not all members of the royal families are included in this book, for that you would need to consult a book on royalty genealogy such as Alison Weir's Britain's Royal Families. However, this is much more than a genealogy. Their are many facts, and some legends, included on many members of royalty.

The brief introduction does need to be examined so that the reader will understand how the entries are arranged, for example when they have the same name (arranged chronologically) or same first name with a title (arranged alphabetically).

This book is full of interesting bits of information. One entry I particularly liked was:

Little gentleman in black velvet: Jacobite toast referring to the mole whose hill caused William III's horse to stumble and throw him, thus precipitating his illness and death.

The appendices include drop-line pedigree charts for the many different royalty lines. Where appropriate there are warnings about the legitimacy of the chart contents and statements that the information should be used with caution, e.g. descendants of Woden.

This is the type of book that you can leave lying around, pick up for a short read, and still learn a good deal of information about many key figures in English history. It's a very enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Paul Milner
BIGWILL v.5 no.2, 1998