Review: The Palace Papers by Tina Brown

You gotta hand it to Tina Brown, Camilla Tominey said The Daily Telegraph: She “surely knows how to tell a good story”. The former Tatler and Vanity Fair editor debuted her 2007 bestseller on recent royal history. The Diana Chronicles. Her new book picks up where this volume left off — and makes for similarly “compulsive” reading.

Coming with “more than 500 pages”, The Palace Papers depicts all the major developments in royal life over the past 25 years, Melanie Reid said in The times: from “the painstaking restoration of Charles and Camilla’s reputations” to the recent “detonation” of Harry and Meghan’s departure.

While much of the territory covered is familiar, the narrative is riddled with “delicious” details that make it “disgustingly entertaining.” A typical one concerns the Queen’s 2019 Christmas show, before which, according to Brown, she pointed to a photo of Harry and Meghan on her desk and said, “I don’t think we need that.”

Given that she’s long been “part of the palace press industrial complex,” it’s no surprise that Brown’s attitude toward the royals is “instinctively conservative,” Charles Arrowsmith said in the Los Angeles Times. She approves of those who thrive in the ‘Windsor fishbowl’ – notably Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge – but is less friendly to those who pose a threat to the monarchy. “Brown is not on Team Meghan.”

Meghan is portrayed as a “ruthless social climber” whose marriage to Harry was a strategic one just as her acting career began to fizzle out. Her wedding guest list, according to Brown, in many cases consisted of “strategic besties”: those — like George and Amal Clooney — who weren’t part of her “intimate circle but were the friends she most wanted to recruit.”

Brown’s prose can be shockingly “frothy,” Camilla Long said in The Sunday Times. The Queen doesn’t just love Philip; she was “crazy about him since 1939”. “Until he lost his hair,” she writes, “Prince William was probably the biggest heartthrob since the pre-obese Henry VIII.” But you can’t blame her for “gushing details” and “persistent” research: The acknowledgments run to ten pages.

The spelling tends to be racy, but it’s really refreshing to read a book on the subject by someone who doesn’t come from the “lock-tugging ranks of ‘royal correspondents,'” said Richard J. Evans in the New statesman. Excellently researched and overall balanced in his judgements, The Palace Papers is a “delightfully irreverent” tidbit.

Century 592 pages £20; The bookstore of the week £15.99

book cover

The bookstore of the week

To order this title or any other printed book, please visit speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm. Review: The Palace Papers by Tina Brown

Fry Electronics Team

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