Rating: 5 out of 5
It was very easy for me to pick up another volume of ‘This Sceptred Isle’ as I absolutely adored the general historical collections I went through earlier this year. The one doubt I had was to do with this one’s name: “Dynasties”. I thought that though the Plantagenets and Windsors have their charms, it might not be that interesting. Firstly, I was mistaken — this deals with the common(er) dynasties (and the people who have actually been influential), and secondly, it was very interesting indeed to go through the stories of so many families.
If I had to think of a gripe, I could bring up that as so many of the stories (did not count but definitely more than three or four) went past several similar episodes, we hear about Edward II’s failed rule quite a few times indeed. The internecine 16th century has a similar effect, especially the early period of Elizabeth’s rule with several prominent families featured throughout this time. That said, repetition is they key to remembering and it wasn’t done to the point I would be tired of it; just very close.
The way these dynasties stretched into the 19th century, however, was generally a very thrilling story and the quirks they took up on the way made the people memorable. The quips between the Howard Duke of Norfolk and James II, on their respective fathers, were an especially good reminder of that though some of these families (say the Despencers) were relatively consistent in policy, others were definitely not.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this to interested parties, even if general history is not your cup of tea (but, say, you like a good story) though some background knowledge does come in handy at times.