MNC Book Report: English Court Life, Ralph Dutton

I grabbed this book because it was on the shelf next to The English Court, which I reported on a little while ago. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the first useless research book I’ve read.

Dutton describes his purpose as “to show the influence of the reigning monarch on the way of life carried on at his court, and also how and where he lived.” Unfortunately, because it goes from Henry VII to George II (three hundred years) in just over 200 pages, the result is unavoidably shallow. And also unbalanced: Mary I, who reigned for five years, gets fourteen pages of coverage, while Edward VI, who ruled for six, gets two.

I had hoped for this book to be a good complement to The English Court, giving me a better idea of daily life during the period. No dice. It contains a few anecdotes I wasn’t familiar with before, but it ends up reading like a half-baked history, failing to really cover the events of the period (which the author admits he isn’t trying to do) while failing to dig into the practicalities of life back then (which is what he was supposed to be doing). And while the chapter on Elizabeth isn’t completely idolatrous, Dutton appears to be firmly in the camp of Gloriana, extolling her virtues and achievements while mostly glossing over her flaws.

On the bright side, I only read the Tudor section, so I only wasted eighty-five pages of my life, instead of 220.

Oh well. I can’t hit a home run with every book, I suppose.

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