(REVIEW) Lust, Lies and Monarchy by Stephen Millar

Hello awesome readers. Today I have a review for you of a historical nonfiction book that tells you the stories behind the art of British royals throughout the years. I have mixed feelings about this book. I thought it was a bit boring and repetitive, but history isn’t my thing, so I can recommend it to those interested in British history with a warning that this book may have some flaws, but it does have a lot of pictures of art. It also contains walking tour guides to London that may be of interest to some. This book will be released tomorrow! I littered this review with quotes from the book that I hope you will find entertaining or interesting.


Lust, Lies and Monarchy

lust lies and monarchy book cover featuring the 9 day queen at her execution depicted in a portrait on the coverAuthor: Stephen Millar
Category: Historical Nonfiction, Art History, British History, Travel Guide
Suitable for: Adults
My Rating: 3 Stars
Format Read for Review: Kindle copy provided by an agent/publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Pages: 268

“Desperate to save him, King James permitted his son to suffer the barbaric medical treatments of the day. This involved repeatedly being bled, having holes drilled in his head, and a slaughtered chicken held to the soles of his feet.”

This book tells bits of British history through the art that captured these moments, and also gives you a guide to sight-see in London. The actual page count is misleading because, the content of this book stops halfway through and the rest of the pages are the extensive index and so on. The first 42% is a collection of historical stories and tidbits, not always told in order. The next 8% is a step by step walking tour of London. This section wasn’t that interesting to me because I am too far away to be able to use it but I did see a few photos of places that I have been to in the past when I visited London, and that was kind of fun seeing those and feeling nostalgic. There are some places I had visited and I HAD fond memories of going there, but now that I know of the places’ dark pasts… I just wish I didn’t know some things. This book could be a good choice if you are planning a trip to the UK, whether for the walking tours or just to get some history. I did find some of the historical tidbits interesting. There are also maps and family trees that may be useful to some.

“He also had a team of dedicated torturers and executioners able to force secrets out of Catholic plotters, whose identities had been discovered after codes were broken.”

The worst part I think of all these crazy stories is the horrible ways children were treated. From being married at 9, or locked up at 6 until death at 14, some were assassinated or executed, and I don’t even want to know what happened to Anne aged 3. And all of it was just for someone’s evil plot to control the crown. This theme became really redundant and I couldn’t help wondering if 16-year-old Lady Jane Grey (seen on the book cover) was so brave in facing the axe because up to this point her life had been so awful that she might not have felt like she was going to miss it. The matter of fact manner in which these tragic stories are told does make them easier to digest but wow this is some dark history.

“Paul Delaroche’s romanticised depiction of Jane’s execution is not fully accurate historically. Jane did not wear white, the axeman was masked and the execution took place outdoors (Delaroche’s darkly lit picture appears to place events indoors). However, this dramatic painting amazed viewers in Paris when it was unveiled for the first time, striking a chord in a country that itself had suffered from years of political instability and state-sponsored executions.”

I think personally this book was too dark for me which is probably why history isn’t my go-to. Some of the information about little details of the paintings I found interesting. Especially when historical accuracies and inaccuracies were pointed out within them. It was nice being able to go back and forth from the text to the images to see what they were talking about. However, sometimes art that was referenced to wasn’t featured in the book, and that either left me confused or disappointed that I was missing something. Maybe my copy was just missing some images. I did receive an advance copy so some errors are to be expected.

Anne Boleyn in the Tower of london
Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London. Édouard Cibot / Public domain

“some weeping, crying, howling, wringing of their hands, others halfe dead … passionately betraying so great a losse with rivers, nay with an ocean of teares.”

I enjoyed looking at the artwork and getting an understanding of what it was portraying. Some of the paintings had a context I never would have guessed. Sadly the paintings of children almost always had tragic tales attached. Overall, I think this book was well researched and had a lot of insight into historical events. Although, I felt like some details were left out and others seemed too theatrical. Sometimes it would say someone died and then go off topic and finally circle back around to say how they died. I didn’t particularly care for that style but I can see how some would enjoy it. I would recommend this book to people who like reading about British history and art history, but note it isn’t heavy with background on most of the artists.

“When he held up the head to show the crowd, he shouted ‘God save Queen Elizabeth! May all enemies of the true Evangel thus perish!’ It is said that Mary was wearing a wig and the executioner was left holding it in his grasp as her head came away, falling to the floor. The crowd collectively gasped now seeing for the first time the queen’s prematurely grey hair.”


reviewed by O sm