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Review: Not in Front of the Corgis by Brian Hoey

I do love a trashy read every once in a while. True, I don’t have much interest in the so-called celebrities that constantly occupy The Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame, but the Royal Family is a different story. I’m fascinated by the servant-master relationships that go on, I love the history of the monarchy and the traditions it holds. Most of all, I love the gossip. Because with a family that’s so ridiculously far removed from reality, how can I help but get sucked in?

Not in Front of the Corgis was good for a little bit of the ol’ goss. It was an easy read at 256 pages and filled with little snippets and stories for my entertainment. We get a decent look at what life is like for the family and its Royal servants, specifically who is the most liked member of the fam’ according to the staff. It’s quite an eye-opening account at just how many people are employed under the crown (and a quite a lot on a low salary) and just how many ridiculous tasks they’re required to perform.

“One of the Prince’s three valets makes sure his bath has been run, with the water temperature tested with a wooden-cased thermometer, that a fresh blade is inserted in his razor before he shaves each morning and also included in his duties is the task of squeezing three quarters, no more, no less, of an inch of toothpaste onto the royal toothbrush.”

Makes Downton Abbey look almost normal, doesn’t it?

There’s a lot of these little tidbits (not nearly as many as I would like, but enough) and it honestly made me dislike the Royal family a fair bit. Not that this was the author’s intention; he’s quite unbiased and professional, making sure to drop in some stories that show the Royals in a positive light to off-set the bad ones.

“The Prince is kept informed by his staff of the comings and goings of anyone in whom they think he might have interest. Recently, he was told that a former royal correspondent for a national newspaper, who had frequently attacked him in print, had undergone surgery for a serious stomach condition. The former reporter was surprised – and delighted – when a large ad very expensive bunch of his favourite flowers were delivered to his home, along with a handwritten note from his old adversary wishing him well. It was a generous and thoughtful gesture that was entirely spontaneous and, on his orders, carried out without any publicity.”

The book, though good, was dulled by the long chapters about the Palace’s finances and the Royal family’s houses’ specs. I wasn’t at all interested in this information, but luckily the author padded the chapters with more stories and funny little goings-on. So it was easy to stay entertained through the boring chapters by marveling at some of the silly servants’ names like “Keeper of the Privy Purse” and “Mistress of the Robes”.

At the end of the day, this was a trashy read. A bit of fun, a light read with some interesting facts about the Royal family. This is not the kind of book to pick up if you’re interested in the history of the monarchy or if you want a more high-brow recounting of the family’s lives with a tad more substance. It’s essentially a well-written tabloid, and one I really rather enjoyed.


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