After reading Michael Farquhar’s new book, Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, and Folly from Royal Britain, I had the privilege of a great interview. Please enjoy this interview, and see Part 2 when he answers the questions of some royal bloggers.
Mandy: What inspired you to be a writer and historian?
Michael Farquhar: Well, I’m not a historian, per se; I’m a reporter of history. There’s a big difference: The historians are the true experts. I merely synthesize their discoveries in a (hopefully ) entertaining, readable way. I’ve always loved history, especially the juicy side, and started writing about it for The Washington Post about twenty years ago. Since then, I’ve made a career of history writing and feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be able to make a living doing what I love.
M: What inspired you to research rotten royals?
MF: I wouldn’t call them rotten…just extremely human, in a larger than ordinary life sort of way. People with their kind of power tended to misbehave…royally…and that makes for very entertaining reading. Although my first book, A Treasury of Royal Scandals, focused entirely on bad behavior, my new one, Behind the Palace Walls, incorporates other facets of British royal history: triumphs, tragedies, adventure, romance–as well as all the treachery, folly, and deep family dysfunction.
M: What is your opinion on royal behavior today? Is there enough naughtiness for a book?
MF: Misbehavior by the royals today barely registers as scandalous, especially when compared to the actions of some of their forbears. So, no book…at least by me. However, I have included several stories of the modern royal family in the new book, including the heroism of King George VI, the present queen’s father, who is featured in “The King’s Speech.” (I wrote about King George and his wartime partnership with Churchill before the film was released, and only touch briefly on his efforts to contol his stammer.)
M: You’ve also written about “Foolishly Forgotten Americans”, “Great American Scandals”, and produced “A Treasury of Deception”. What is it about scandals and bad behavior that intrigues you?
MF: I’m intrigued by what happens when ordinary human behavior–jealousy, greed, ambition, etc.–gets magnified by the people who make history. It’s a never ending education!
M: Who is your favorite royal in history?
MF: The marital adventures of Henry VIII first got me interested in history as a kid. And though so much has been written about King Henry’s life and times, he never ceases to fascinate me. I
M: Who is your favorite character – in general – in history?
MF: There are too many, Mandy!!
[See Part 2 of the interview]
See Michael discuss his other books at the C-SPAN Video Library.