Philip Ziegler rss

Lesley Blanch in a bar in Menton in the south of France, in 1961Lesley Blanch in a bar in Menton in the south of France, in 1961

Lesley Blanch: like a gilded cupid trailing clouds of glory

28 March 2015
Lesley Blanch: On the Wilder Shores of Love edited by Georgia de Chamberet

Virago, pp.464, £20, ISBN: 9780349005447

Lesley Blanch (1904–2007) will be remembered chiefly for her gloriously extravagant The Wilder Shores of Love, the story of four upper-class European ladies who abandoned their natural habitat to seek… Read more

Dean Inge, one of the last Victorians. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Daring? No. Well written? Yes

26 July 2014
The Last Victorians W. Sydney Robinson

The Robson Press, pp.304, £20, ISBN: 9781849547161

This has all the appearance of a book invented by a publisher. Two years ago W. Sydney Robinson published an excellent biography of the Victorian newspaperman W.T. Stead. How best… Read more

Fanny Burney

The Thucydides of court gossip? Steady on...

5 April 2014
A Tale in Two Cities: Fanny Burney and Adèle, Comtesse de Boigne Brian Unwin

I.B. Tauris, pp.259, £20, ISBN: 9781780767840

Sir Brian Unwin leads off with some decidedly questionable assertions. He wonders why the first of his two subjects, the Comtesse de Boigne, should have been ‘ignored or un-noticed by… Read more


Was Roy Jenkins the greatest prime minister we never had?

29 March 2014
Roy Jenkins John Campbell

Cape, pp.818, £30, ISBN: 9780224087506

In any list of the-best-prime-ministers-we never-had, the name of Roy Jenkins is likely to be prominent. He was intelligent, moderate, courteous, thoughtful: he was exactly the sort of man whom… Read more

Prince Albert (Photo: John Jabez Edwin Mayall/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Clash of the titans

26 October 2013
High Minds Simon Heffer

Random House, pp.837, £30, ISBN: 9781847946771

This is an odd book: interesting, informative, intelligent, but still decidedly odd. It is a history of the Victorian era which almost entirely eschews wars and imperial adventures and concentrates… Read more


Edwardian Requiem, by Michael Waterhouse - review

29 June 2013
Edwardian Requiem: A Life of Sir Edward Grey Michael Waterhouse

Biteback, pp.430, £25, ISBN: 9781849544436

The photograph on the jacket, reproduced above, says it all — or at least all of what most of us think we know about Sir Edward Grey. Patrician, reflective, dignified,… Read more

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, by Charles Moore, and Not for Turning, by Robin Harris - review

4 May 2013
Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One Not for Turning Charles Moore

Allen Lane, pp.859, £30, ISBN: 978071399282

Not for Turning: The Life of Margaret Thatcher Robin Harris

Bantam, pp.493, £20, ISBN: 9780593058916

It is a measure of Lady Thatcher’s standing that her death has been followed not only by the mealy-mouthed compliments from political opponents which are normally forthcoming on such occasions… Read more

'The Undivided Past', by David Cannadine – review

6 April 2013
The Undivided Past David Cannadine

Allen Lane, pp.336, £25, ISBN: 9781846141324

David Cannadine detests generalisations and looks disapprovingly on any attempt to divide humanity into precise categories. The Undivided Past provides a resoundingly dusty answer to any historian rash enough to… Read more

Trader Faulkner celebrating the life and work of Lorca

More Lothario than Hamlet

5 January 2013
Inside Trader Trader Faulkner

Quartet, pp.312, £20, ISBN: 9780704372924

Ronald ‘Trader’ Faulkner is that relative rarity: an unassuming actor. In their memoirs most actors, after the obligatory two or three chapters describing the hardships at the outset of their… Read more

Two of the best: Chips Channon and Virginia Woolf

A painless lesson in political history

6 October 2012
Events, Dear Boy, Events: A Political Diary of Britain from Woolf to Campbell Ruth Winstone

Profile Books,, pp.326, £25, ISBN: 9781846684326

This book is not a history, explains Ruth Winstone, who has edited this collection of excerpts from diaries published between 1921 and 2011. It is, she says, ‘an impressionist view… Read more

Highbrows and eyebrows

16 June 2012
Abdication: A Novel Juliet Nicolson

Bloomsbury, pp.368, 19.99, ISBN: 9781408823088

Juliet Nicolson is a member of a literary dynasty second in productivity only to the Pakenhams. She is herself the author of two distinguished volumes of social history describing Britain… Read more


Agreeing to differ

17 March 2012
Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship Richard Aldous

Hutchinson, pp.336, 25

‘Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts; Lordie, how they could love.’ The ballad has many variant versions but the denouement is always the same; he was her man and he did… Read more

Talking tough

4 February 2012
Justice and the Enemy: From the Nuremberg Trials to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed William Shawcross

Public Affairs, pp.257, 17.99

This thoughtful, challenging and deeply depressing book takes as its launch pad the Nuremberg Trials, in which the author’s father played so prominent a part. Churchill would have executed the… Read more

Voyages of discovery

10 December 2011
Resurgent Adventures with Britannia edited by Wm. Roger Louis

I.B. Tauris, pp.352, 33.99

Roger Louis is an American professor from the University of Texas at Austin who knows more about the history of the British Empire than any other two academics put together.… Read more

The Diamond Queen by Andrew Marr

12 November 2011
The Diamond Queen Andrew Marr

Macmillan, pp.418, 25

Our Queen Robert Hardman

Hutchinson, pp.356, 20

‘Of making many books there is no end’, particularly when the subject is Queen Elizabeth II. It is less than ten years since Ben Pimlott and Sarah Bradford independently produced… Read more


At home in the corridors of power

24 September 2011
A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir of Winston and Clementine Churchill’s Youngest Child Mary Soames

Doubleday, pp.402, 25

To be the daughter of an enormously powerful man must always be an enthralling if sometimes daunting experience. To be close to that father when, almost single-handed, he is shaping… Read more


Neither Greek nor German

11 June 2011
Young Prince Philip Philip Eade

Harper Press, pp.347, £25

Prince Philip’s childhood was such that he had every right to be emotionally repressed and psychologically disturbed. Prince Philip’s childhood was such that he had every right to be emotionally… Read more

A fate worse than death

16 April 2011
Behind Closed Doors: The Tragic, Untold Story of the Duchess of Windsor Hugo Vickers

Hutchinson, pp.462, 25

Hugo Vickers has already produced a well-documented and balanced biography of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. To follow this with the Duchess of Windsor is as bold a left-and-right as… Read more


In from the cold

12 February 2011

Philip Ziegler puts the case for Terence Rattigan, whose centenary is celebrated with numerous revivals of his work After decades in the doldrums, Terence Rattigan seems once more to be… Read more


How we roared!

20 November 2010
In Spite of Myself Christopher Plummer

JR Books, pp.648, 20

To most people Christopher Plummer means Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Plummer would not be in the least ashamed by this. A year or so ago he… Read more


The invisible man

31 July 2010
Attlee: A Life in Politics Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds

I.B. Tauris, pp.329, 25

Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds’s study of Clement Attlee is a specimen of that now relatively rare but still far from endangered species, the ‘political’ biography. Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds’s study of Clement Attlee is… Read more


Golden youth or electric eel?

2 June 2010
Patrick Shaw-Stewart: An Edwardian Meteor Miles Jebb

Dovecote Press, pp.248, 17.99

Patrick Shaw-Stewart was the cleverest and the most ambitious of the gilded gang of young men who swam in the wake of the not-so-young but perennially youthful Raymond Asquith. Julian… Read more


Casualties of war and peace

14 April 2010
Unreliable Sources John Simpson

Macmillan, pp.593, 20

John Simpson quotes Humbert Wolfe’s mischievous lampoon but makes it clear that, in spite of the somewhat disobliging title of his book, he does not accept it as fair comment.… Read more

Some sunny day!

30 December 2009
Demobbed Alan Allport

Yale, pp.288, 20

In August 1945 Cyril Patmore of the Royal Scots Fusiliers returned on compassionate leave from India. A few weeks earlier his wife had written to confess that she was expecting… Read more

Home thoughts from abroad

25 November 2009
Getting Our Way Christopher Meyer

Weidenfeld, pp.320, 18.99

This book is companion to a television series (though the times seem slightly out of joint — on the front cover we are told that it is ‘As seen on… Read more