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What Made Them Laugh at the Palace?



Henry and Mary Ponsonby were two of the most important people at the court of Queen Victoria. This double biography examines their lives with and without the queen. His father was a veteran of Waterloo. Her father bankrupted her family by building an extravagant country house. They came to serve at a court that was increasingly conservative as the century went on, but both Ponsonbys were liberal and often radical in their political opinions. The book is based on their correspondence in the Royal Archives at Windsor as well as on family papers at Shulbrede Priory. What is most memorable about them is Henry's talent for amusing Mary with stories of palace goings-on. Their shared laughter is on every page.

"One of the curious aspects of the British public's relationship with monarchy has been a consistent mix of veneration and ribaldry, loyalty and laughter. It is heartening to discover in William Kuhn's history of Victorian court life that this affectionate mockery extended right up to Her Majesty's Private Secretary."

—Tristram Hunt, BBC History Magazine

"History writing at its brightest and most bold"

Sunday Telegraph

"An excellent book, instructive as well as highly entertaining, and deserves a literary prize"

The Spectator

"Enthusiastically recommended, [an] intimate portrayal of court life which offers unique insights into the recent history of Great Britain's royal family in general, and the court of Queen Victoria in particular"

Midwest Book Review via Amazon.com