In brief: Courtiers; Anglo-Saxon Myths; Unmasking Our Leaders – review


Valentine Low
Headline, £20, pp372

Who are the “men in grey suits” who are seen around the royal family at official events and are widely believed to be the true power behind the throne? In his engaging and thoroughly researched study, the royal correspondent Valentine Low looks at courtiers from the Queen’s major domo, Alan “Tommy” Lascelles, to contemporary attendants in the alternate court of Harry and Meghan. Low doesn’t stint on insider gossip, thanks to his unprecedented access to royal households, and he has perceptive things to say about power and responsibility too.

Anglo-Saxon Myths

Brice Stratford
Batsford, £16.99, pp224

For those whose knowledge of Anglo-Saxon literature begins and ends with Beowulf, this collection of stories from the period, lovingly turned into vibrant contemporary prose by the author, will be little short of revelatory. We are introduced to the Ealdspell, or remaining fragments of myths, in the preface and these tales of enchantment, gods, monsters and humanity are rich in both poetry and incident. It is easy, reading Stratford’s vibrant retellings, to understand where Tolkien drew his inspiration from and this fine book should find a similar, enthusiastic readership.

Unmasking Our Leaders

Michael Cockerell
Biteback, £12.99, pp385 (paperback)

The political documentarian has been following prime ministers from Ted Heath to Boris Johnson around the world over the course of a career that has spanned more than half a century. This enjoyably anecdotal memoir draws on his experiences getting up close and personal with the residents of 10 Downing Street and what it lacks in penetrating insight about British politics, it makes up for in fascinating stories and quotable remarks. It’s hard not to forget Barbara Castle’s words: “Political careers don’t end in tears. They end in fury.”