Although there are other monarchies, Britain's Crown stands out due to the continuity of its traditions, and its ability to adapt. There's a reason why schoolchildren still learn about the Kings and Queens: it's their power struggles and subtle compromises that have shaped the nation we inhabit today. When members of the Royal family go on 'walkabouts', they do so because monarchs stretching back to King Alfred understood the need to be seen by their subjects, and the dire consequences of remaining aloof (or abroad). When they give interviews, or accept taxes, they do so as part of a long series of engagements with other, almost-equally powerful operators: Church, Parliament, the nobility. In this sprightly commentary on the Crown's 1,800-year-long story, Stephen Bates provides a dazzling insight into Royal custom and ritual, whilst depicting the individuals behind the myth with compassion and wit.