The Palace Papers : Inside the House of Windsor - the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown. In her new book, ''The Palace Papers,'' Tina Brown takes on a centuries-old institution of strong personalities, byzantine rules, a defining pecking order and mercurial public support.

I don't mean the monarchy. I mean the press.

Tracing how 21st-century journalism has helped reshape the wobbly contours of the British royal family, Brown is by turns chiding and comradely.

She is, after all, the English born, Oxford educated former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Talk and The Daily Beast, as well as a prolific freelance writer, intermittent broadcaster, conference organizer and general gadabout.

The House of Windsor has long been referred to as the Firm. But these days it seems more like a Blob : harder to corral than mercury spilled on Axminster carpet.

The presumed future queen consort, Camilla, will be anointed with the asterisk of a first marriage, to Andrew-Bowles, that produced two children.

One scion, Prince Harry, fled his official duties for the bland American luxury of Montecito, Calif; his uncle Prince Andrew has been stripped on his military titles following his embroilment in an international sex-trafficking scandal. [With typical brio, Brown refers to Andrew as a ''coroneted sleaze machine'' and a ''ghost royal.'']

Let's just say the cheating charts have gotten very complicated.

Any student of English history knows that zigs and zags in the palatial line of succession are nothing new. Brown was one of a cadre of top newswomen who commented for ABC during the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton in 2011.

The scale of the ceremonial operation was weighing ''heavily on our betoxed brows,'' Brown writes. She considered mentioning ''the unfortunate fate of previous queens called Catherine : Aragon - divorced; Howard - beheaded,'' before deciding this was probably more information than middle-American viewers would want.

The 1997 death in a car crash of Princess Diana, when Brown memorialized in a best-selling biography, ''The Diana Chronicles,'' 10-years later was an indelible blot. 

The paparazzi chasing the limousine were blamed and demonized after the accident, though Brown forcefully rejects here ''the now pervasive narrative that Diana was a vulnerable victim of media manipulation, a mere marionette tossed about any malign forces beyond her control.''

Indeed, Brown speculates that Diana, who eschewed protection from Scotland Yard and sometimes tipped off the paps herself to make lovers jealous, may have been almost complicit in her own demise, refusing to wear a seatbelt and perhaps even asking her drunk chauffeur to speed up.

''The Palace Papers'' is an apt title for what sometimes seems like a briefcase stuffed to overflowing with such conjecture, plus clippings, transcripts, observations, wry asides, literary references and trivial tidbits. [Speaking of paper, I can't unsee, somehow, that Charles is said to prefer something called Kleenex Velvet tissue, unavailable in the States.]

Not that Brown hasn't scuffed her own shoe leather. She queries the equerries; she tracks down former nannies and ladies-in-waiting.

She vividly conjures ''the fading walk-up flats in far-flung London postal codes of former courtiers and retainers'' : their tables crowded with ''tasteful knickknacks,'' their star carpets reeking of ''downward mobility and pointless, genteel sacrifice.''

Being Tina Brown, she is more often rubbing shoulder pads with the elite in the course of business : huddling under an umbrella with the historian Simon Schama en route to a 9/11 memorial, for example, or telling the sporty Mr. Parker-Bowles in 1981 that she neither hunted nor fished. [''Real intellectual, are you?' he said with a slight patrician sneer.'']

Proudly, she claims to have been the first, in The Daily Beast, to reveal the extent of Jeffrey Epstein's ''depredations.'' She congratulates herself, an energetic shower-upper, for turning down one invitation : to the now infamous dinner party Epstein held in Manhattan for Andrew, attended by Woody Allen; she asked the publicist if it was a ''predator's ball.''

The World Students Society thanks review author Alexandra Jacobs.


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