The naughty truth about Britain's aristocracy

Hallowed book unveils the naughty truth about Britain's aristocracy.

By Craig Offman
May 27, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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The latest edition of "Burke's Peerage and Baronetage," the standard reference work about the British aristocracy and its ancestry, reveals that more than half the members of England's upper class are descended from illegitimate and out-of-wedlock children. "There's been a lot of adultery going on -- let's face it," editor Charles Mosley told Salon Books. The 3,400-page, two-volume collection -- which contains over 100,000 names -- was published last week by Fitzroy Dearborn. The previous edition was published in 1970.

Mosley attributes the new findings to developments in genetics and sociology, as well as increasing candidness about sexual matters. In his opinion, blue bloods who have submitted their lineage to "Burke's" are less inhibited about discussing their murky antecedents than they were 30 years ago. While the volumes have caused a stir in Britain, Mosley hasn't received bundles of hate mail on crested stationery. "Someone will say, for instance, 'You haven't drawn my coronet right,'" Mosley says. "But that's all."

Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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