The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves by Andrew Lownie (Bonnier Books, £22.50)

This is a very authoritative and well-researched biography of Louis (known as Dickie) and Edwina Mountbatten, spanning much of the 20th century. Edwina’s early life in particular is marked by wealth and leisure: a weekly allowance of £2000 pounds (when the average is £2) and a 10-day cruise courtesy of the Vanderbilts are typical. For Dickie, there is hunting, gadgets and friends called Laddie, Dickie and Fruity. Dickie and Edwina get engaged on an eight-month holiday, take a four-month honeymoon and hang out with every celeb of the era: Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin for starters.

It is impossible not to get drawn in. Edwina quickly bores of her husband, preferring dancing to golf, and has many affairs, with Dickie’s consent, one or two causing quite the scandal and all documented here. The outbreak of war puts a marker in the book. Dickie’s WW2 record in the Navy and as the final Viceroy of India pre-Partition are studied from every angle, his culpability in other’s deaths still a subject of debate. He is much-loved by his men, but as a leader, prone to rash decisions. Lownie, using many sources, adopts an even-handed approach to Dickie’s achievements.

Edwina comes into her own at this point, pouring her life into humanitarian relief. She shows a toughness of spirit and independent mind, a huge leap from the frivolity of her early life.

This is history at its most entertaining. If you want to know about Dickie naming Edwina’s breasts after his World War One medals or about brother George’s large inherited porn collection, it’s all here, as are questions about Dickie’s apparent predilection for boys in uniform. It all makes for a hugely entertaining and readable royal biography. Even better, Andrew Lownie is appearing at York Literature Festival on March 24 at York Explore at 2pm to talk about the book and sign copies.

Tim Curtis