Philip Mansel is a historian of courts and cities, and of France and the Ottoman Empire. He was born in London in 1951 and educated at Eton College, where he was a King’s Scholar, and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Modern History and Modern Languages. Following four years’ research into the French court of the period 1814-1830, he was awarded his doctorate at University College, London in 1978.
His first book, Louis XVIII, was published in 1981 and this – together with subsequent works such as The Court of France 1789-1830 (1989), Paris Between Empires 1814-1852 (2001) – established him as an authority on the later French monarchy. Five of his books have been translated into French.
Altogether Philip Mansel has published thirteen books of history and biography, mainly relating either to France or the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East: Sultans in Splendour was published in 1988, Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire 1453-1924 in 1995 and Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean in 2010.
Over the past 30 years he has contributed reviews and articles to a wide range of newspapers and journals, including History Today, The English Historical Review, The International Herald Tribune, Books and Bookmen, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and Apollo. Currently he writes reviews for The Spectator, Cornucopia, The Art Newspaper and The Times Literary Supplement.
In 1995 Philip Mansel was a founder with David Starkey, Robert Oresko and Simon Thurley of the Society for Court Studies, designed to promote research in the field of court history, and he was the editor of the Society’s journal from 1996-2016. The Society has a branch in Munich and is linked to similar societies in Versailles, Madrid, Ferrara and Turin.
He has travelled widely, lecturing in many countries – including the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Turkey – and has made a number of appearances on radio and television, including in the two-part Channel 4 documentary “Harem” and in two BBC2 documentaries on Versailles in 2012. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Society of Literature, the Institute of Historical Research (University of London) and the Royal Asiatic Society, and is a member of the Conseil Scientifique of the Centre de Recherche du Chateau de Versailles. In 2010 Philip Mansel was appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres, in 2012 received the annual London Library Life in Literature Award, and in 2016 was given the Order of the Crown by the Belgian Government.
Philip Mansel wrote the introduction to the 2012 re-issue of Nancy Mitford’s The Sun King and is currently working on his own biography of Louis XIV. His short history of Aleppo: Rise and Fall of a Syria’s Great Merchant City has been published in April 2016. His book on Napoleon and his court, The Eagle in Splendour, was republished by I. B. Tauris in June 2015.
In 1995 Philip Mansel started a campaign to save Clavell Tower, a ruined folly of 1831 which threatened to fall over the cliff above Kimmeridge Bay. This led, in 2007-8, to the Tower’s deconstruction, relocation, reconstruction, restoration and modernisation by the Landmark Trust. Clavell Tower is now the Trust’s most popular property.
Philip Mansel lives in London, frequently travelling to Paris and elsewhere for research, conferences and lectures. He is also a trustee of the Levantine Heritage Foundation, a charitable trust dedicated to the study of the history and cultures of the eastern Mediterranean.