If the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex has piqued your interest in the kings, queens, princes, and princesses of bygone eras, then you’re in luck. The following books about royalty explore the history of the Tudors, doomed Russian czars, Buckingham Palace, and the other crowning glories of the world’s monarchies.
A Journey Through Tudor England
Rather than profile the Tudor rulers themselves, Suzannah Lipcomb uses a more architectural lens to examine their 118-year reign. From Hampton Court Palace—one of Henry VIII’s favorite haunts—to Anne Boleyn’s childhood home at Hever Castle, her book leads us through the violent and compelling stories of Tudor England by exploring the major homes, castles, and prisons that housed the era’s most iconic figures.
Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots is one of the most complex figures in royal history: Born Mary Stuart, she was just six days old when she ascended the throne. She had several different husbands throughout her life—including the 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was suspected of murdering the husband before him. Then, of course, there's her unfortunate beheading in 1587…John Guy covers it all in his book, portraying his subject as a formidable woman on equal footing with her famous rival, Queen Elizabeth I. With new research, he illuminates the fiercely intelligent, diplomatic, and sometimes ruthless monarch that she was.
Though the early queens of England were known as “consorts”—wives of ruling monarchs but not ruling monarchs themselves—this multi-biography reveals that their lives were just as fascinating as their husbands’. Moreover, they played pivotal roles in governing their countries despite their relative lack of power. With profiles of the infamous Eleanor of Aquitaine, Matilda of Scotland, and others, Lisa Hilton reveals that behind every great king was an equally great queen.
The Queen's Agent
The story of Queen Elizabeth I’s right-hand man, Sir Francis Walsingham, comes to life in this thrilling book by John Cooper. When Elizabeth I came to the throne, all sorts of different people wanted her dead. Using his intelligence and quick wit—basically the 16th century version of espionage—he protected the Queen from bitter and violent rivals (including the aforementioned Mary Stuart). In the end, Sir Francis ran a complex spy network that operated throughout Europe, which allowed him to successfully foil assassination plots and gather intelligence on threats waged against England itself.
The Queen's House
Today, the Windsors sit on the British throne, but it wasn’t always this way. The Queen’s House examines their history—including their rise to power—by studying the place that has been their private residence since 1761: Buckingham Palace. Written with the blessing and guidance of the royal family, Edna Headey shows how the evolution of the palace reflects the family that lives within it and the United Kingdoms’ changing attitude toward the monarchy.
Nicholas and Alexandra
The reign of Nicholas and Alexandra, the last Czar and Czarina of Russia, brought the end of the once-great Romanov empire. In this dual biography by a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, their lives are thrust into the spotlight—from their war with Rasputin to their own personal weaknesses. But was their downfall caused by their belief in the monarchy and resistance to change? Or were they doomed from the very start? Robert K. Massie uncovers the leading factors in Nicholas and Alexandra, which chronicles their journey to destruction.
Marie Antoinette: The Journey
Though Marie Antoinette has gone down in history as the woman who said “let them eat cake” in response to the needs of the common people, Antonia Fraser offers a new perspective on the infamous Queen of France. Her biography reminds us that Marie was simply a stranger in a strange land—one who was sent to marry a future king at 14-years-old—and paints an intimate portrait of a woman who faced adversity throughout her brief life.
The Assassination of the Archduke
Archduke Franz Ferdinand was determined to marry for love, not politics—even though his lover, Sophie, wasn’t “royal enough” to wed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. But marry they did, in 1900. But as any good history student remembers, their romance not only led to their 1914 assassinations—it also ignited World War I. Drawing from letters and other rare finds, Greg King and Sue Woolmans relay all the fascinating, romantic, and tragic details in this meticulously researched biography.
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