The best books about the Queen

Robert Lacey Author Of Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor
By Robert Lacey

Who am I?

Robert Lacey is credited with changing the way that people read and write about the British monarchy. In 1977 his tell-it-how-it-is Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor overturned the clichés of the traditional ‘royal book’, hitherto the preserve of ex-nannies and obsequious court correspondents. As a Cambridge-trained historian of the first Elizabethan age – his biographies Robert, Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Ralegh won critical acclaim – the young journalist added the investigative techniques of his work on the Sunday Times to portray the monarchy in a fresh and analytical fashion. Robert is today Historical Consultant to the Netflix TV series The Crown.


I wrote...

Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor

By Robert Lacey,

Book cover of Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor

What is my book about?

By every measure of reason and logic, monarchy has long outgrown its usefulness. So why does the modest, horse-and-corgi-loving Queen Elizabeth II continue to exert such affection in hearts around the world? That’s the question I started trying to answer in Majesty – and I have been trying to answer it ever since. 

The books I picked & why

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Queen Mary

By James Pope-Hennessy,

Book cover of Queen Mary

Why this book?

The wittiest of royal biographers, James Pope-Hennessy listed the three consuming passions of Queen Mary (1867-1953) as the British Monarchy, Windsor Castle, and collecting dolls’ house furniture. She was also dedicated to the coaching of her granddaughter Elizabeth as a future Queen. The old Queen’s excursions with the "Little Princesses," Elizabeth and Margaret, to London’s art galleries and museums, were the closest the two girls came to serious education. So read this book if you want to understand Elizabeth II as a child. It remains possible to detect Queen Mary’s reserve and occasional severity in the dutiful style of her eldest granddaughter to this day.  


Kings, Queens & Courtiers: Intimate Portraits of the Royal House of Windsor from its foundation to the present day

By Kenneth Rose,

Book cover of Kings, Queens & Courtiers: Intimate Portraits of the Royal House of Windsor from its foundation to the present day

Why this book?

This gazetteer for monarch-aholics is the work of the witty and waspish Kenneth Rose (1924-2014), the royal biographer whose insights have set the standard for the rest of us. Embedded in the heart of the Establishment, Rose had the ability to skewer its every weakness. Duchesses, Diana, Dimbleby (Richard) and Charlotte, George V’s pet parrot – all are here, bearing out the words of Queen Elizabeth II’s non-royal grandmother, Cecilia Bowes-Lyon: "As far as I can see, some people have to be fed royalty like sea-lions fish."


The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen's Childhood by Her Nanny, Marion Crawford

By Marion Crawford,

Book cover of The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen's Childhood by Her Nanny, Marion Crawford

Why this book?

"I really don’t know what we’re going to do with Margaret, Crawfie!" declared Lilibet anxiously to the original nanny diarist. "Poor Lil," responded Margaret, when rumours of her sister’s romance with Philip hit the papers. "Nothing of your own. Not even your love affair!" In the US, this first inside account of life with the modern royals boosted the circulation of the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine by half a million. But in Britain, Buckingham Palace complained that the letters quoted from the princesses breached royal copyright and insisted they be removed. Lilibet never forgave Crawfie for the betrayal embodied in this sickly, but oh-so-revealing tome.  


My Queen and I

By Willie Hamilton M.P.,

Book cover of My Queen and I

Why this book?

Here is the finest and fiercest-ever fusillade of anti-royal protest – complete with weeping Queen on the cover. Just as Elizabeth II was settling to celebrate her first 25 years on the throne, the impertinent Scottish Member of Parliament for Fife, Willie Hamilton (1917-2000), rattled out this broadside of hard-hitting complaint against royal conceit and idleness. Hamilton combined compelling statistics on palace extravagance with his own radical sense of right and wrong. He grudgingly admired Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, as "a remarkable old lady." But he dismissed Princess Margaret as "a floozy" – and Prince Charles as "a twerp." The MP claimed that his busy postbag from the British public ran 7-3 daily against the Crown.   


The Last Queen: Elizabeth II's Seventy Year Battle to Save the House of Windsor

By Clive Irving,

Book cover of The Last Queen: Elizabeth II's Seventy Year Battle to Save the House of Windsor

Why this book?

From the Windsors’ Nazi leanings in the 1930s to the perceived chilliness of the royal family following the death of Diana in 1997, Clive Irving chronicles every detail in this analysis of the modern monarchy – while never losing respect for its most adroit exponent, Queen Elizabeth II. As founder of the renowned Insight team of the London Sunday Times that exposed Profumo and Philby, Irving directs his sharpest focus on the Crown’s relations with the tabloid media. But his book went to publication prior to the horse-loving Queen’s humorous reaction to Harry and Meghan’s notorious 2021 encounter with Oprah Winfrey – Her Majesty named her fastest new racing foal “Interview”. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Queen Elizabeth II, World War 2, and France?

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