The best books set in 17th century England

Who am I?

I am the author of sixteen novels—six of them set in the mid-seventeenth century. The English Civil Wars and their aftermath is a period very close to my heartcombining as it does fascinating personalities, incredibly complicated politics, and all the drama and bloodshed of civil conflict. My greatest pleasure has been finding and featuring real men whose names are now largely forgotten.


I wrote...

The Black Madonna

By Stella Riley,

Book cover of The Black Madonna

What is my book about?

The Black Madonna is the first in my five book series set against the English Civil Wars. It takes place between 1639 and 1645 and is told largely through the eyes of the Maxwell family; Richard, Member of Parliament, his son, Eden, a soldier in the Parliamentary army, and his daughter, Kate, from their home in Oxfordshire. But it is also told from the perspective of Luciano del Santi, an Italian goldsmith in love with Richard’s daughter whilst pursuing a revenge quest through a war-torn land.

The Black Madonna is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree.

The books I picked & why

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Montrose: The Kings' Champion

By Max Hastings,

Book cover of Montrose: The Kings' Champion

Why this book?

I read a lot of biographies but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. Told with a novelist’s eye, Hastings gives a compelling account of a remarkable man, his achievements, and his tragic, utterly disgraceful end.

Travel with Montrose and his band of ill-equipped Irishmen over the Grampians in the dead of winter—it’s a journey one doesn’t forget.


Royal Escape

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of Royal Escape

Why this book?

The famous story of Charles the Second’s escape from England during the six weeks following the Battle of Worcester in 1651. I believe Heyer based her book on the account Charles gave to Samuel Pepys. Interestingly, while in exile, the King never told the whole tale and changed numerous details to protect those who had helped him.

Royal Escape is an enjoyable and entertaining read told by a master storyteller.


The Stranger Prince: The Story of Rupert of the Rhine

By Margaret Irwin,

Book cover of The Stranger Prince: The Story of Rupert of the Rhine

Why this book?

One of several related titles about the Stuarts, The Stranger Prince is about Rupert of the Rhine and, to a degree, the rest of his family, exiled from the Palatinate when Rupert was still in the cradle. It is a favourite of mine, covering Rupert’s early years and his military career in England during the first Civil War.

Based on real characters and events, it has tremendous liveliness and heart.


The Children of the New Forest

By Frederick Marryat,

Book cover of The Children of the New Forest

Why this book?

First published in 1847, the writing style seems somewhat ponderous these days. I read it when I was about twelve—and this is where I discovered the English Civil War. It begins in 1647 and tells the story of four children who, their home burned by Parliamentary soldiers, flee to hide in the forest during a time of danger, persecution, and war. Its bias is unashamedly Royalist but that isn’t necessarily a flaw.


The King's General

By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of The King's General

Why this book?

Set in Cornwall, before and during the Civil War, this is a terrific tale based upon the lives of real people—most notably, perhaps, Sir Richard Grenville the King’s General in the West. It’s the story of the Rashleigh Family and Menabilly—where Daphne du Maurier herself lived.

Well written as one would expect of du Maurier—it’s a beautiful story, beautifully told; absorbing, exciting and hard to put down.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the English Civil War, Scotland, and Cornwall?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the English Civil War, Scotland, and Cornwall.

The English Civil War Explore 11 books about the English Civil War
Scotland Explore 183 books about Scotland
Cornwall Explore 27 books about Cornwall

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Dracula, A Morbid Taste for Bones, and Roanoke Hundred if you like this list.