10 books like Her Majesty's Spymaster

By Stephen Budiansky,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Her Majesty's Spymaster. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Witchcraft Sourcebook

By Brian P. Levack (editor),

Book cover of The Witchcraft Sourcebook

Of all the books I consulted while writing my own, this is the one that surprised me the most and that I most frequently revisit. It is a collection of historical documents on witchcraft in the Western world from the Roman Empire to the eighteenth century, and I cannot recommend a better book on the subject. It's fascinating, painstakingly researched, instantly accessible to any reader, and either hilarious or horrifying, depending on how you pick your poison! There is a particularly interesting document that details how one sells their soul to the Devil which I was delighted to see referenced in Robert Egger's 2015 film The VVitch. He must have either read this book or consulted that same document during his research, which was clearly to his benefit.

The Witchcraft Sourcebook

By Brian P. Levack (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Witchcraft Sourcebook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Witchcraft Sourcebook, now in its second edition, is a fascinating collection of documents that illustrates the development of ideas about witchcraft from ancient times to the eighteenth century. Many of the sources come from the period between 1400 and 1750, when more than 100,000 people - most of them women - were prosecuted for witchcraft in Europe and colonial America. During these years the prominent stereotype of the witch as an evil magician and servant of Satan emerged. Catholics and Protestants alike feared that the Devil and his human confederates were destroying Christian society.

Including trial records, demonological treatises…


Christopher Marlowe

By Park Honan,

Book cover of Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy

It might surprise you to see a Christopher Marlowe biography over any book on William Shakespeare in this list, but Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy is seriously that good. It made me fall in love with the scoundrel now credited as co-author to Shakespeare’s three Henry VI plays and who likely had a hand in several more. However, this book is also a captivating glimpse into the real-life exploits and suspicious murder of one of the greatest writers in English history. This book should have been made into several films by now. There’s just so much to like about Marlowe, his vices, and his many secrets. Please get yourself a copy and enjoy the rascal.

Christopher Marlowe

By Park Honan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Christopher Marlowe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy is the most thorough and detailed life of Marlowe since John Bakeless's in 1942. It has new material on Marlowe in relation to Canterbury, also on his home life, schooling, and six and a half years at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and includes fresh data on his reading, teachers, and early achievements, including a new letter with a new date for the famous 'putative portrait' of Marlowe at Cambridge.

The biography uses for the first time the Latin writings of his friend Thomas Watson to illuminate Marlowe's life in London and his career as a…


Shakespeare the Man

By A.L. Rowse,

Book cover of Shakespeare the Man

Shakespeare the Man is not the best book out there on William Shakespeare. There are many others that are better researched and less opinionated. However, Rowse gave me the best impression of what Shakespeare has meant to centuries of dramatists and researchers. It was recommended to me by the late Dr. John M. Bell of NYU, who was the most knowledgeable man on Shakespeare I've ever known. I see why he recommended this. It's a short but thorough read, and very enjoyable. Just don't treat Rowse's every word as gospel. His book is about Shakespeare, the man and myth.

Shakespeare the Man

By A.L. Rowse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shakespeare the Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A leading historian probes into Shakespeare's background and creative genius in an attempt to create a portrait of the Elizabethan


De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem

By A. Vesalius, G. Hartenfels, J. Dalton

Book cover of De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem

De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem ["On the Fabric of the Human Body in Seven Books"] will likely catch you by surprise since, unlike most books featured on this website, this one was printed back in 1543. Fortunately, this means that anyone with a working Internet connection and web browser can access this mystifying medical atlas from the sixteenth century. Annotated editions of On the Fabric of the Human Body are available online from numerous medical colleges, so please take the time to find and appreciate this masterpiece of anatomy and artistic imagination.

De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem

By A. Vesalius, G. Hartenfels, J. Dalton

Why should I read it?

1 author picked De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book, "De humani corporis fabrica libri septem", by A. Vesalius, J. Dalton, G. Hartenfels, is a replication of a book originally published before 1568. It has been restored by human beings, page by page, so that you may enjoy it in a form as close to the original as possible.


Grave Mercy

By Robin Lafevers,

Book cover of Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I

Set in the mid-1400s in France, this series starter contains action, court intrigue, romance, and assassin nuns! I read it years ago and it remains a favorite, not only for the beautiful language, but for the strong heroine, Ismae, and her journey from following the rules and doing as she’s been told, to learning how to discern right from wrong and follow the guidance of her own moral compass. This is a book I would love to watch as a movie, not only for the action, but the costumes.

Grave Mercy

By Robin Lafevers,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Grave Mercy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
     Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high…


Letters from Liselotte

By Maria Kroll,

Book cover of Letters from Liselotte: Elizabeth-Charlotte, Princess Palatine and Duchess of Orleans

Born a German princess, married to Louis XIV’s gay younger brother, ‘Liselotte’, as the Duchesse d’Orleans was often known, was an outsider who also, by her rank, was an insider. She put her venom and her frustrations into her letter-writing, denouncing the French court’s morals, policies, and personnel to her German relations. Versailles made her prefer dogs to people: she called Madame de Maintenon, the king’s second wife, ‘the old whore’. Her letters make us feel we are living at Versailles, when it was at the heart of European politics and culture.

Letters from Liselotte

By Maria Kroll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Letters from Liselotte as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Married in 1672, at 19, to Louis XIV's bisexual brother, the Duke of Orleans, Liselotte began her voluminous and fascinating correspondence from the Court of Versailles which she continued until her death 50 years later, making her the greatest chronicler of her day. Feared for her sharp tongue and her bluntness, Liselotte refused to be drawn into the viscious life at the Sun King's Court, of which she was outspokenly critical and her letters, collected here in this volume, describe the bawdy, spontaneous and idiosyncratic personages and life of Louis XIV's corrupt court.


The Creation of the French Royal Mistress

By Tracy Adams, Christine Adams,

Book cover of The Creation of the French Royal Mistress: From Agnès Sorel to Madame Du Barry

With this excellent and seamlessly co-authored study, Christine and Tracy have Adams delve into the creation of the post of the royal significant other—an often-overlooked category of premodern female power and influence. They move beyond the salacious to an intellectual understanding of the complementarity of gendered premodern political power.

The Creation of the French Royal Mistress

By Tracy Adams, Christine Adams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Creation of the French Royal Mistress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kings throughout medieval and early modern Europe had extraconjugal sexual partners. Only in France, however, did the royal mistress become a quasi-institutionalized political position. This study explores the emergence and development of the position of French royal mistress through detailed portraits of nine of its most significant incumbents: Agnes Sorel, Anne de Pisseleu d'Heilly, Diane de Poitiers, Gabrielle d'Estrees, Francoise Louise de La Baume Le Blanc, Francoise Athenais de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Francoise d'Aubigne, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, and Jeanne Becu.

Beginning in the fifteenth century, key structures converged to create a space at court for the royal mistress. The first was…


Queen of Fashion

By Caroline Weber,

Book cover of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

This was one of the first studies of Marie Antoinette that aimed to take seriously her style as a critical political tool, one that worked both for the ill-fated French queen and against her. The study of bodily adornment, clothing, and fashion choices are now a key part of how we understand gender politics and the politics of the body both in history and in our own lives. 

Importantly, Weber situates Marie Antoinette’s understanding of the importance of her fashion in the wider context of the culture of display at Versailles, where close examination of bodies in ceremonial, sartorial, and sexual labour was the norm. From caca dauphin to the Diamond Necklace Affair, Weber traces the changing dynamics of Marie Antoinette’s relationship with fashion, from her time as a trendsetter to the ways in which it became part of a compelling narrative for the queen’s downfall.

Queen of Fashion

By Caroline Weber,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Queen of Fashion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year

When her carriage first crossed over from her native Austria into France, fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette was taken out, stripped naked before an entourage, and dressed in French attire to please the court of her new king. For a short while, the young girl played the part.

But by the time she took the throne, everything had changed. In Queen of Fashion, Caroline Weber tells of the radical restyling that transformed the young queen into an icon and shaped the future of the nation. With her riding gear, her white furs,…


Queen of Ambition

By Fiona Buckley,

Book cover of Queen of Ambition

Who would expect a queen’s lady-in-waiting might be a spy? 

Ursula Blanchard is a genteel but penniless female trying to survive in the cut-throat world of Elizabethan court intrigue. She proves her intelligence and resourcefulness to Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, who takes her under his protective wing—a two-edged sword, since it means Ursula is often called into dangerous undercover missions. The vivid, impeccably researched backdrop of Elizabethan England adds to the drama and provides fascinating color.   

In addition to her ability to unravel complicated plots, I appreciate how Ursula often faces ethical dilemmas. In this novel, she is forced to choose between saving a friendship and protecting the queen. She also proves certain male “experts” wrong when she cracks a series of coded messages.

Queen of Ambition

By Fiona Buckley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Queen of Ambition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ursula Blanchard, loyal lady of the Queen's Presence Chamber and gifted sleuth, is at home amid the glittering complexities of the royal court. Now, Ursula has a new part to play in the service of her Queen -- a role that exposes her to hidden dangers in the famed university town of Cambridge. Assigned as a harbinger for the Queen's upcoming Summer Progress to Cambridge, Ursula is placed in charge of not only Her Majesty's comfort, but also her safety. For Ursula, that means undertaking menial employment in a pie shop to investigate rumored political perils behind a swashbuckling student…


Life in a Medieval Castle

By Joseph Gies, Frances Gies,

Book cover of Life in a Medieval Castle

This is an amazingly comprehensive and lively guide to life in a medieval castle, useful for me because I write historical novels for adults, and I like to get my background facts right. It’s packed with information about subjects as various as the herbs strewn among the rushes in the castle hall, the timing of everyday dinner (between 10 am and noon), and how a count might take off his shirt in the evening to have his back scratched… It tells how the castle remained ‘the basic center of power throughout the Middle Ages’ both in peace and war.

Life in a Medieval Castle

By Joseph Gies, Frances Gies,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life in a Medieval Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Some particular books I found useful for A Game of Thrones and its sequels deserve mention...Life in a Medieval Castle and Life in a Medieval City, both by Joseph and Frances Gies." -George R.R. Martin, author of the series A Song of Ice and Fire Medieval history comes alive in Joseph and Frances Gies's Life in a Medieval Castle, used as a research resource by George R. R. Martin in creating the world of A Game of Thrones. Newly reissued for the first time in decades, Life in a Medieval Castle is the bestselling classic that has introduced countless readers…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in France, espionage, and international relations?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about France, espionage, and international relations.

France Explore 691 books about France
Espionage Explore 123 books about espionage
International Relations Explore 170 books about international relations