The best books on the British Monarchy

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the British Monarchy and why they recommend each book.

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The Diana Chronicles

By Tina Brown,

Book cover of The Diana Chronicles

This is a third book which appears to be a biographical account of Diana Spencer’s life in the royal family. It really focuses on the interaction between the monarchy and the press. The two are in a relationship that is sometimes acrimonious and sometimes symbiotic. It’s impossible to understand how the media establishment and the monarchy function without reading Brown’s book. She was herself the editor of major magazines on both continents. For a while, she ran Vanity Fair and later The Daily Beast. She was married to a prominent newspaperman who held prominent roles in London and New York. She knows what she’s talking about.


Who am I?

I’m an American who was taken by his parents to live in England for a year when he was a kid of eleven. The accents? The traditions? The school uniforms? All the traffic tangled up for a day because the Queen was riding to the State Opening of Parliament? It frightened me. It repelled me. I ended up loving it. I wrote my PhD thesis on the Victorian monarchy. A substantial part of all three of my first nonfiction books are about it. My novel on the current Queen of England has been a bestseller. It’s all about setting out to master what first strikes you as incomprehensible.


I wrote...

Mrs Queen Takes the Train

By William Kuhn,

Book cover of Mrs Queen Takes the Train

What is my book about?

Elizabeth II, Queen of England and all she surveys, is feeling low. The Diana debacle has shown her just how much the British public rates her lifetime of service. As a cure for her depression, she decides to make an impromptu outing to Scotland. She’s going all by herself on a public train. A mismatched group of staff members are on her trail and following close behind. They’re trying to bring her back before the tabloids find out what’s happened. In the course of her journey she makes a surprising rediscovery, her vocation.

Elizabeth

By Sarah Bradford,

Book cover of Elizabeth: A Biography of Britain's Queen

In the guise of a biography of the current queen, this is one of the best books on the modern British monarchy as an institution. Sarah Bradford talked to all the palace insiders, an amazing feat given how touchy and protective everyone around the queen is. Bradford has the best sense of the strengths of the current queen and her weaknesses.  Because Elizabeth II is now the longest-reigning monarch in British history, she epitomizes most of the advantages and disadvantages of the institution in her own single lifetime.  You will find out which of the episodes from Netflix’s The Crown are all made up, and which are close to the truth.


Who am I?

I’m an American who was taken by his parents to live in England for a year when he was a kid of eleven. The accents? The traditions? The school uniforms? All the traffic tangled up for a day because the Queen was riding to the State Opening of Parliament? It frightened me. It repelled me. I ended up loving it. I wrote my PhD thesis on the Victorian monarchy. A substantial part of all three of my first nonfiction books are about it. My novel on the current Queen of England has been a bestseller. It’s all about setting out to master what first strikes you as incomprehensible.


I wrote...

Mrs Queen Takes the Train

By William Kuhn,

Book cover of Mrs Queen Takes the Train

What is my book about?

Elizabeth II, Queen of England and all she surveys, is feeling low. The Diana debacle has shown her just how much the British public rates her lifetime of service. As a cure for her depression, she decides to make an impromptu outing to Scotland. She’s going all by herself on a public train. A mismatched group of staff members are on her trail and following close behind. They’re trying to bring her back before the tabloids find out what’s happened. In the course of her journey she makes a surprising rediscovery, her vocation.

Royal Bounty

By Frank Prochaska,

Book cover of Royal Bounty: The Making of a Welfare Monarchy

This is the first history that details how the late nineteenth-century monarchy became an engine of philanthropy. As kings and queens were sidelined, or reduced to insignificance, in political transactions, they increased their role in assisting non-profit institutions that contributed to the public good. They gave their patronage, for example, to hospitals, veterans’ associations, and civic charities. This gave the royal family an outsized influence in the do-good world, and this itself increased the respect in which the monarchy was held by people of all parties. Frank Prochaska is an American historian of Great Britain, so he brings a healthy objectivity to literature about royalty that is sometimes too credulous and deferential.


Who am I?

I’m an American who was taken by his parents to live in England for a year when he was a kid of eleven. The accents? The traditions? The school uniforms? All the traffic tangled up for a day because the Queen was riding to the State Opening of Parliament? It frightened me. It repelled me. I ended up loving it. I wrote my PhD thesis on the Victorian monarchy. A substantial part of all three of my first nonfiction books are about it. My novel on the current Queen of England has been a bestseller. It’s all about setting out to master what first strikes you as incomprehensible.


I wrote...

Mrs Queen Takes the Train

By William Kuhn,

Book cover of Mrs Queen Takes the Train

What is my book about?

Elizabeth II, Queen of England and all she surveys, is feeling low. The Diana debacle has shown her just how much the British public rates her lifetime of service. As a cure for her depression, she decides to make an impromptu outing to Scotland. She’s going all by herself on a public train. A mismatched group of staff members are on her trail and following close behind. They’re trying to bring her back before the tabloids find out what’s happened. In the course of her journey she makes a surprising rediscovery, her vocation.

The Quest for Queen Mary

By James Pope-Hennessey,

Book cover of The Quest for Queen Mary

This is the hilarious account of an official biographer tracking down European royalty. They were the extended family of Queen Mary, the current queen’s grandmother. Pope-Hennessey had been commissioned to write the official biography of Mary, the wife of King George V.  He talked to a full range of eccentrics who were either relations of Queen Mary, or knew her well.  The behind-the-scenes gossip he was given, as well as the insight into the absurdities of having a royal family in a democratic country, are both priceless.


Who am I?

I’m an American who was taken by his parents to live in England for a year when he was a kid of eleven. The accents? The traditions? The school uniforms? All the traffic tangled up for a day because the Queen was riding to the State Opening of Parliament? It frightened me. It repelled me. I ended up loving it. I wrote my PhD thesis on the Victorian monarchy. A substantial part of all three of my first nonfiction books are about it. My novel on the current Queen of England has been a bestseller. It’s all about setting out to master what first strikes you as incomprehensible.


I wrote...

Mrs Queen Takes the Train

By William Kuhn,

Book cover of Mrs Queen Takes the Train

What is my book about?

Elizabeth II, Queen of England and all she surveys, is feeling low. The Diana debacle has shown her just how much the British public rates her lifetime of service. As a cure for her depression, she decides to make an impromptu outing to Scotland. She’s going all by herself on a public train. A mismatched group of staff members are on her trail and following close behind. They’re trying to bring her back before the tabloids find out what’s happened. In the course of her journey she makes a surprising rediscovery, her vocation.

Aethelstan

By Sarah Foot,

Book cover of Aethelstan: The First King of England

Aethelstan is an engrossing account of king Aethelstan, lauded as the first crowned king of ‘England,’ something his father, and more importantly, his grandfather, King Alfred, was unable to lay claim to. It’s a thorough examination of all that’s known about Aethelstan during his reign. It’s rare to get a book dedicated to any one single king before the reign of Æthelred II, who was Aethelstan’s great, great-nephew, and reigned thirty years later. The work shows just how much can be gleaned about historical figures during this period by experts in the field, who know how to unpick all the complicated details and present them to readers in an engaging format.


Who am I?

I’m a writer of novels set in Saxon England. I studied the era at both undergraduate and graduate levels and never meant to become a historical fiction writer. But I developed a passion to tell the story of the last century of Early England through the eyes of the earls of Mercia, as opposed to the more well-known, Earl Godwin. I’m still writing that series but venture further back in time as well. I might have a bit of an obsession with the Saxon kingdom of Mercia. I’m fascinated by the whole near-enough six hundred years of Saxon England before the watershed moment of 1066, after which, quite frankly, everything went a bit downhill. 


I wrote...

Son of Mercia

By MJ Porter,

Book cover of Son of Mercia

What is my book about?

The once-mighty kingdom of Mercia is in perilous danger. Their King, Beornwulf lies dead and years of bitter in-fighting between the nobles, and cross-border wars have left Mercia exposed to her enemies. King Ecgberht of Wessex senses now is the time for his warriors to strike and exact his long-awaited bloody revenge on Mercia.

King Wiglaf, has claimed his right to rule Mercia, but can he unite a disparate Kingdom against the might of Wessex who is braying for blood and land? Can King Wiglaf keep the dragons at bay or is Mercia doomed to disappear beneath the wings of the Wessex wyvern? Can anyone save Mercia from destruction?

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