The best books about Charles I of England

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Charles I of England and why they recommend each book.

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The King's Peace, 1637-41

By C.V. Wedgwood,

Book cover of The King's Peace, 1637-41

This is another classic within the historiography of the period which along with S.R. Gardiner’s work is still considered one of the solid early professional histories of the period.  Although some historians may consider it a little dated, it is a concise and detailed analysis of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.  Wedgewood’s style of writing is accessible and lively. This 3 book series is still considered as some of the best books ever written on the period (be sure to check out The King's War and Trial of Charles as well).  

Who am I?

I am an academic historian who has had a passion for the wars of the three kingdoms for over three decades. I have been reading books about the civil wars in Britain and Ireland since I was ten years old. I have been a member of the re-enactment society The Sealed Knot and the Cromwell Association. I published my first monograph on the wars of the three kingdoms in 2018. The monograph views the conflict from a three kingdoms perspective through the eyes of the Scottish Covenanters and their English allies. I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

I wrote...

The Solemn League and Covenant of the Three Kingdoms and the Cromwellian Union, 1643-1663

By Kirsteen MacKenzie,

Book cover of The Solemn League and Covenant of the Three Kingdoms and the Cromwellian Union, 1643-1663

What is my book about?

This book provides the first major analysis of the covenanted interest from an integrated three kingdoms perspective. It examines the reaction of the covenanted interest to the actions and policies of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, drawing particular attention to links, similarities, and differences in and between the covenanted interest in all three kingdoms. It also follows the fortunes of the covenanted interest and Presbyterian Church government as it built and changed in response to the Royalists and the Independents during the 1650s.

Margaret the First

By Danielle Dutton,

Book cover of Margaret the First

Much shorter than my first recommendation, Dutton’s biofiction tackles the life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-73) who was a standout character in the seventeenth century. She wrote and published works on a range of topics from philosophy and science to romantic fiction. What I love about this book is the way it pushes what is possible in a historical biofiction, in a compact but dense volume.

Who am I?

I’m a literary historian who works on the history of women’s reproductive bodies in the early modern era. I am also a debut novelist who has used my many years of researching the seventeenth century to bring to life the story of a seventeenth-century midwife. My own novel is not a bio fiction in the strictest sense of the term (novels with a named protagonist who was a historical figure) but it is based on the published works of two contemporary midwives, Jane Sharp (fl. 1671) and Sarah Stone who worked in the early part of the eighteenth century. I love reading works where other authors have brought to life figures I both research and teach.

I wrote...

The Gossips' Choice

By Sara Read,

Book cover of The Gossips' Choice

What is my book about?

Respected midwife Lucie Smith is married to Jasper, the town apothecary. They’ve lived happily together at the shop with the sign of the three doves for almost three decades. But 1665 is proving a troublesome year. Lucie is called to a birth at the local Manor, and Jasper is uneasy at her involvement with their former opponents in the English Civil War. Their only surviving son Simon flees plague-ridden London for his country hometown, only to argue with his father. Lucie is shaken to learn their loyal maid has been keeping a secret and knows when Jasper finds out he will be furious. How could she have missed the signs?

As the year draws to a close, Lucie is accused of serious negligence in her care of one of her mothers which could see her not only lose her license but face ex-communication.

King and Emperor

By Janet L. Nelson,

Book cover of King and Emperor: A New Life of Charlemagne

A magnificent biography that vividly brings alive the life and personality of one of the great figures of European history, one whose legacy is still with us. Charlemagne’s creation of an empire roughly equivalent in size to the modern EU is explored with wonderful insight. We see in him the energy and skill that enabled him to project power, making himself both trusted and feared. It makes us think about the ultimate contradictions of empire as a phenomenon, the mix of savage violence and the accompanying proclaimed civilizing mission that organized and shaped peace. 

Who am I?

I became fascinated by the history of the period from 900 to 1250 as an undergraduate at the University of Exeter where I was supervised for a doctorate by Professor Frank Barlow. The subject of my thesis was Odo, bishop of Bayeux (1049/50-1097), a biography that introduced me to a multitude of subjects. That time stimulated a fascination with France and with the place of English history, British history, and the history of the Normans in a European context, as well as an interest in biography and individual lives.

I wrote...

William the Conqueror

By David Bates,

Book cover of William the Conqueror

What is my book about?

My interest in William began when almost fifty years ago when I discovered that there were many unknown or scarcely known charters. So, it all started from an awareness that there was a lot that people did not know. Writing the book took all this into account, but it also raised serious issues for me about how to place in context culturally and morally. I always think about the words on page 513: "William’s life is ultimately a parable on the eternal moral conundrum of the legitimacy of violence used to achieve what its perpetrators believed to be a justifiable end."

The book has been translated into French and Chinese.


By Antonia Fraser,

Book cover of Cromwell

For those who like biographies, this story of Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658) follows him from young man to gentleman farmer, reluctant politician, military leader, regicide, and Lord Protector of England. To me, Cromwell will always be the cold destroyer who led his most brutal and devastating army across Ireland after England’s civil war. But, there are many differing opinions. This interesting read presents all sides of the man, so you can be the judge. 

Who am I?

Nancy Blanton is an American author of Irish descent. She’s written three award-winning Irish historical novels and has a fourth underway. A former journalist, her focus on the 17th century derives from a history lesson about Oliver Cromwell, weariness of Tudor stories, decades of enlightening research, and a little help from supportive friends in County Cork.

I wrote...

When Starlings Fly as One

By Nancy Blanton,

Book cover of When Starlings Fly as One

What is my book about?

Based on a true story of the 1641 Rebellion and Ireland's longest siege, When Starlings Fly as One is not a classic hero’s journey, but a story of war, struggle, spirit, and survival—a story of two sides.

Secretive and often bold, Merel de Vries seeks only escape from the English nobility she serves. When Rathbarry Castle is besieged by rising Irish clans, she faces an impossible choice: allegiance to owner Sir Arthur Freke, loyalty to new-found love Tynan O’Daly, and inner yearnings belonging to her alone. Merel insists she can help—but no one will listen. When opportunity comes, can she truly do what her spirit urges? Or, will a sudden betrayal change everything?

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