26 books directly related to Elizabeth I 📚

All 26 Elizabeth I books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

The Most Dangerous Enemy (The Elizabeth of England Chronicles)

By G. Lawrence, The Book Cover Machine (illustrator),

Book cover of The Most Dangerous Enemy (The Elizabeth of England Chronicles)

Why this book?

The third book of The Elizabeth of England Chronicles has Elizabeth finally becoming Queen of England and trying to unite a divided country. A Protestant queen surrounded by Catholic kings, all she has to do is marry well and secure the succession. Gemma Lawrence has a talent for developing convincing characters and evoking a compelling sense of time and place.

The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power

By Carole Levin,

Book cover of The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power

Why this book?

On the eve of the attack by the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth I, dressed in armor, is said to have addressed her troops at Tilbury: “I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king.” This fascinating cultural biography by Carole Levin, one of the Virgin Queen’s most prominent scholars, focuses on Elizabeth’s self-representation as well as how she was perceived by her subjects; Levin bases her investigation on a wide variety of sources, including recorded dreams about Elizabeth and trial records concerning those who slandered the queen.

Though largely beloved by her subjects, ambivalence toward the female sovereign who refused to marry and provide an heir can be gleaned from the persistent rumors about her supposed sexual relationships and illegitimate children. Shining a light on “the struggles and contradictions for a woman in a position of power,” Levin’s fascinating account of Elizabeth, the first woman who ruled England in her own right, and whose reign lasted forty-five years, speaks to our still present concerns with the intersection of gender and politics.  

The Windsor Knot

By Sj Bennett,

Book cover of The Windsor Knot

Why this book?

This is a detective story featuring Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II investigating a very nasty murder with the help of her assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Oshodi, formerly a captain in the army. The victim is a Russian musician, a guest at Windsor Castle. Naturally, the men in charge at Windsor think the Queen ought to be shielded from the nasty details. That’s a mistake. The 90-year-old Queen knows all about the wicked world and brings her shrewd knowledge of human nature and cunning to find out whodunnit. A marvellous portrait of the Queen – very funny at times and you learn a lot about how the court works. The Queen knows all that’s going on and what she doesn’t know, Rozie Oshodi finds out for her.

The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family

By Susan Higginbotham,

Book cover of The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family

Why this book?

Despite the prominence of the Woodville family throughout the Wars of the Roses, there are few books about any of them. Often references to them are lifted from dubious and unsubstantiated sources and repeated on the internet and, I’m afraid, elsewhere too, as fact. Few scholars of the period have really given the family close scrutiny but that is what Susan Higginbotham has done. She has truly lifted a veil from the Woodvilles and her book is essential reading for anyone who wants an unbiased take on this very important group of people.

No Bed for Bacon

By Caryl Brahms, S.J. Simon,

Book cover of No Bed for Bacon

Why this book?

Shakespeare’s plays can be very funny, (many of my friends disagree with this, but I swear by the goddess of Renaissance puns it’s true!), and this is a light, fluffy book that deserves a place on any bookshelf because it embraces silliness and turns it right up to eleven. Our Will’s key predicament is something everyone who has ever written can relate to, being certain you have a literary masterpiece locked up in your mind if only you can be left alone long enough to make it magically appear on the blank page. 

Elizabeth: A Biography of Britain's Queen

By Sarah Bradford,

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

Why this book?

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.

Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady

By Sally O’Reilly,

Book cover of Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady

Why this book?

Staying in the early modern era, this is an imaginative retelling of the story of Aemilia Lanier (1569–1645), a gifted writer in her own right but is often best remembered as a candidate for Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady’. This means some believe her to be the inspiration for the bard’s passionate sonnets. Born Aemilia Bassano she was the daughter of a musician in the court of Elizabeth I. Lanier published Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (Hail, God, King of the Jews) in 1611. This biofiction brings her to life in new ways.

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”. 

The Uncommon Reader: A Novella

By Alan Bennett,

Book cover of The Uncommon Reader: A Novella

Why this book?

Bennett offers a cheeky take on the power of reading with this whimsical but keenly observed novel in which Queen Elizabeth, while searching for a wayward corgi, stumbles upon a bookmobile parked outside Buckingham Palace. To be royally polite she checks out a novel, begins reading it later, and soon finds herself craving another. This quickly leads to a reading habit bordering on obsession, as the world inside her mind begins to broaden more than she could have imagined.

The Life of Elizabeth I

By Alison Weir,

Book cover of The Life of Elizabeth I

Why this book?

It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to recommend this particular work of Alison Weir. A brilliant historian, she – by means of both traditional, meticulously-researched biographies, as well as in her historical fiction offerings –  chronicles many aspects, and a number of personages of Tudor England in all of its – and their – colourfully untidy turbulence. 

Her account of Elizabeth I’s life is amongst her best. I especially appreciate the skillful way in which Weir continuously “introduces” the reader to Elizabeth, as the compelling figure she is – fascinatingly intricate, brilliant, and annoyingly contradictory. Just when one seems to understand her – Weir drops yet another paradox – as the reader learns that this supposedly staunchly Protestant daughter of Henry VIII maintained most aspects of orthodox Roman Catholic practices – including a crucifix – in her private chapel royal.

Crown of Thistles: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary Queen of Scots

By Linda Porter,

Book cover of Crown of Thistles: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary Queen of Scots

Why this book?

Reams have been written about the tragic life of Mary, Queen of Scots, from the magisterial biographies by Antonia Fraser and John Guy to those focusing on her relationship with her sister queen, Elizabeth Tudor. Crown of Thistles by historian Linda Porter plugs a gap in Mary’s history by exploring the background to the prolonged rivalry and dynastic complications between the Stewarts of Scotland and the Tudors of England. 

Dr. Porter’s book was an invaluable resource which I mined for lots of fascinating nuggets and incisive comments not found elsewhere.

This is an excellent, highly readable introduction for anyone wishing to know more about the violent history of the ancestors who shaped Mary’s destiny.

Elizabeth I

By Anne Somerset,

Book cover of Elizabeth I

Why this book?

To be honest, I realized I was at the end of the list and all the books I mentioned were centered around Henry VIII and his era! Elizabeth was just as important and interesting as her crazy father, perhaps even more so. This book is more non-fiction, but again beautifully readable. 

A Straunge and Terrible Wunder

By Abraham Fleming,

Book cover of A Straunge and Terrible Wunder

Why this book?

Speaking of ancient hell hounds, where does the myth of the demon dog – you know, black, huge, gnashing jaws ravenous for human flesh, glowing red eyes, the most famous example being Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles—come from? Hell hounds pop up in legends and stories from all over the world: Cerberus from Greek mythology; almost every single European country including Garmr from Norse mythology and ye fierce blacke dogges of English folklore; all over Latin America; China; Japan; India; Arabia; Russia; even the United States.

This account of a demon dog stalking English churches in the time of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I is the earliest account I’ve found in English. The full title is A straunge and terrible wunder wrought very late in the parish church of Bongay, a tovvn of no great distance from the citie of Norwich, namely the fourth of this August, in ye yeere of our Lord 1577 in a great tempest of violent raine, lightning, and thunder, the like wherof hath been seldome seene. With the appeerance of an horrible shaped thing, sensibly perceiued of the people then and there assembled. Drawen into a plain method according to the written copye.

The good Christian folk of Bongay, north of London near Norwich, are a-worship when a horrible storm breaks on them, scaring them out of their wits. More so a huge and horrible black dog, “at the sight wherof, togither with the fearful flashes of fire which then were séene, moued such admiration in the mindes of the assem∣blie, that they thought doomes day was already come.”

It has for a few congregants all right, both here and in another town a few miles away. This hell hound doesn’t tear folks to pieces. He shrivels them up or burns them. The pamphlet ends with “A necessary Prayer” beseeching God to let good Christians “feele not the scorching heat of afflictions & miseries: we beseech thee!” Good luck. Hell hounds aren’t going anywhere as long as people like me keep writing about bad, bad dogs.

The Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth II

By Ben Pimlott,

Book cover of The Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth II

Why this book?

This is another biography of the current queen that shows how the monarchy works. It differs from Sarah Bradford’s biography. Pimlott was a historical expert on the labour party during the twentieth century. He brought to his book all the skepticism about the crown that people on the political left traditionally have in Britain. Perhaps surprisingly, then, he comes out admiring Elizabeth II. He sticks much more narrowly than Bradford does to political crises in which the queen had some noted or decisive influence.

The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England

By Graham Robb,

Book cover of The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England

Why this book?

 I love this as something quite different – essentially a close encounter with the Border by bicycle. He knows his history, writes well, and brings it all down to ground level, and conveys the lasting atmosphere (lovely, bleak, ruinous, enduring) of these Debatable Lands. A fine piece of historical travel writing by a deeply knowledgeable and astute writer. Makes you want to go and experience for yourself – if you do, take this book in your pannier (preferably waterproof).

Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare's Love-Life

By Anthony Burgess,

Book cover of Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare's Love-Life

Why this book?

Readers will either be drawn to this book by a novelist who studied Shakespeare in depth or put off by Burgess’ language. His wordplay is quite mad at times, especially when ‘WS’—Will Shakespeare—is drunk. No contemporary novelist would likely create such a mixture of Elizabethan and modern English. Despite Burgess’ knowledge of Shakespeare’s life and works, much of the plot is fanciful. However, his daring is encouraging, his imagination freeing. I never considered writing a book where Shakespeare speaks, but Nothing Like the Sun suggests, why not? Many biographies seem fictional in their guesswork; Burgess’ vitality and imagination outshine the strictly biographical. I found his ground-breaking work inspiring, and it’s a bawdy lark for readers who persevere!

Queen of Ambition

By Fiona Buckley,

Book cover of Queen of Ambition

Why this book?

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.

Royal Institute of Magic: Elizabeth's Legacy

By Victor Kloss,

Book cover of Royal Institute of Magic: Elizabeth's Legacy

Why this book?

The Royal Institute of Magic was a story that was character driven. Victor Kloss did such a great job distinguishing each character from the other that I felt I knew them personally. At the end of each book, I found myself ordering up the next installment because I wanted to find out what happened to each character and how they grew into adults and as friends. It was pure entertainment.

Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle

By Theresa Breslin, Teresa Martinez (illustrator),

Book cover of Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle

Why this book?

This is a great introduction to Mary’s story for young readers. I love the clever way it centres the whole story of Mary’s life on her true, action-packed escape from Loch Leven Castle, helped by a young boy called Will Douglas. It’s beautifully illustrated and written. This is how to get ‘em interested in history at an early age!

Voyage to Muscovy

By Ann Swinfen,

Book cover of Voyage to Muscovy

Why this book?

This is the sixth book in a series that mostly does take place in Tudor England and even includes occasional glimpses of Elizabeth I and Will Shakespeare. But it mainly focuses on Christoval (Caterina, nicknamed Kit) Alvarez, the daughter of a Portuguese Jewish medical doctor who masquerades as a man so that she can practice medicine. In this adventure, set in 1590, Kit accompanies a group of English merchants to the court of Boris Godunov in Moscow and treats Prince Dmitry Ivanovich—the last son of Ivan the Terrible, who died suddenly at the age of nine, reputedly on Boris’s orders. I acted as historical consultant for this novel, and I can recommend it wholeheartedly as an engaging, well-written tale that can be enjoyed as a stand-alone.

The Girl in the Glass Tower

By Elizabeth Fremantle,

Book cover of The Girl in the Glass Tower

Why this book?

This is such a good biofiction of Lady Arbella Stuart (1575-1615), niece to Mary, Queen of Scots, who was for many years presumed to be the natural successor to Elizabeth I. She lived under the strict rule of grandmother Bess of Hardwick, at the many-windowed palace, Hardwick Hall, the glass tower of the book’s title. As a bonus in this novel, we meet Aemilia Lanyer again. The two women’s paths cross in a most unexpected way.

She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems

By Caroline Kennedy,

Book cover of She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems

Why this book?

In She Walks in Beauty, Caroline Kennedy contemplates the wisdom of different poetic voices as they journey through major life events in a woman's life (whether love and marriage, death and grief or the joys and sorrows of motherhood). By the end of the book, Kennedy distills both bitter and sweet flavours into a celebration of life that often feels unattainable as we live through challenging times. With both compassion and sensitivity born from her own troubled family history and through her love of poetry reflected in this collection, Kennedy offers hope and consolation to others travelling along a difficult road.

Shakespeare's Rebel

By C.C. Humphreys,

Book cover of Shakespeare's Rebel

Why this book?

I loved this swashbuckling tale of Shakespeare’s fight master because it took me back to Elizabethan England and right on to the stage at The Globe theater. There’s plenty of action and intrigue (the main character’s not only an actor and fight master but a spy!) that inspired me when I was writing the action scenes in my book. The author fills the pages with an impressive amount of historical detail while maintaining a brisk, page-turning pace.

Queen Elizabeth in the Garden: A Story of Love, Rivalry, and Spectacular Gardens

By Trea Martyn,

Book cover of Queen Elizabeth in the Garden: A Story of Love, Rivalry, and Spectacular Gardens

Why this book?

A sizzling tale of competition, grandeur, and royal romance—and it’s true! Shakespeare loved writing about court intrigue and this story of Queen Elizabeth and the courtiers & ministers who created spectacular gardens for her has loads of it. People always focus on what was going on behind palace walls & inside castle corridors, but it turns out the real drama is down in the garden. Imagine gilding rosemary bushes so they glitter in the sun. I certainly think the theatricality of the landscape inspired Shakespeare’s work. In addition to being intricate and fascinating, this book impelled me to further investigate Queen Elizabeth’s effect on the green space of the country and seeding the prospect of garden competition. For me, it uncovered an amazing origin story of green desire and the intricate facets of female leadership.

Mary Queen of Scots: An Illustrated Life

By Susan Doran,

Book cover of Mary Queen of Scots: An Illustrated Life

Why this book?

In many ways the opposite of her cousin Elizabeth I whom she sought to replace as queen of England, the thrice-married Mary Queen of Scots ruled Scotland for only six years before she was deposed; she then was imprisoned in England for almost twenty years before she was executed for plotting to overthrow Elizabeth. Susan Doran’s richly illustrated biography, which includes portraits of the queen, images of letters by her and by Elizabeth, and sketches of her trial and execution by eyewitnesses, brings to life this enigmatic figure concerning whom many questions remain unresolved: Were the “Casket Letters” written by her to her lover Bothwell or were they forgeries? Was she complicit in the murder of her second husband? Did she join English Catholics in a conspiracy to assassinate Elizabeth? Doran judiciously weighs the evidence on these controversies and concludes that Mary’s lack of political judgment was largely responsible for her tragic fate that has captured the imagination of later generations.

Royal Road to Fotheringhay: The Story of Mary, Queen of Scots

By Jean Plaidy,

Book cover of Royal Road to Fotheringhay: The Story of Mary, Queen of Scots

Why this book?

I was never interested in History at school: it just seemed to be boring lists that didn’t involve relatable human beings. I can’t remember why I picked up this book in the library, but it opened history up to me as something completely different—and fascinating. These Queens and Kings and plague victims and soldiers were people like the people around me—and the story was as exciting as many of the plots in the non-fact-based fiction I read.