The best books about queens 📚

Browse the best books on queens as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Queens, Concubines, and Dowagers: The King's Wife in the Early Middle Ages

Queens, Concubines, and Dowagers: The King's Wife in the Early Middle Ages

By Pauline Stafford

Why this book?

Last, but certainly not least, Queens, Concubines, and Dowagers was a book that helped formed the field of queenship studies, now a booming industry. Stafford teaches us how to think about the meaning of queenship, the sources and limits of the queen’s power, and the evolution of her office; she tells the stories of a number of remarkable early medieval women along the way in what is now England, France, and Germany. Deeply influential for me as I sought ways to think about queenship in later periods, this book remains widely available, accessible, and influential.
From the list:

The best foundational books on medieval women’s history

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Book cover of Forgotten Queens of Islam

Forgotten Queens of Islam

By Fatima Mernissi

Why this book?

This book has rightly become a classic in the field and is a book I keep returning to for Mernissi’s fantastic insights into the particularities of queenship in the Islamic world and her fascinating examples of the agency of royal women. Mernissi’s passion for the subject, and for the wider history of women’s political agency in the Islamic world springs from the page, making this an absorbing read. A more recent work that builds on Mernissi’s book and is also highly recommended is Shahla Haeri’s The Unforgettable Queens of Islam - both Mernissi and Haeri make clear connections between royal…

From the list:

The best books on queens and queenship

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Book cover of Warrior Queens: The Legends and the Lives of the Women Who Have Led Their Nations to War

Warrior Queens: The Legends and the Lives of the Women Who Have Led Their Nations to War

By Antonia Fraser

Why this book?

In many ways, Antonia Fraser's Warrior Queens spurred my long-term interest in women warriors. Fraser not only introduced me to historical women I had never heard of, but to the idea that women had fought as a normal part of the army in far more epochs and far more civilizations than is normally appreciated. Fraser looks at her warring queens as a group as well as individually, trying to understand the tropes that (mostly male) historians have used both to make them bigger than life and to demean them as women. A fascinating read that has held up well over…

From the list:

The best books about women in war

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Book cover of Kings, Queens & Courtiers: Intimate Portraits of the Royal House of Windsor from its foundation to the present day

Kings, Queens & Courtiers: Intimate Portraits of the Royal House of Windsor from its foundation to the present day

By Kenneth Rose

Why this book?

This gazetteer for monarch-aholics is the work of the witty and waspish Kenneth Rose (1924-2014), the royal biographer whose insights have set the standard for the rest of us. Embedded in the heart of the Establishment, Rose had the ability to skewer its every weakness. Duchesses, Diana, Dimbleby (Richard) and Charlotte, George V’s pet parrot – all are here, bearing out the words of Queen Elizabeth II’s non-royal grandmother, Cecilia Bowes-Lyon: "As far as I can see, some people have to be fed royalty like sea-lions fish."

From the list:

The best books about the Queen

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Book cover of Woman of the Underworld

Woman of the Underworld

By Zoe Progl

Why this book?

This is the book that started me off on Queens of the Underworld. It’s a thrilling, and sometimes disturbing, tale of Zoe Progl’s life of crime and her escape from Holloway Prison in 1960. When I learned that a tabloid journalist had ghostwritten the book, it made me want to find out the truth – and to see if I could discover other women who were happy to call themselves a queen of the underworld.

From the list:

The best books on female crooks

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Book cover of Seafaring Women: Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways, and Sailors' Wives

Seafaring Women: Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways, and Sailors' Wives

By David Cordingly

Why this book?

Cordingly is more famous for his other major pirate work—the ubiquitous “Under the Black Flag,” which is required reading for anyone who wants to learn more about pirates. However, I prefer this book about pirate women, as well as other types of women who went to sea. When I started my research for my first book, I knew virtually nothing about the women of the Royal Navy and this book opened my eyes to their fascinating stories. There’s something for everyone in this book.

From the list:

The best books to discover the truth about women pirates

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