1415: Henry V’s Year of Glory
Bestselling author Ian Mortimer illustrates the lionized life of King Henry V, and recounts the legendary Battle of Agincourt. This well-researched book is perhaps the most complete account of both Henry and Agincourt currently available.
Becoming Queen Victoria: The Unexpected Rise of Britain’s Greatest Monarch
As author Kate Williams explains in Becoming Queen Victoria, this overprotected girl born to a king’s fourth son was never supposed to sit on the throne herself. Against all odds, 18-year old Victoria resisted the overambitious figures around her to become the most powerful monarch in Britain’s history. Becoming Queen Victoria inspired the hit PBS television series, Victoria.
The Children of Henry VIII
Acclaimed historian and bestselling author Alison Weir recounts the days and years after Henry VIII’s death in 1547. With captivating detail, she follows Queen Mary I to her savage reputation as “Bloody Mary,” Queen Edward VI to his untimely death, Elizabeth I through her iconic reign, and even Henry’s niece, the Lady Jane Grey, as she’s used as a pawn by more powerful forces.
Crown & Country: A History of England through the Monarchy
If you seek to read just one great book about the British monarchy, make it this one. Highly respected historian David Starkey leads readers through this rollercoaster history, from the end of the Roman presence in Britain to the current royal family and what’s likely to come next.
Diana: Finally, the Complete Story
Sarah Bradford, one of the best-known biographers of the modern royals, tells Diana’s story with the respect and complexity it deserves. Bradford uses exclusive interviews with those closest to the Princess of Wales to separate fact from fiction.
Diana: Her True Story — in Her Own Words
First published in 1992, Diana: Her True Story — in Her Own Words caused an uproar over the brutal honesty Diana, Princess of Wales displayed over her marriage and her relationship with the Queen. For the book’s 25th anniversary edition, royal biographer Andrew Morton includes additional information from his exclusive interviews with Diana, and adds thought-provoking new insight to her life and death.
Edward VI: The Lost King of England
Henry VIII’s 38-year reign changed England in just about every way imaginable, but his young son, Edward VI, hoped to begin his own reign with the promise of a fresh start for his beloved country. In Edward VI, author Chris Skidmore details the hope brought about by the new king, the rebellions that occurred when that hope died out, and the oft-forgotten about young king who died far too young.
Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life
Said to be the most beautiful women in Europe, Eleanor of Aquitaine was the wife of two kings and the mother of three. Bestselling historian Alison Weir provides readers with a fascinating look at this strong woman, ahead of her time in so many ways.
Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years
Most people with any interest in British history know that Elizabeth I was one of the kingdom’s most powerful monarchs. But what is often forgotten is that Elizabeth spent nearly three decades finding her way, struggling to assert authority and squash the many conspiracies surrounding her. Elizabeth, John Guy’s fascinating chronicle of Elizabeth’s earliest years as queen, was named Book of the Year by both Economist and Financial Times.
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch
Sally Bedell Smith
No British monarch has ever reigned in as rapidly a changing world as Elizabeth II. In Elizabeth the Queen, respected Windsor biographer Sally Bedell Smith draws upon exclusive interviews and never-before-seen documents to chronicle the entire life of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
The stuttering George VI wasn’t meant to rule, but became king anyways when his popular brother unexpectedly abdicated the throne. Royal biographer Sarah Bradford chronicles George’s reign from his brother’s abdication, through the tumultuous years of World War II, and finally through loss of the empire.
The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince
In The Heir Apparent Jane Ridley recounts the life of Edward VII, Queen Victoria’s misfit son who would go on to become a wise and effective monarch — despite his outlandish pastimes and apathetic feelings towards the monarchy. Fascinating and detailed, The Heir Apparent was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review and The Boston Globe.
The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy
Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
While Sarah Bradford’s George VI covers the entire reign of George VI, this bestselling book by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi chronicles the years in which the legendary king greatly struggled with his stammer — and by extension, his confidence as a ruler. The King’s Speech also inspired the Academy Award-winning film of the same name.
The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn
The Lady in the Tower, by Alison Weir, brings to life the tumultuous days in which Queen Anne Boleyn was accused of treason and adultery, tried in a sham court, and ultimately beheaded on the lawn of the Tower of London — the first time any sitting queen of England was executed. Weir treats Anne’s case like any other fascinating murder trial, asking never-before-considered questions about who all was involved, and why.
The Life of Elizabeth I
Thanks to Elizabeth’s overwhelming sense of paranoia and desire for privacy, very little is known about the influential queen’s innermost thoughts. In her New York Times bestselling book, The Life of Elizabeth I, prominent historian Alison Weir combines little known facts, and knowledge only recently brought to light, to paint a stunning portrait of one of Britain’s most powerful rulers.
Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Most people know how their story ends, but their decade-long love affair is easily forgotten about. Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn is a compendium of the king’s letters to Anne from throughout their relationship.
Mary Queen of Scots
As author Antonia Fraser describes in this bestselling biography, Mary Queen of Scots was the queen to rule all queens. After all, she was beautiful, statuesque, and through birth and marriage, had a claim to two powerful thrones. But instead, Mary became the victim of scandal and the chief rival of the power Elizabeth I of England.
Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster
In Mistress of the Monarchy, bestselling author Alison Weir chronicles the life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster and a woman ahead of her time. Born in the mid-1300s, Katherine was married off to an impoverished knight at age 14 before becoming the mistress, then wife, of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.
The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England
Some of Britain’s best-known monarchs belonged to the Plantagenet dynasty, including Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, John I, and Edward the Black Prince, to name but a few. In The Plantagenets historian Dan Jones combines fascinating facts and a page-turning stories to chronicle the dynasty what was the Plantagenets.
Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
Sally Bedell Smith
Royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith tells the story of the life of Prince Charles, the oldest heir to the throne in more than 300 years. This New York Times bestseller covers everything from Charles’s lonely childhood, to his early love affairs and marriage to Diana, to his current family man status as husband, father, and grandfather.
Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life in Our Times
Sarah Bradford’s Queen Elizabeth II chronicles the life of a monarch who has lived through World War II, the Cold War, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, 11 U.S. presidents, and countless other momentous moments both happy and sad.
Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England
At only 12 years old, Princess Isabella of France was sent to England to marry Edward II and become Queen Isabella of England. Though many myths, legends, and assumptions have been made about the woman who was given the impossible task of bringing two countries together, historian Alison Weir sorts through the facts to tell the story of a woman often forgotten by history.
Queen of the Conquerer: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I
Tracy Joanne Borman
Queen of the Conquerer highlights the life of another often forgotten, but powerful, woman in British history: Queen Matilda. Author Tracy Joanne Borman uses historical artifacts and documents to weave together the story of the woman who married William the Conquerer to become the first crowned queen of England.
Queen Victoria, A Personal History
In Queen Victoria, A Personal History, author Christopher Hibbert recounts the 64-year reign of Queen Victoria. While he includes factual information about her marriage children, and the many wars and rebellions she oversaw, he also includes a number of personal anecdotes taken from contemporary sources.
Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Elizabeth of York
With few exceptions, the women of medieval England are often altogether ignored by historians. In Queens Consort, Lisa Hilton brings to light the various powerful woman — from William the Conqueror’s Matilda of Flanders to Henry VII’s Elizabeth of York — and reveals the ways in which these women’s reigns have had their own lasting effects on Britain.
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth
Like the title above, She-Wolves chronicles the life of powerful women in British history who left their own signature on Britain’s monarchy. Specifically, author Helen Castor profiles Matilda of Flanders, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Margaret of Anjou, and Lady Jane Grey.
Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy
Paul Thomas Murphy
Shooting Victoria, by author Paul Thomas Murphy, recounts the eight assassination attempts made on Queen Victoria during her 64-year reign. A massive bestseller, Shooting Victoria was also listed as a New York Times Notable Book in 2012.
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII
Most people know that Henry VIII married six different times. In his bestseller, Six Wives, acclaimed historian David Starkey tells each of the six women’s individual stories, while also examining the various links between marriage, diplomacy, and religious during this tumultuous time.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
In what is likely her most popular book, historian Alison Weir draws on contemporary letters, memoirs, account books, and diplomatic reports to tell the personal stories of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr, and their king, the infamous Henry VIII.
That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée who had grown up on the poor side of Baltimore, captured the heart of a future king, but in the process drew the wrath of an entire nation. Having lived two generations before Megan Markle, Wallis Simpson was far more complicated than history has given her credit for.
The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty
Few royal families have been as fascinating as the Tudors, as evidenced by the fact that collectively they make for a popular topic for both non-fiction and fiction books about the British monarchy. For those looking for a single-volume history, C.J. Meyers chronicles the highs and lows of the entire family, from the exiled Henry Tudor to Britain’s first female monarch, Elizabeth I.
The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors
In his typical storyteller style, popular historian Dan Jones recounts the turbulent years collectively known as the Wars of the Roses, when the two branches of the Plantagenet family — the Yorks and the Lancasters — fought to the death for the English crown.
We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals
The marriage of Queen Victoria and Albert is known as one of the greatest love stories in history. In the New York Times bestseller We Two, author Gillian Gill delves into parts of their relationship often left out of Victoria’s many royal biographies — most notably, their awkward first meeting, their undying commitment to one another, and their surprising rivalry over the English throne.
Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England
Thomas Penn’s Winter King tells the little-known story of Henry Tudor, who claimed the English throne in battle and effectively ended the Wars of the Roses. With the skills of a storyteller, Penn describes Henry VII’s challenges as a new ruler, his marriage to the York princess, and their young children, including Henry’s successor, Henry VIII.
The Wives of Henry VIII
Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Katherine Parr. Highly respected historian and author Antonia Fraser looks at each of the wives of Henry VIII under an intense microscope, documenting their unique personalities and ambitions in a world often described as a cruel chess match.
Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life
Though he is currently the longest-serving royal consort, Prince Philip has spent the majority of his life in the shadows. Biographer Philip Eade uses a slew of sources to illustrate the prince’s extraordinary life, from his upbringing in Nazi Germany through the early years of his often dramatic marriage to Elizabeth II.
The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Sommers: A Novel
This sweeping and well researched novel follows Henry VIII, from his upbringing as the second son of a king, to his six marriages, and decades-long feud with the Catholic Church. This bestseller is written in the first person as Henry’s private journals, providing for a unique read that feels like they actually are the words of the real Henry VIII.
Bring Up the Bodies
In this follow up to Wolf Hall (which also makes our list of the best books about the British monarchy), Hillary Mantel chronicles the seven-year romance, then rapid downfall of Henry VIII’s romance with Anne Boleyn. Bring Up the Bodies was a long-time bestseller and the winner of the 2012 Man Booker Prize.
The Constant Princess
Interestingly, Katherine of Aragon is one former British monarch that is often overlooked in lieu of some of her contemporaries perhaps deemed more interesting. In The Constant Princess, bestselling novelist Philippa Gregory shines a light on Katherine, bringing to life her long reign, first as the teenage wife of Prince Arthur Tudor, then after his death, of Henry VIII.
Elizabeth I: A Novel
In Elizabeth I: A Novel acclaimed novelist Margaret George fictionalizes the dramatic reign of Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s first female monarch. Interestingly, she brings to life Elizabeth’s ambitions, rivalries, insecurities, and triumphs by juxtaposing Elizabeth with a co-narrator, Elizabeth’s rival of a cousin, Lettice Knollys.
With Innocent Traitor, Alison Weir proves herself just as capable of a novelist as she is a biographer. This popular bestseller tells the story of Lady Jane Grey — perhaps better known as “the Nine Days’ Queen — the 15-year old niece of Henry VIII, who finds herself a pawn in a dangerous game of chess where the prize is the throne.
Set in 14th century Britain, Katherine is the story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, the two royals who produced the vast majority of England’s royal family. Author Anya Seton is a great writer who paints vivid images of a time period often ignored by historical novelists. Though it’s a sweeping love story, Katherine features medieval staples like Geoffrey Chaucer, the Black Death, knights in battle, and Edward III and the rest of the Plantagenets.
The Lady Elizabeth
The Lady Elizabeth tells the story of the early life of Queen Elizabeth I. Before the crown, the palaces, and the grand favor, she was simply the Lady Elizabeth, daughter of a traitor and the sometimes illegitimate child of the king. Weir brings to life with heartbreaking detail Elizabeth’s childhood and teenage years as she grows to become the powerful monarch she’s destined to be.
The Other Boleyn Girl
In The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory chronicles the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn from the unique perspective of Anne’s sister, Mary, who had also spent time as the king’s mistress. This massively popular bestseller inspired the film The Other Boleyn Girl starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson.
The Other Queen
As she frantically tries to regain control of her beloved, but rebellious Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots looks to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England, for help. But instead of providing aid, the paranoid and ambitious Elizabeth imprisons her cousin under house arrest. In The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory tells the story of Mary’s imprisonment, shrewd planning, and ultimate failure to take over the English throne.
The Red Queen
Part of the bestselling Cousins’ War series, The Red Queen recounts the fight between the Lancasters and the Yorks from the perspective of Margaret Beaufort, mother and tireless champion of Henry Tudor. The novel follows Margaret from her French childhood to through her plotting of one of the most infamous rebellions in all of history.
The Taming of the Queen
The Taming of the Queen tells the heartbreaking story of Kateryn Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII and the only one to outlive him. The novel follows Kateryn as a young courtier who is forced to leave her true love in order to marry the terrifying King Henry. Throughout her many travails, Kateryn is able to maintain her own mind and ambitions, even becoming the first woman to publish a book in the English language.
The White Princess
Philippa Gregory’s The White Princess is told from the perspective of Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV. After the death of her her York father and uncle, Elizabeth is forced to marry the new king, Henry Tudor, in order to end the Wars of the Roses and begin a new dynasty. The White Princess is a continuation of The White Queen, profiled below, and the inspiration for the hit television miniseries of the same name.
The White Queen
As one of the first books in Philippa Gregory’s Cousins’ War series, The White Queen tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, a widowed nobody who somehow manages to captures the attention of King Edward IV. Married despite the wishes of everyone around them, Elizabeth and Edward go on to enjoy a passionate, though tumultuous, marriage and reign and king and queen of England.
Hilary Mantel’s bestselling novel, Wolf Hall brings to life England is the 1520s, the turbulent time in which Henry VIII is determined to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and marry the scandalous Anne Boleyn instead. The novel is told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, the ambitious advisor tasked with dealing with both Henry and Henry’s opposition. Wolf Hall won the 2009 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.