10 Must Read Books About Royalty

Crown, sceptre and orb for coronation
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The most majestic wedding of the year may be over, but it’s never too late to immerse yourself in the regal splendour and serenity in these tales about the most prominent monarchs in history. From engrossing accounts to fictional delights, these books unveil the intrigue simmering behind closed doors of royal courts around the world offering a much-needed fix for your post-wedding blues.


Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory

Image credit: N. C. Wyeth

“Le Morte is a timeless classic, and there is much to be gained from investing the time and energy needed to conquer this imposing book. Not only does Malory offer us the chance to learn a great deal about Medieval and pre-Medieval society, but also of what it is to be human. The language may be lofty, but it is easily accessible once you are used to it. And as is the case with any great work, each of these stories gives a glimpse of the different aspects of humanity, of how and why we act as we do. Malory seems to focus not so much on development of individual characters, but rather on the presentation of human action. Given the cultural difference between the time of Chivalry and today, this can be a very thought-provoking theme.” – David G.

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The King History Forgot, Makikele, the 19th century Legend of Phalaborwa, South Africa by Robert T.Scully

Image credit: Two Harbours Press

‘The King History Forgot is a remarkable story, and a valuable piece of the complex picture of nineteenth Century Southern Africa history. Scully listened to accounts from elders of the Ba-Phalaborwa tribe, mining details from a rich oral history to reconstruct the life and changing times of the Northern Sotho king, Makikele Malatji. Makikele’s defense of his copper-rich kingdom against Swazi, Zulu and European incursion preserved the integrity of his people and infused a sense of pride continuing to modern times. Sadly modern events, urbanization and need to migrate for work have interrupted this unwritten flow of stories. Scully’s book, written by someone who understands the ethnography and archaeology of Phalaborwa, is thus an engrossing read, and an important gift to future generations’ – Jason Carter

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell

Image credit: Touchstone Books

“Large portions of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn center around the fictional diary entries of Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife to King Henry VIII. Beginning around the time of Anne’s entry into the English court as a Lady in Waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon in 1522, the diary entries chronicle Henry’s pursuit of Anne, the ascension of Anne to the throne and ultimately ending with Anne’s last night in the Tower of London before her execution on May 19, 1536. Framing Anne’s diary entries is the story of her daughter, Elizabeth, struggling to cope with the demands of being a new monarch, arguing with her councilors about the matter of whether or not to contract a foreign marriage, and deciphering fact from fiction as she learns about the mother she never knew through the diary brought to her by Lady Sommerville, one of the last ladies to see Anne alive in the Tower. From across time, Anne implores her daughter never to let a man rule her life, to become master of her own destiny, and to recognise her own own worth and power as a woman in a male-dominated society.”- Nikita

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Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie 

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“Nicholas & Alexandra is the tragic and compelling story of the last Tsar and his family by Robert K. Massie. First published in 1968, this historically accurate account of the fall of the Romanovs and Imperial Russia deftly interweaves a personal story of Nicholas as a husband and a father who dealt with a child suffering from haemophilia. An engrossing account of one of the century’s most dramatic events, the novel depicts the personal struggles of Russian monarchy on the verge of collapse that offers a glimpse into magnificent life of the court of St. Petersburg with its opulent palaces and exquisite balls.”- DEM

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Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey

Image credit: Tauris Parke Paperbacks

“Hailed as a “brilliant masterpiece” by the London Times, Lytton Strachey’s classic work gives the most comprehensive and delightful look at Queen Victoria and her reign. Originally published in 1921, this prose timelessly portrays the details of the royal family that fascinated readers in the Victorian era and continue to intrigue us in the present day. Strachey’s flair for throwing “a sudden revealing searchlight into obscure recesses, hitherto undivined,” places Queen Victoria as one of the literary landmarks of the century.” – Barnes and Noble

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Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

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“Hugely ambitious in its historical focus and vast geographical scope, Antony and Cleopatra is one of Shakespeare’s most astonishing tragedies. The drama centres on the relationships between his main protagonists, Octavius Ceasar, Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and the highly charged affair between Mark Antony and the Egyptian queen that forms the backdrop to the pervading theme of struggle between East and West throughout the play.

The internal battle of personal emotion and duty that Antony experiences, and the dynamics of power and sexuality portrayed by Cleopatra, give the play its dramatic tension. Rich and complex in its language and poetic in tone, Shakespeare shows how the politics of Rome ultimately cause disaster for a man who is torn between reason and passion.” – Harper Collins

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King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild

Image credit: Houghton Miffin

“Most of readers must be familiar with history of several evil men who have committed mass murder, destruction and indeed massive genocide on a horrific scale. The names of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and the likes are well known. A name not so well known and in many ways quite forgotten now is King Leopold of Belgium who in the late 1800s could and did match body counts and atrocities right along with the best of them. Greed, megalomania and the whims of an extremely rich and evil man changed the course of history and hundreds and thousands suffered greatly. Due to the fact that at the time these horrific events were unfolding the Congo information was not as available as it has been for the past 70 years or so, it took awhile for the world to realise just what this mass murderer was accomplishing.” – D.Blankenship

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Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang

Image credit: Knopf

“The Empress was no stateswoman. She knew little of the world beyond the Forbidden City in which she was confined, and she reacted to threats within and without on instinct. The woman who ended the custom of foot-binding was capable of great cruelty and stupidity of her own. She may have intuited more clearly than did her male advisers the need to industrialise China, but throughout her reign government was still bound by arcane ritual which reinforced her status but made progress a matter of chance not choice. The popular resentment against the Qing dynasty was so great that it was swept away within three years of Cixi’s death.” – The Telegraph

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Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda

Image credit: Francois Clouet

“Poisoner, despot, necromancer — the dark legend of Catherine de Medici is centuries old. In this critically hailed biography, Leonie Frieda reclaims the story of this unjustly maligned queen to reveal a skilled ruler battling extraordinary political and personal odds — from a troubled childhood in Florence to her marriage to Henry, son of King Francis I of France; from her transformation of French culture to her fight to protect her throne and her sons’ birthright. Based on thousands of private letters, it is a remarkable account of one of the most influential women ever to wear a crown.” – Harper

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The Lonely Empress: Elisabeth of Austria by Joan Haslip

Image credit: Vienna Museum

“Empress Elizabeth was considered the most beautiful woman in Europe. Joan Haslip shows her living life on her terms, ignoring the wishes of her husband, the needs of her children and the responsibilities of her position. Doing what she wanted did not make her happy and her maintenance and emotional requirements imposed on everyone in her wake. She ignored the protocol expected by her position, visiting countries where Austria had delicate relationships and often snubbed friendly host royals. You wonder, with all this ego and extravagance, why the people who are paying for all this cheered for her. Apparently not everyone did. Her life surely provided the imagery that inspired the anarchists, one who took her life and 20 years later another ignited the war that brought the end of the institution that supported and enabled her.” – Louise


Stella is a Marketing Consultant and has been writing content for Full Text Archive since 2015. When she is not writing, she is meticulously planning our social and e-mail campaigns. Stella holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Russian Literature, which has provided a broad foundation from which she continues to explore the written world.

She spends her free time reading, visiting old castles and discovering new coffee shops. She can be reached at stella

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