12 Historical Fiction Novels About British Monarchs

We explore the books that commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s illustrious predecessors, who laid out a path for her glorious reign.
British Monarchs
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As millions of people across the world pay their tributes to the longest-serving monarch in British history, we explore the books that commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s illustrious predecessors, who laid out a path for her glorious reign. From the Normans to the Tudors to the House of Windsor, there was never a dull moment in the lives of British rulers. Murders, plots, scandals, audacious military expeditions, political intrigue and espionage are all unveiled in these atmospheric historical fiction novels.

Contents

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwall

Image Credit: BBC

This is a little-known story of the making of England in the ninth and tenth centuries, the years in which King Alfred, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.

The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex, Alfred’s kingdom and the last territory in English hands, Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he has to decide which side he is on…

Based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell’s ancestors, this thrilling tale depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England altogether.

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I am The Chosen King by Helen Hollick

Image Credit: Sourcebooks Landmark

“Every once in awhile a real gem comes along and you are swept away on a timeless journey. I was captured by the first page and held spell bound until the very end. Helen Hollick is truly a remarkable author with a gifted talent for exceptional and superior writing. The entire book flows along smoothly with many strong characters and scenes written in such a lovely poetic description providing the sensation of being right there in the midst of it all. Beginning in the year 1043 with the newly crowned Edward, King of England, he is surrounded by many subjects who befriend him for their own self-seeking motives, and others whose only desire is to serve their King with irrefutable loyalty. There are battles to be won, scores to be settled, and many a head stuck on a pike. ‘I am The Chosen King’ is an unforgettable and extraordinary tale, written with a great deal of passion by the author.”- Frances

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William The Conqueror by Edward Augustus Freeman

Image Credit: Perennial Press

Having recently become Duke of Normandy, young Robert must seize control of his domain before anarchy ensues. But his focus soon wavers when he meets Arlette — a tanner’s daughter — who wins his admiration with her spirit and beauty. Though unable to marry, they conceive a son, William.

In spite of his illegitimate birth and numerous detractors, William rises to become the new Duke of Normandy — renowned for both his strength and his ruthlessness. And when the King of England, Edward the Confessor dies, the ambitious duke decides to stake his claim to the English throne.

However, there are two other claimants prepared to fight for control of England — each with a formidable army. Undeterred by the challenge, William sends an invasion force across the Channel to realise his ambition.

But the duke soon realises that he has some powerful Saxon enemies who would refuse to accept a Norman king. And with plots and uprisings rife in both England and Normandy, William must decide who he can trust to aid him in his bloody struggle for power…

The Life of Henry VIII by William Shakespeare

Image Credit: CreateSpace Independent

“The core of the play is an allegory as England switches from Catholicism to Protestant, Cranmer is on trial accused of practicing the Protestant religion, he’s found guilty by a court who follows Catholicism, but not for long, Henry VIII steps in and overrules the verdict, makes Cranmer a godfather to his newly born, later to be Queen Elizabeth I, and tells them all to be friends. They do, all is forgiven and it ends on happy note praising Elizabeth at her christening. Whilst all this happening, Shakespeare compacts historical that span decade, starting with Wolsey’s falls, Henry VIII divorcing Catherine of Aragon for Anne Boleyn, and England’s religion going through a major overhaul and ending on a happy Henry VIII to have a new daughter.

According to some critics, Shakespeare wrote the play to be performed as part of the wedding celebrations of Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of James I, who succeeded the English throne after Elizabeth I.”- Inkspill

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Queen of Bedlam by Laura Purcell

Image Credit: Myrmidon Books

London 1788. The calm order of Queen Charlotte’s court is shattered by screams. The King of England is going mad. Left alone with thirteen children and with the country at war, Charlotte has to fight to hold her husband’s throne. It is a time of unrest and revolutions but most of all Charlotte fears the King himself, someone she can no longer love or trust. She has lost her marriage to madness and there is nothing she can do except continue to do her royal duty.

Her six daughters are desperate to escape their palace asylum. Their only chance lies in a good marriage, but no prince wants the daughter of a madman. They are forced to take love wherever they can find it, with devastating consequences.

The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham

Image Credit: On The Tudor Trail

“The Stolen Crown is told from the alternating points of view of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham and his wife Katherine Woodville. Henry (Harry) was married as a young child to Katherine, younger sister of Elizabeth Woodville – Queen of England and wife to Edward IV. When they grow older Harry and Katherine are able to establish a strong marriage, but Harry wants more power and position at court than Edward is willing to give him. Harry is on firmer ground with Edward’s younger brother Richard and when Edward dies and Richard thinks he can take it all…….

I loved the way the author brought some humor into the York/Lancaster differences, as well as busting some of those commonly held myths – Katherine being much older than Harry as well as the Woodville women being practicing witches.

Impeccably researched, the author mentions in her notes what is fact, what is surmised from the known facts as well as those mysteries that will probably never be solved like the Princes in the Tower. Highly recommended for any fan of this period as well as a good eye-opener for those new to it.” -Mifit

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Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey

Image Credit: Mariner Books

“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.”- BarnesandNoble

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The King’s Banquet by Derek Gorman

Image Credit: Independent

June 1589: Lord Sinclair proud of his castle in Aberdeenshire hosts the banquet to celebrate peace with England and King James VI’s impending marriage. Celebrations had to be discreet as the country was facing political and financial turmoil, but this wouldn’t be a quiet night’s celebration for the King. It couldn’t be, not for Lord Sinclair’s sake.

The Author balances documented historical records on the people and events of the day to ensure historical accuracy, blending it with a modern storytelling style that doesn’t make you feel like you are reading Shakespeare so step inside a world of Kings, banquets and extravagance. Imagine Netflix’s The Crown but set in the 16th century.

Buy The King’s Banquet today and leave knowing more about one of the most important Kings, and times in British history.

The Queen’s Husband by Jean Plaidy

Image Credit: Arrow

From the time they were in their cradles, Victoria and Albert were destined for each other. However, the passive Albert is well aware that marriage to a quick-tempered, demonstrative young woman like Victoria could result in unnecessary scenes and stormy court feuds.

And he is right. The young Queen, as well has having to endure her constant pregnancies, is in perpetual revolt against any encroachment on her position – and Albert is doing just that.

Despite attempts on her life and crises like the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, her family – Albert and their nine children – is her prime concern. The Victorian age is truly under way – but the real power behind the throne was the queen’s husband.

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Mary, Blood Mary by Carolyn Meyer

Image Credit: Clarion Books

“One of the earliest, sympathetic portrayals of Mary Tudor, Queen of England for only five years. Mary, Bloody Mary focused on the early life of the young Tudor princess, prior to becoming Queen. In Henry VIII’s attempt to have a son, he marries Anne Bolelyn, and considered his marriage to Katherine of Aragon invalid, making Mary illegitimate in the process. Matters made worse when the king threatens to kill her should she not agreed to see his views, and is forced to become a servant when her half-sister is born.

As usual Carolyn Meyer has managed to bring perspective into the life of this historical woman, her feelings and insights are truly a tragedy to her story. And like many of the women she chose to portray, their endings are rather bittersweet. There are some liberties taken with the real facts, but it does not affect the outcome in its storytelling to shedding light onto Mary Tudor.”- Ryan

Within The Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Image Credit: Sourcebooks

“Richard II, King of England is a much maligned monarch. History has not treated him well and his role as the last Plantagenet king of England is a prelude to the War or Roses and the establishment of the Tudor dynasty. During his reign, Richard faced one of the first recorded peasant revolt in England as well as constant in fighting amongst his uncles, the sons of Edward III, one of the greatest English kings. After quelling the revolt and marrying Anne of Bohemia, Richard ruled for eight peaceful years until the death of his wife. With her ability to calm the king removed, Richard starts to take his vengeance on those who have failed him in the past…”- Dana

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The Three Crowns: The Story of William and Mary by Jean Plaidy

Image Credit: Putnam Publishing

In post-Restoration England, King Charles II has fathered numerous bastards, but not a single legitimate heir. Because of this, his brother, James, Duke of York, is heir-presumptive to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland–the three crowns of Britain. But James’s devout Catholicism, and desire to return Britain to the rule of Rome, does not sit well with his subjects and his time as king is sure to be short.

Raised under the Protestant guardianship of her uncle King Charles, James’s daughter Mary finds herself at fifteen facing a marriage to the Dutch and Protestant William of Orange, long prophesied to be destined for the throne. But can she follow her calling to rule Britain without losing the love of her father?

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