We still have a couple of weeks before The Crown returns to Netflix (December 8th) but, in the meantime, we’ve put together a list of royal reads—including an official The Crown companion book!—to tide you over. So go ahead, indulge in reads that would make anyone feel like royalty.
A Perfect Companion to The Crown:
The Crown: The Official Companion, Volume 1: Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, and the Making of a Young Queen (1947-1955) by Robert Lacey.
The official companion to the Emmy-winning Netflix drama chronicling the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and starring Claire Foy and John Lithgow, The Crown by Peter Morgan features additional historical background and beautifully reproduced archival photos and show stills that are perfect for any fan.
Crowned at twenty-five, Elizabeth Mountbatten was already a wife and mother as she began her journey towards becoming a queen. Her mother doubted her marriage; her uncle-in-exile derided her abilities; her husband resented the sacrifice of his career and family name; her rebellious sister embarked on a love affair that threatened the centuries-old links between the Church and the Crown. But Elizabeth II drew on every ounce of resolve to ensure that the Crown always came out on top.
Written by the show’s historical consultant, royal biographer Robert Lacey, The Crown: The Official Companion: Volume 1 adds expert and in-depth detail to the events of the series, painting an intimate portrait of life inside Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street.
The Wicked Wit of Queen Elizabeth II by Karen Dolby
A charming collection of quotes and anecdotes celebrating the incomparable Queen of England.
When we think of the queen, we probably picture a serious, dignified personage complete with majestic hat and matching handbag. But The Wicked Wit of Queen Elizabeth II reveals a side of the monarch the public rarely sees, her healthy sense of humor: sometimes silly, sometimes sarcastic—and occasionally unintentional (to guitar legend Eric Clapton: “Have you been playing long?”)!
This is a delightful celebration of the queen’s humor revealed through her own words on topics from family and travel to pets and hobbies, as well as stories from the royal household of Britain’s longest-serving monarch. In addition to the queen, other royals get in their two cents, including the famously filterless Prince Philip and the acerbic Princess Margaret, as well as Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
Prince Charles by Sally Bedell Smith
Sally Bedell Smith returns once again to the British royal family to give us a new look at Prince Charles, the oldest heir to the throne in more than three hundred years. This vivid, eye-opening biography—the product of four years of research and hundreds of interviews with palace officials, former girlfriends, spiritual gurus, and more, some speaking on the record for the first time—is the first authoritative treatment of Charles’s life that sheds light on the death of Diana, his marriage to Camilla, and his preparations to take the throne one day.
Ranging from his glamorous palaces to his country homes, from his globe-trotting travels to his local initiatives, Smith shows how Prince Charles possesses a fiercely independent spirit and yet has spent more than six decades waiting for his destined role, living a life dictated by protocols he often struggles to obey. With keen insight and the discovery of unexpected new details, Smith lays bare the contradictions of a man who is more complicated, tragic, and compelling than we knew, until now.
Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird
The true story for fans of the PBS Masterpiece series Victoria, this page-turning biography reveals the real woman behind the myth: a bold, glamorous, unbreakable queen—a Victoria for our times. Drawing on previously unpublished papers, this stunning new portrait is a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength and resilience.
Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. As a girl, she defied her mother’s meddling and an adviser’s bullying, forging an iron will of her own. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown and relished the freedom it brought her. At twenty, she fell passionately in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, eventually giving birth to nine children. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers, overstepping conventional boundaries and asserting her opinions. After the death of her adored Albert, she began a controversial, intimate relationship with her servant John Brown. She survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security—queen of a quarter of the world’s population at the height of the British Empire’s reach.
Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders—but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers minibiographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating listen for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.
Sisi by Allison Pataki
Sisi tells the little-known story of Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary, the Princess Diana of her time, in an enthralling work of historical fiction that is also a gripping page-turner.
Married to Emperor Franz Joseph, Elisabeth—fondly known as Sisi—captures the hearts of her people as their “fairy queen,” but beneath that dazzling persona lives a far more complex figure. In mid-nineteenth-century Vienna, the halls of the Hofburg Palace buzz not only with imperial waltzes and champagne but with temptations, rivals, and cutthroat intrigue. Feeling stifled by strict protocols and a turbulent marriage, Sisi grows restless. A free-spirited wanderer, she finds solace at her estate outside Budapest. There she rides her beloved horses and enjoys visits from the Hungarian statesman Count Andrássy, the man with whom she’s unwittingly fallen in love. But tragic news brings Sisi out of her fragile seclusion, forcing her to return to her capital and a world of gossip, envy, and sorrow where a dangerous fate lurks in the shadows.
Through love affairs and loss, dedication and defiance, Sisi struggles against conflicting desires: to keep her family together, or to flee amid the collapse of her suffocating marriage and the gathering tumult of the First World War. In an age of crumbling monarchies, Sisi fights to assert her right to the throne beside her husband, to win the love of her people and the world, and to save an empire. But in the end, can she save herself?
Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini
New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini illuminates the fascinating life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace—Lord Byron’s daughter, the world’s first computer programmer, and a woman whose exceptional contributions to science and technology have been too long unsung.
The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. Estranged from Ada’s father, Ada’s mathematician mother is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage and provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science.
When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she develops a new friendship with inventor Charles Babbage that will shape her destiny. Intrigued by the prototype of his first calculating machine, the Difference Engine, and enthralled by the plans for his even more advanced Analytical Engine, Ada resolves to help Babbage realize his extraordinary vision, unique in her understanding of how his invention could transform the world. All the while, she passionately studies mathematics—ignoring skeptics who consider it an unusual, even unhealthy pursuit for a woman—falls in love, discovers the shocking secrets behind her parents’ estrangement, and comes to terms with the unquenchable fire of her imagination.
Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir
Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir takes on what no fiction writer has done before: creating a dramatic six-book series in which each novel covers one of King Henry VIII’s wives. In this captivating opening volume, Weir brings to life the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first, devoted, and “true” queen.
A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage—and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner.
Katherine’s patience is rewarded when she becomes Queen of England. The affection between Katherine and Henry is genuine, but forces beyond her control threaten to rend her marriage, and indeed the nation, apart. Henry has fallen under the spell of Katherine’s maid of honor, Anne Boleyn. Now Katherine must be prepared to fight, to the end if God wills it, for her faith, her legitimacy, and her heart.
Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir
In this second novel of Alison Weir’s epic Six Tudor Queens series, the acclaimed author and historian weaves exciting new research into the story of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s most infamous wife, a woman ahead of her time whose very life—and death—forever changed a nation.
Born into a noble English family, Anne is barely a teenager when she is sent from her family’s Hever Castle to serve at the royal court of the Netherlands. There, and later in France, Anne thrives, preferring to absorb the works of progressive writers rather than participate in courtly flirtations. She also begins to understand the inequalities and indignities suffered by her gender.
Anne isn’t completely inured to the longings of the heart, but her powerful family has ambitious plans for her future that override any wishes of her own. When the King of England himself, Henry VIII, asks Anne to be his mistress, she spurns his advances—reminding him that he is a married man who has already conducted an affair with her sister, Mary. Anne’s rejection only intensifies Henry’s pursuit, but in the absence of a male heir—and given an aging Queen Katherine—the opportunity to elevate and protect the Boleyn family, and to exact vengeance on her envious detractors, is too tempting for Anne to resist, even as it proves to be her undoing.
While history tells of how Anne Boleyn died, this compelling new novel reveals how fully she lived.
A Party Fit for a King:
At Home at Highclere by The Countess of Carnavon
Written by the current lady of the manor, this book gives complete access to the world-renowned historic country house and showcases the art of entertaining, past and present. Highclere Castle, famed as the setting for Downton Abbey, is the epitome of how we imagine the perfect English country house.
Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the current chatelaine, invites readers inside Highclere, past and present, as she describes how to entertain in the style of a stately English country house: the etiquette of the invitation, multi-course meals, correct seating arrangements, proper attire, setting the table. She delves into family archives to highlight four real-life historic weekend parties over a seventy-year period during which Highclere hosted an ever-changing cast of notable figures—including Benjamin Disraeli and the Prince of Wales—exploring how society and entertaining changed decade by decade.
Complete with gorgeous full-color photography of Highclere’s rooms and punctuated by charming archival images, the book explores changing menus, fashionable cocktails of the day, and includes, where practical, adaptations for recipes which can be used for entertaining in the present day.