Top 10 books about royal families

Marrying intense personal drama with the fate of nations, the best of these accounts illuminate history through compellingly intimate experience

The most compelling books on royal families, for me, are those that entwine a gripping personal narrative with a national or international story and help to deepen our understanding of history. To appreciate what is at stake for the protagonists and how they make their choices depends on how skilfully the historical context is woven into the writing without overloading the prose. My favourite books are those that provide fresh insights on historical events while allowing the reader to inhabit the world of the royal characters.

In my new book, Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking, I set out to explore how seven of her grandchildren acceded to senior royal positions across Europe in the years leading up to the first world war. As I sat in the royal archives in the Round Tower at Windsor reading the extensive correspondence between the queen and her grandchildren, it was clear that the queen had a passion for matchmaking. She effectively ran the world’s most exclusive dating agency, where one good-looking princess might find herself sought after by the heirs to several thrones. At a time when some kings and emperors still wielded power as autocrats or semi-autocrats, these marriages mattered – and it was within Queen Victoria’s unique power toshape the political landscape of Europe.

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