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The Royal Reading List: Understanding the British Monarchy Through Books

The British monarchy is one of the oldest and most iconic institutions in the world. With a history spanning over a thousand years, the monarchy has been the subject of countless books, films, and documentaries. For those looking to deepen their understanding of this fascinating institution, there are many books that provide a comprehensive overview of the British monarchy. As the coronation of King Charles III takes place, here are seven books to help you understand this ancient institution.

Crown & Sceptre: A New History of the British Monarchy from William the Conqueror to Charles III

by Tracy Borman

With 1000 years of royal history from 1066 to the present day, Domesday Book to Magna Carta the Field of Cloth of Gold to King Charles’ accession, Crown & Sceptre is an unparalleled exploration of the British monarchy. From Sunday Times bestselling author and joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces Tracy Borman, comes a fresh, engaging and authoritative account of the crown’s tumultuous history – including a chapter on King Charles III.

Impeccably researched, Crown & Sceptre explores in gripping detail how this iconic institution has survived the storms of rebellion, revolution and war that brought most of the world’s other monarchies to an abrupt and bloody end. It is a story of ruthless dynastic battles, political and social leadership, usurpation and abdication, all set against a backdrop of dazzling ceremony and pageantry.

A Brief History of the British Monarchy: From the Iron Age to King Charles III

by Jeremy Black

The British monarchy is at a turning point. Concise and engaging, this book charts the very beginnings of British reign through to the longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II – and looks forward to the reign of King Charles III.

Much more than a linear history, this is the intertwined story of royalty and state, of divisions, invasions, rivalries, death and glory; the story of nation fates deeply tied with the personal endeavours of monarchs through the ages. Black expertly weaves together thematic chapters from the origins of monarchy, medieval times and sixteenth-century developments, to the crises of the seventeenth-century, settlement and imperialism, and the challenges of the modern age. Exploring the House of Wessex, the Norman Conquest, Henry VIII and the Tudors, Victorianism and key events such as abdication of Edward VIII, this book is a necessary and comprehensive guide to the British Monarchy and how it has shaped history – and our lives today.

The Kings and Queens of Britain

by John Cannon &  Anne Hargreaves

This authoritative and accessible guide to the British monarchy spans the Romano-British rulers of 55 BC to the present day House of Windsor. Generously illustrated with maps, photos, paintings, and genealogies, it contains a wealth of information on the rulers of Britain, including their policies, personalities, key dates, and legacies. There are almost 600 entries, which are organised by regions up to 1066 and by royal lines thereafter. Feature articles throughout the guide provide in-depth information on key royal topics, including Coronations, Regalia, the Tower of London, and – new to this edition – Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral.

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Revised and updated to include recent events, this new edition also contains a topical introductory article on the changing role of the monarchy. There is a useful glossary, a list of recommended further reading, and a new appendix of recommended web links, accessed and kept up to date via a companion website. Comprehensive and elegantly written, this fascinating guide to the British monarchy is an essential reference resource for teachers and students of British history, and for anyone with an interest in Britain’s rulers through the ages.

The Ultimate Family: The Making of the Royal House of Windsor

by John Pearson

In recent times the British monarchy has become an ‘ultimate family’ of international superstars, their adventures and personalities transmitted round the globe like episodes in the world’s most popular soap opera.

The process began with Queen Mary’s transformation of the family into symbols of middle-class morality, but accelerated greatly with the televising of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation and the euphoric sense of a ‘new Elizabethan age’ about to begin in gloomy post-war Britain.

Prince Charles’s Investiture in 1969 was the springboard of a major PR campaign to provide royalty with a human face and helped shape the contemporary image of the royal family as both ‘special’ and ‘ordinary’.First published in 1986, this work came at a time of heightened interest in the royals as it followed the establishment of Lady Diana as the ‘ultimate dream princess’, Diana, and arrived in the wake of Prince Andrew’s wedding. John Pearson’s fascinating book defines the Royal Family for the 1980s.

Crown and Country: The Kings and Queens of England: A History of England through the Monarchy

by David Starkey

An exploration of the British monarchy from the retreat of the Romans up until the modern day. This compendium volume of two earlier books is fully revised and updated.

The monarchy is one of Britain’s most revered institutions – but also one of its most tumultuous. In Crown and Country, David Starkey charts its rollercoaster history from earliest times to the present; from the courtly love of the Middle Ages, through the turbulent reign of the Tudors, to the chaos of the Civil War.

Starkey brings this tempestuous story up to date in this complete history, guiding us through the Abdication Crisis to the dissolution of the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. He draws upon rank and romance in light of the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William and brings to life a cast of colourful characters and some riveting stories. Crown and Country is both a brilliant overview of the monarchy and a vividly iconoclastic portrait of British culture, politics and nationhood.

The King: The Life of Charles III

by Christopher Andersen

Since the day Charles Philip Arthur George was born, he has been groomed to be King. After more than seventy years of waiting, he finally ascends the throne.

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The King examines the private life of this historically important and controversial figure, set against the grand, thousand-year sweep of the British monarchy. This richly detailed biography covers it all, from his military training to his marriage to Lady Diana, through their separation and her tragic death to his marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles. In the process, it provides a balanced but fully honest look into the life of the new monarch. This book will tell you what the King—a man who has remained something of an enigma, shrouded in speculation and intrigue—is really like.

The King is the first biography of Charles since he has become monarch and serves as an authoritative chronicle of his life.

Coronation: A History of the British Monarchy

by Roy Strong

As a boy of sixteen, Roy Strong watched the grand procession carrying Queen Elizabeth II to her coronation. The spectacle was considered the greatest public event of the century. But now, so many years later, many people have little notion of what a coronation is and are unaware of the rich resonances of the ritual, or its deep significance in terms of the committal of monarch to people.

This book is the first of its kind – a comprehensive history that sets each coronation into its political, social, religious and cultural context. The story is one of constant re-invention as the service has had to respond to all the changes in fortune of the monarchy or the country: everything from legitimising usurpers to reconciling a Catholic rite to the tenets of Protestantism. It even had to be recreated from scratch after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. In this way, Strong tells the story of the British monarchy since the tenth century, and looks forward to the coronation of King Charles III. The musical history alone is one of extraordinary richness – involving Henry Purcell, Handel, Edward Elgar, William Walton – plus the celebratory poetry, the art and the spectacular engravings published at coronations are all explored, as is the more recent role of photographers. The book particularly concentrates on post-1603 developments, including the incredible story of the Stuarts, when the crown jewels used for hundreds of years at coronations were melted down as symbols of the hated Divine Right of Kings.

As Charles III succeeds to the throne and preparations are made for his coronation, Strong speculates as to the revisions now called for to its ritual and pageantry to meet the changes in the role of the monarchy in the twenty-first century.



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