If Queen Elizabeth‘s Platinum Jubilee, celebrating her 70 years on the throne, has you itching to learn more about the royal family, we’ve rounded up some of the best books exploring the history of the monarchy in Britain. From charismatic biographies of Princess Margaret and behind-the-scenes details from the Queen’s trusted wardrobe advisor to bombshell revelations about Princess Diana‘s time with the Firm, these are the nonfiction titles you’ll want to pick up next—at least until Prince Harry’s long-awaited memoir releases this fall.
Books About the British Royal Family
Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton
Andrew Morton’s Diana: Her True Story—filled with lurid claims about Prince Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles and Diana’s unhappy life as a royal—scandalized the nation twice. First, when it was serialized in English tabloid The Sun in 1992 (despite intense pressure from the Firm, Princess Diana refused to denounce the book as false). Then five years later, after Diana’s death, when Morton revealed that the “People’s Princess” had actually served as a source for the book, smuggling tapes of herself answering questions out of the palace. Diana: Her True Story, shocking in its raw honesty, completely changed how Britons viewed the monarchy.
The Heir Apparent: A Life Of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley
In the early 2000s, the paparazzi depicted Prince Harry as a hard-partying playboy. While the Duke of Sussex is now a happily married father of two, he’s hardly the first member of the royal family to have a wild side. The Heir Apparent, written by historian Jane Ridley, details King Edward VII’s misadventures in the late 1800s. Edward, the oldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, was a notorious gambler and womanizer, and Victoria feared what his reign would bring. Yet, as Ridley describes, Edward became a surprisingly effective king, helping to redefine the constitutional monarchy in his 10-year reign.
HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes
From Queen Elizabeth’s neon color palette and fancy fascinators to Kate Middleton’s striped Bretons, the royal women have distinct styles with meaning behind their clothing. In HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style, journalist Elizabeth Holmes explores how the women of the House of Windsor—Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex—use fashion to communicate their priorities and values. The book, an extension of an Instagram project of the same name, pairs its photo-filled pages with contextual history and Holmes’ own informed commentary, devoting one section to each of the influential women.
Related: How HRH Author Elizabeth Holmes Deciphers the Meaning Behind Every Royal Outfit
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brow
Craig Brown wrote a biography as charismatic as the Princess herself. The book’s 99 chapters are short—some just a single page—and examine a different aspect of Margaret’s life. The Queen’s younger sister comes across as callous, but Brown clearly has affection for her and sympathizes with her sense of feeling trapped. It’s an irreverent read: In one chapter, Brown, a longtime parodist for Private Eye, imagines a marriage between the Princess and Picasso; in another, he details a dream sequence. Traditionalists may want to skip this one, but anyone who admires Margaret, flaws and all, will find a lot to love.
The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by Marion Crawford
When Marion Crawford, the royal family’s former governess, published her memoir, The Little Princesses, in 1950, the Windsors were shocked. By today’s standards, the revelations in the book feel mostly harmless—the young princesses bit their nails and their father, the King, was not comfortable with displays of affections—but Crawford was the first royal staff member to write a tell-all. The Queen hasn’t spoken with her former governess since the book came out, and shortly after the publication, Crawford abandoned the cottage given to her by King George—the same cottage (Nottingham) where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle first lived and where Prince William and Kate Middleton resided following their own wedding.)
Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor—The Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown
Veteran journalist Tina Brown examines how the royal family has navigated the 25 years since Princess Diana died (a topic the author first explored in her 2007 book The Diana Chronicles). There’s no shortage of issues for the impeccably sourced Brown to consider: Prince Andrew’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the weddings of Princes William and Harry and the Sussexes’ departure from the royal family. The writer applies her sharp pen to all the royals: Prince Andrew is “a coroneted sleaze machine,” and Prince William is “a balding former heartthrob.” Brown, a former editor of Tattler (a magazine focused on the British upper crust), offers insights on the symbiotic relationship between the House of Windsor and the media, showing how each side exploits and benefits from the other.
Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner
Lady in Waiting is at once an eye-raising memoir about the lives of the super-rich and a devastating examination of how unchecked privilege can lead to tragedy. Anne Tennant, the Baroness of Glenconner, spent her childhood playing with young Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret and later served as one of Margaret’s ladies-in-waiting. Her memoir recounts the days she spent rehearsing to be a maid of honor at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, the party she hosted where Princess Margaret began her eight-year affair with Roddy Llewellyn, as well as the tragic deaths of three of her own children and complicated marriage.
We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill
The marriage between Queen Victoria and her cousin, Albert, is often heralded as the rare example of a successful royal love match. In We Two, biographer Gillian Gill adds a layer of complexity to their relationship, showing they fought for power. But even as Victoria resented the way marriage constrained her, the pair genuinely loved each other. The nuances Gill exposes make their relationship all the more compelling.
Battle of Brothers: William and Harry—The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult by Robert Lacey
Robert Lacey, a historian and consultant for Netflix’s The Crown, dissects the schism between Princes William and Harry in Battle of Brothers, walking readers through their tumultuous childhood. While paparazzi often point to Harry’s relationship with Meghan Markle as the start of the brothers’ separation, Lacey argues it began in 2005, when William failed to support Harry after his younger brother was criticized for wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party. William and Harry picked out the costume together, but only “the spare” faced tabloid headlines. While Lacey is critical of both princes, the institutionalist saves his strongest barbs for Meghan and Harry.
Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of A Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand
Finding Freedom covers some of the same topics and anecdotes as Battle of Brothers, but from Harry and Meghan’s perspective. Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, longtime royal reporters, interviewed 100 people close to the Sussexes—and Meghan herself even cooperated with the book through a friend. It painstakingly recounts every time the couple felt unsupported by their family and the Firm, like the time the Palace released a statement denying Kate Middleton received Botox but failed to similarly defend Meghan.
The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe by Angela Kelly
The Other Side of the Coin (approved and fully endorsed by the Queen!) was written by Angela Kelly, the Queen’s wardrobe advisor and longtime confidante (she even designed the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee look). The memoir details her service at Buckingham Palace and includes fun behind-the-scenes details about cleaning the elaborate velvet robes the Queen wears on Garter Day and Kelly’s efforts to recreate Queen Victoria’s baptismal gown by importing lace from Italy and then using tea to dye it. Royal watchers and fashion fans alike will enjoy the inside information offered in The Other Side of the Coin.
Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy by Alison Weir
British historian Alison Weir spent 22 years researching this reference book, and her work shines through on each page. Remarkably, it’s the first volume to include a complete record of all members of each royal house of Britain. Weir provides an overview of the royal houses and then delves into the individual members, explaining their complex connection to other European royal families. She also offers some trivia on the leaders, such as William the Conqueror’s difficulty finding a wife in Britain’s royal families distant enough from his own genealogical line to meet the Church’s approval.
The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III by Andrew Roberts
In his blockbuster musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda depicted King George III as a hapless, preening monarch incapable of putting down a rebellion. Biographer Andrew Roberts offers a more nuanced, complex view of the King in The Last King of America. He argues George wasn’t the despot Americans claimed, but rather an ineffective leader battling severe mental health issues.
Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life by Sally Bedell Smith
After writing biographies of his mother and first wife, Sally Bedell Smith turned her attention to Prince Charles, the man who will one day be King. The book, which highlights Charles’s passions for the environment and the arts, treats the Prince with far more sympathy than he normally receives. As novelist William Boyd noted in his review of Prince Charles, the book is “that rare portrait—pro-Charles and anti-Diana.” Its distinct perspective makes it worth a read for anyone looking to better understand the future King.
The Wicked Wit of Queen Elizabeth II by Karen Dolby
In private, the Queen is described as warm, inviting and funny. The public has caught glimpses of this aspect of her personality over the past decade, through her James Bond video at the London Olympics and her recent Jubilee video with Paddington the Bear. For more of Elizabeth’s funny side, pick up The Wicked Wit of Queen Elizabeth II, a collection of the Queen’s humorous quotes. The slim volume is a quick, charming read and a perfect gift for the royal watchers in your life.
The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked the Crown by Penny Junor
Royal biographer Penny Junor offers another side of the woman Princess Diana famously called a “rottweiler.” In the book’s introduction, Junor writes, “In my view, when history comes to judge her, Camilla will not be seen as the woman who nearly brought down the House of Windsor. I think she will be recognized as the woman who shored it up.” The remainder of the book focuses on the ways Camilla supported Prince Charles before, after and, yes, during his marriage to Diana. She comes off as warm and down-to-earth, a doting grandmother, committed wife and hard-working servant.
The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves of Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten by Andrew Lownie
Dickie Mountbatten, Prince Phillip’s uncle, once said, “No biography has any value unless it is written with warts and all.” With The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves of Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten, Andrew Lownie has written a book his subject would approve of. When it was first published, the book received attention for disclosing Dickie’s bisexuality, but it goes far beyond the salacious, exploring the couple’s tireless work to defeat Hitler and service as the last viceroy and vicereine of British India. It also dives into Dickie’s effort to have a young Phillip and Elizabeth meet and the formative role he played in Charles life before he was murdered by the Irish Republican Army.
Next, Everything You Need to Know About Becoming Elizabeth