The Best Royal Reads

The Best Royal Reads

In light of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, you might be keen to learn more about the extraordinary life he led – and about the lives of the royal family at large. From Andrew Morton’s timeless Princess Diana bestseller to Craig Brown’s witty look at the life of the inimitable Princess Margaret, our 17 favourite royal reads are sure to keep you informed and entertained.

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Prince Philip's Century 1921-2021: The Extraordinary Life of the Duke of Edinburgh by Robert Jobson

For decades Prince Philip shared the Queen’s burden of office without upstaging her, always privately providing reassurance and advice but never overstepping the boundaries of his supporting role. It was an unforgiving position, but one that he met head on. He remained the Queen’s adviser and closest confidant, but was wise enough to recognise the constraints of his role. His job was, after all, to allow her star to shine. Robert Jobson’s magnificent biography of the late Duke of Edinburgh tells the full story of his remarkable life and achievements, and how, after his marriage in 1947 to Princess Elizabeth, the dedicated military man spent so much of his life supporting his wife. Though he created a role for himself as a determined moderniser and environmental campaigner, and through the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, encouraged young people to reach their potential, Jobson argues that it was perhaps his greatest achievement to have been a loyal husband and companion, and a loving father and grandfather.

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The Rebel Prince by Tom Bower

In this 2018 book, famously no-holds-barred bestselling author Tom Bower reveals the power, passion and defiance of Prince Charles. He argues that few heirs to the throne have suffered as much humiliation as Prince Charles. Despite his hard work and genuine concern for the disadvantaged, he has struggled to overcome his unpopularity. After Diana’s death, his approval rating crashed and has only been rescued by his marriage to Camilla. Nevertheless, just one third of Britons now support him to be the next king. Many still fear that his accession to the throne will cause a constitutional crisis. In unearthing many secrets surrounding these and many other dramas, Bower’s book – relying on the testimony from over 120 people employed or welcomed into the inner sanctum of Clarence House – reveals a royal household rife with intrigue and misconduct. An ideal read to reach for ahead of Bower’s next unauthorised book subject: Meghan Markle.


Diana: Her True Story by Andrew Morton

One of the world's best-known biographers, Andrew Morton is a leading authority on modern celebrity. His controversial biography changed the public's perception of the British monarchy and became an instant bestseller when it was published in 1992. No one at that time would believe that Diana had secretly collaborated with Morton on the book, until its re-publication in the wake of her death showed beyond any doubt that she had done so. Working with Morton on the book, Diana exposed life inside the royal family and shook the firm to its foundations. This world bestseller bears testimony to Diana's life – allowing her to have her say – and is the closest readers will ever come to her autobiography.

The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, The Dresser & The Wardrobe by Angela Kelly

Throughout the seven decades of her reign, the Queen has used clothing to create a powerful visual identity that transcends fashion and has made her one of the most readily identifiable people on the planet. Angela Kelly, building on the work of the great designers and milliners who have worked with Queen Elizabeth through the years – including couturiers Sir Norman Hartnell, Sir Hardy Amies and Ian Thomas, and milliners such as Simone Mirman and Freddy Fox – brings her own imagination to bear on an iconic ‘uniform’ that suggests continuity and tradition, and ensures that the wearer is always the most visible person in a room or a crowd. Fully endorsed by the Queen herself, Kelly’s beautifully designed book features never-before-seen photos of the Queen and intimate anecdotes from her 25-year career working closely with Her Majesty.

The Duke: 100 Chapters in the Life of Prince Philip by Ian Lloyd

The Archbishop of Canterbury called him “bloody rude”, courtiers feared he was “a foreign interloper out for the goodies” and the Queen Mother labelled him “the Hun”. Journalists continually portrayed him as a gaffe-prone serial philanderer, with European outlets even claiming he fathered 24 illegitimate children and had a fling with a former French president. Prince Philip claimed himself “the impression the public has got is unfair”, though he never went to great lengths to defend himself. He never wrote a self-serving autobiography and his interviews with broadcasters or writers were done grudgingly. The Duke – which was published just two months ago – explores the man behind the myths, drawing on interviews with relations, friends and courtiers, as well as Prince Philip's own words. Ian Lloyd hones in on some rare aspects of his character, from a love of poetry and religion to his fondness for Duke Ellington and his fascination with UFOs. Lloyd also explains why for over seven decades the Duke of Edinburgh was the Queen's “strength and stay” – and why he was regarded by many as a national treasure.


Lady In Waiting by Lady Anne Glenconner

This is the remarkable life of Princess Margaret’s lady in waiting,  rumoured to be a major character in the next series of The Crown. Glenconner has been close to the royal family since childhood. The eldest child of the 5th Earl of Leicester, she was – as a daughter – described as “the greatest disappointment” by her family as she was unable to inherit. She married the charismatic but highly volatile Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, who became the owner of Mustique. Together they turned the island into a paradise for the rich and famous, including Mick Jagger and David Bowie. But beneath the glitz and glamour there also lurked tragedy. In this book, Glenconner writes with extraordinary wit and courage, and she exposes what life was like in her gilded cage, revealing the role of her great friendship with Princess Margaret and the freedom she can now finally enjoy in later life.

The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown

Years after her death, Princess Diana remains a mystery. Only Tina Brown, former editor-in-chief of Tatler, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker – and someone who knew Diana personally – knows the truth. Here, Brown showcases a formidable female cast: Diana's sexually charged mother, her scheming grandmother, the stepmother she hated but finally came to terms with, and bad-girl Fergie, her sister-in-law, who concealed wounds of her own. Most formidable of them all was her mother-in-law, the Queen, whose admiration Diana sought till the day she died. Add Camilla Parker-Bowles – the ultimate other woman – into the mix, and it's no wonder, Brown claims, that Diana broke out of her royal cage into celebrity culture, where she found her own power and used it to devastating effect.


Snowdon by Anne de Courcy

How did a photographer who was a relentless playboy, unashamed womaniser and leather-clad motorcyclist marry the Queen's sister and become the establishment figure Lord Snowdon? Antony Armstrong-Jones often humiliated Princess Margaret, yet he was compassionate to the causes he cared about. And since his death in 2017, Snowdon still hasn't escaped the limelight. Written with exclusive access to Snowdon and the people closest to him, Anne de Courcy’s book uncovers the real man and his times. Addressing the facts behind the myths – the secret courtship of Margaret, the love child born just weeks after the royal marriage, the affairs on both sides, the suicide of one mistress and the birth of an illegitimate son to another – this balanced yet no-holds-barred account of Snowdon's life is essential reading.

Finding Freedom: Harry & Meghan by Omid Scobie & Carolyn Durand

This 2020 book was the first account of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s life together, revealing why they chose to pursue a more independent path and the reason behind their unprecedented decision to step away from their royal lives. As members of the select group of reporters that cover the British royal family and their engagements, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand have witnessed the young couple’s lives as few outsiders can. Written, allegedly,  with the participation of those closest to the couple, Finding Freedom is an up-close and disarming portrait of an influential couple who are unafraid to break with tradition. Essential reading for anyone still undecided about the pair after that Oprah Winfrey interview.


Ma’am Darling by Craig Brown

She made John Lennon blush and Marlon Brando clam up. She cold-shouldered Princess Diana and humiliated Elizabeth Taylor. Jack Nicholson offered her cocaine and Pablo Picasso lusted over her. To her friends, Princess Margaret was witty and regal; to her enemies, she was rude and demanding. In her 1950s heyday, she was seen as one of the most glamorous and desirable women in the world. By the time of her death, she had come to personify disappointment: one friend said he had never known an unhappier woman. Ma’am Darling looks at the Princess from many angles, creating a kaleidoscopic biography, and a witty meditation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society.

The Crown: The Official Companion, Volume II by Robert Lacey

Missing The Crown? In this exploration of the history behind seasons two and three of Peter Morgan’s Emmy-winning Netflix drama, the show’s historical consultant answers all your questions alongside beautifully reproduced archive photographs. Covering two tumultuous decades in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, Robert Lacey looks at the key social, political and personal moments and their effects ­– not only on the royal family but also on the world around them. From the Suez Crisis and US-Soviet space race to the legacy of the Duke of Windsor’s collaboration with Hitler and the rumoured issues with the royal marriage, the book provides a thought-provoking insight into the historic decades that the show explores, revealing the truth behind the on-screen drama.

Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life by Sally Bedell Smith

When it was published in 2017, this was the first major biography of Prince Charles in more than two decades, offering new insights into his family and his two marriages from the New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth the Queen. Drawing on her extensive access to the royal family’s inner circle, Sally Bedell Smith delivers unprecedented insights into Prince Charles, a man who possesses a truly independent spirit, and yet has spent his life in waiting for the ultimate role. Beginning with his lonely childhood, Smith details his intellectual quests, his entrepreneurial pursuits and his love affairs – from the tragedy of his marriage to Princess Diana to his eventual marriage to Camilla. It also explores his relationship with the next generation of royals, including William, Kate, Harry and his grandchildren.

The Mountbattens: The Lives & Loves by Andrew Lownie

From British high society and the South of France, to the battlefields of Burma, The Mountbattens is a rich story of a powerful partnership, revealing the truth behind the couple. Was Mountbatten one of the outstanding leaders of his generation, or a man over-promoted because of his royal birth, high-level connections, film-star looks and ruthless self-promotion? What is the true story behind controversies such as the Dieppe Raid and Indian Partition, the love affair between Edwina and Nehru, and Mountbatten's assassination in 1979? Based on over 100 interviews, research from dozens of archives and new information released under Freedom of Information requests, prize-winning historian Andrew Lownie sheds new light on­ this remarkable couple.

Buckingham Palace: The Interiors by Ashley Hicks 

This is the first large-format, hardcover book to comprehensively document the lavish State Rooms of Buckingham Palace, home of Britain's monarch since 1837. As the son of Lady Pamela Hicks (née Mountbatten) and the society designer David Hicks, as well as godson to Prince Philip, designer Ashley Hicks is uniquely placed to photograph the interiors of Buckingham Palace. This book explores the well-known and little-known rooms of the Queen's London residence, giving an overview of the history and influences of the decoration. Hicks's eye brings a vibrant take on the formal spaces, capturing the magnificent rooms furnished with treasures from the royal collection. Starting at the Grand Staircase, Hicks leads us through the opulently decorated State Rooms, which include the White Drawing Room and the Blue Drawing Room that both overlook the palace gardens; the Ballroom, which is normally the setting for 20 investiture ceremonies each year; and the Throne Room, used by Queen Victoria for spectacular costume balls in the 1840s.

Elizabeth & Margaret: The Intimate World of the Windsor Sisters by Andrew Morton

Perfect for fans of The Crown, this captivating biography follows Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret, as they navigate life in the royal spotlight. They were the closest of sisters and the best of friends. But when their uncle Edward VIII decided to abdicate the throne, the dynamic between Elizabeth and Margaret was dramatically altered. Forever more Margaret would have to curtsey to the sister she called 'Lillibet’ and bow to her wishes. Elizabeth would always look upon her younger sister's antics with a kind of stoical amusement, but Margaret's struggle to find a place and position inside the royal system – and her fraught relationship with its expectations – was often a source of tension. Once again, Andrew Morton's biography offers insight into these two very different sisters – one resigned to duty and responsibility, the other resistant to it – and the lasting impact they have had on the crown.

Battle of the Brothers: William and Harry – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult by Robert Lacey

From bestselling author and historical consultant to the award-winning Netflix series The Crown, this recent bestseller offers an insider account of tumult, secrecy and schism in the royal family. The world has watched Prince William and Prince Harry since they were born. Raised by Princess Diana to be the closest of brothers, the boy princes have grown into very different, now distanced men. This book reveals the untold details of William and Harry's closeness and estrangement, asking what happens when two sons are raised for vastly different futures – one burdened with the responsibility of one day becoming king, the other with the knowledge that he will always remain spare. How have William and Harry both agreed and diverged in their views of what a modern royal owes to their country? What parts have Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle played in helping their husbands to choose their differing paths? And what is the real, unvarnished story behind Harry and Meghan's dramatic departure?


Behind The Throne: A Domestic History of the Royal Household by Adrian Tinniswood

This book uncovers the reality of five centuries of life at the English court, taking the reader on a remarkable journey from one Queen Elizabeth to another, and exploring life as it was lived by clerks and courtiers and clowns and crowned heads: the power struggles and petty rivalries, the tension between duty and desire; the practicalities of cooking dinner for thousands, or ensuring the king always won when he played a game of tennis. We learn that Charles I maintained a household of 2,000 people, Victoria’s medical establishment alone consisted of 30 doctors, three dentists and a chiropodist and that even in today’s more democratic climate, Elizabeth II keeps a full-time staff of 1,200. Here’s what they all get up to.

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