The response to the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 8 September 2022 showed how revered she was as a person, both in Britain and around the world, but also bore witness to the enduring magic of the British monarchy as an institution. It is hard to isolate exactly what it is that makes it so popular and effective, but its perennial appeal seems able to overcome and survive all political, economic and social turmoil.
Here you can find a collection of the best books on the British Royal family. Andrew Morton, prince of royal biographers, author of the groundbreaking Diana: Her True Story, and Meghan, A Hollywood Princess, recommends The Queen by Ben Pimlott as the most interesting portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. For a picture of the Queen's younger sister, Craig Brown's biography, Ma'am Darling: 99 glimpses of Princess Margaret offers an original and entertaining take on royal biography as a genre.
On the next generation of the royal family, there are already one or two biographies of Prince Charles, who became King Charles III on his mother's death in 2022. However, much of the focus before that had been on Charles's relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Queen Consort. Royal journalist Katie Nicholl recommends Charles and Camilla Portrait of a Love Affair by Giles Brandreth. For the younger generation, she recommends William and Harry by Ingrid Seward and Kate by Claudia Joseph as good introductions. We also have a dedicated list of the best Diana books.
Robert Lacey recommends the biography of George V (Elizabeth II's grandfather) by Kenneth Rose as a great read, and Hugo Vickers concurs that it is one of the best royal biographies. Lacey also recommends Crown and People by Philip Ziegler, which charts the evolution of popular support for the monarchy in the democratic age, much to the surprise of many on the British Left, who expected to see its demise.
Memoirs actually authored by members of the royal family are few and far between. In 2023 Prince Harry's memoir Spare was released. Previous to that, the Queen’s aunt, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, did write her memoirs, and royal biographer Hugo Vickers recommends them as insightful and entertaining. Princess Alice died at the age of 102 in 2004, so she will have known almost every member of the royal family in the 20th century.
The Mail on Sunday’s Royal Correspondent, Katie Nicholl, looks at how the histories of the previous generation have shaped Princes William and Harry. She picks the best books on the British royals.
She became the heir to the British throne because her uncle had resigned and became Queen Elizabeth II aged just 25, after her father’s early death in 1952. The royal biographer Robert Lacey considers Elizabeth Windsor (1926-2022), her family history, her legacy and what made her so successful as Britain’s titular head of state.
Hugo Vickers talks about what makes a good royal biography, and how he helped Helena Bonham Carter prepare for her film role as the Queen Mother
Bestselling celebrity biographer Andrew Morton recommends the best books on the British royal family and the publishing of his own book, Diana, Her True Story—In Her Own Words, viewed by many as the definitive book on Princess Diana.