Kings & Queens | Collection Development: The Royals

The modern British royal family has been shaped by two long-reigning queens, three crowned kings, and an abdication. In the past two centuries, the monarchy has survived two world wars, social upheaval, royal scandals (e.g., the abdication crisis), and the untimely death of a princess. The constitutional monarchy functions within the structure of a democratically elected government and remains politically neutral.

Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837. She and her adored husband, Prince Albert, had nine children; most married into other royal houses of Europe. After Albert’s death in 1861, the grief-stricken Queen withdrew from public life. Despite growing republican sentiment, she was declared Empress of India in 1876 and celebrated her golden jubilee in 1887. Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 was the end of an era known for its industry and innovation.

Her heir, Edward VII, was her complete opposite. Relaxed and charming, he was renowned for his love of women and gambling. Edward VII was 59 when he inherited the throne and proved to be an able king despite his playboy image. As he was related to nearly all of the royal families of Europe, he used his considerable diplomatic skills to foster peace, with the term Edwardian now conjuring up images of the golden era between the death of Queen Victoria and the start of World War I. He died, well respected, in 1910.

His son, George V, reigned during a period of great instability as his grandparents’ attempts to unify Europe by intermarriage failed to avert conflict. Germany, led by George’s cousin Kaiser Wilhelm II, declared war in 1914. Cousin Czar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate from the Russian throne. In 1917, George V changed the name of the British royal house from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the House of Windsor, as he feared being considered pro-German. The new name ushered in the modern era of monarchy. He and his wife, Queen Mary, were perceived as staid and dull; they conscientiously forged the image of monarchy as family-oriented and dutiful. George V made the first Christmas radio broadcast in 1932, and he continued to broadcast annually until his death in early 1936.

In 1936, as communism and fascism gained traction throughout Europe, the glamorous Edward VIII, son of George V and Queen Mary, caused a constitutional crisis when he abdicated the crown over his desire to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. The episode raised questions about the relevance of the entire royal family. Despite having little preparation for the role, Edward VIII’s brother, George VI, was crowned in 1937. Two years later, Britain declared war on Germany. The war took its toll on this well-respected monarch, and George VI died an early death in February 1952 at age 56. The monarchy was then headed by his daughter Princess Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth II’s tireless sense of duty has ensured that the royal family remains woven into the fabric of British life. Her reign has not been without controversy and scandal, especially when Diana, Princess of Wales, died in 1997. The public reaction to Diana’s death was unprecedented, and regard for the royal family plummeted. Two decades later, the queen has regained public confidence—Prince Charles is poised to become the next king, and the popularity of Prince William; his wife, Catherine; and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte assures the future of the House of Windsor.

The year 2017 is a significant year for the family. Queen Elizabeth celebrates her sapphire jubilee (65 years as monarch), and it is also the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death. The works listed here show continued focus on the royal family itself and renewed interest in Diana’s life and death.

Starred (redstar) titles are essential for all collections.

Penelope Klein is a retired public and academic librarian. While she will read almost anything, she has particular interests in English and Scottish social history, legal history, and law. Originally from England, she now lives in upstate New York


redstarBaird, Julia. Victoria: The Queen; An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire. Random. 2016. 752p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781400069880. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780679605058.

Drawing upon previously unpublished material, Baird presents a full portrait of the monarch, the woman, and the empress from her childhood through her time on the throne to widowhood. (LJ 7/16)

Bradford, Sarah. Diana. Penguin. 2007. 464p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780143112464. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781101533246.

Historian Bradford makes use of firsthand accounts to provide an authoritative portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales, one of the 20th century’s most celebrated women.

Cannadine, David. George V: The Unexpected King. Penguin. 2015. 144p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780141976891. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780141976907.

Cannadine shows how George V and Queen Mary modernized the House of Windsor in the aftermath of World War I, guaranteeing its survival.

Edwards, Anne. Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor. Rowman & Littlefield. 2014. 560p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781442236554. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781442236561.

Edwards describes Queen Mary’s pivotal role during the abdication of Edward VIII and how she ensured the continuation and stability of the royal family.

Edwards, Anne. Royal Sisters: Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret. Lyons. Feb. 2017. 400p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781630762650. pap. $18.95.

Fans of Netflix’s The Queen will appreciate this dual biography of Queen Elizabeth and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, who caused a political crisis owing to her relationship with a divorcé.

Ewart, Tim. Queen Elizabeth: A Celebration of Her Majesty’s 90th Birthday. Carlton. 2016. 128p. photos. maps. index. ISBN 9780233004815. $24.95.

This feast of photographs captures the remarkable life of Queen Elizabeth, who turned 90 in 2016, and the importance of her family.

Kuhn, William. Democratic Royalism: The Transformation of the British Monarchy, 1861–1914. Palgrave Macmillan. 1996. 174p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780333658130. $185.

Unlike the fate of most European monarchies following World War I, the British crown transformed itself into a powerful symbol of national unity. Kuhn focuses on five individuals who developed the modern constitutional British monarchy: Walter Bagehot, W.E. Gladstone, Lord Esher, Randall Davidson, and the 15th Duke of ­Norfolk.

Lloyd, Ian. William & Catherine’s New Royal Family: Celebrating the Arrival of Princess Charlotte. Carlton. 2015. 224p. illus. ISBN 9781780976624. $24.95.

Princess Charlotte’s birth in 2015 was a historic moment for the British monarchy; the princess is currently fourth in line to the throne after Charles, Prince of Wales; Prince William; and Charlotte’s older brother, Prince George of ­Cambridge.

Morton, Andrew. Diana: Her True Story—in Her Own Words. Gallery. Jun. 2017. 480p. illus. index. ISBN 9781476752815. $35.50; pap. ISBN 9781501169731. $15.95; ebk. 9781439187883.

Revised for its 25th anniversary, this book, once considered scurrilous, is now generally accepted as having been written with Diana’s full cooperation.

redstarQueen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family: A Glorious Illustrated History. DK. 2015. 320p. illus. index. ISBN 9781465438003. $40.

This compendium of facts, illustrations, and photographs offers a thorough overview of the British Royal Family.

redstarRidley, Jane. The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince. Random. 2013. 752p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780812972634. pap. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780812994759.

Ridley was granted extensive access to the Windsor Castle archives to research this scholarly book. The result is an authoritative portrait of a much-loved prince who, although once considered just a playboy, proved to be a thoughtful monarch. (Xpress Reviews 1/17/14)

Sebba, Anne. That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson Duchess of Windsor. Griffin: St. Martin’s. 2012. 368p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250022189. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429962452.

Sebba tries to sort myth from reality and so includes new material that suggests that Wallis Simpson was trapped into her fateful marriage with the Duke of Windsor. (LJ 2/1/12)

Smith, Sally Bedell. Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. Random. 2012. 720p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780812979794. pap. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780679643937.

Recently revised, with a new afterword by the author, this warm and intimate work presents a well-researched portrait of a woman recognizable to almost everyone but enigmatic to most. (LJ 12/11)

Smith, Sally Bedell. Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life. Random. Apr. 2017. 624p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781400067909. $32; ebk. ISBN 9780812988437.

A new chronicle of a complex, thoughtful, and visionary man poised to be king. (LJ 3/15/17)

Ziegler, Philip. George VI: The Dutiful King. Penguin. 2015. 112p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780141977379. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780141977386.

Happy to be a minor royal, George VI was instead thrust onto the throne after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, and then faced the prospect of war with Germany.

redstarZiegler, Philip. King Edward VIII: A Biography. Ballantine. 1992. 552p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780345375636. pap. $27.

The definitive biography of the King who abdicated the British throne to marry the woman he loved. Granted unrestricted access to the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, Ziegler worked with Edward’s letters and extensive diaries to portray a full depiction of the exiled ­monarch.


redstarSoud, David. Kings & Queens of Great Britain: Every Question Answered; The Fascinating Biographies of the British Monarchs from the House of Wessex to the House of Windsor. Thunder Bay. 2014. 400p. illus. index. ISBN 9781626862357. $24.95.

Ideal for all reference collections, this thorough resource also contains a selection of historical royal documents.


In Their Own Words: Queen Elizabeth II. 60 min. dist. by PBS. 2015. DVD UPC 841887022804. $24.99.

A journey through the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II, with commentary from family members and others in her circle.

The Royal Collection. 4 discs. 407 min. dist. by BBC. 2013. DVD UPC 883929339723. $24.99.

A set of four DVDs offering an ideal introduction to those new to the British monarchy: Queen Victoria’s Children; King George and Queen Mary; The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; and How To Be a Prince.

redstarVictoria: The Complete First Season. 3 discs. 480 min. dist. by PBS. 2017. DVD UPC 841887030922. $49.99; Blu-ray UPC 841887030939. $59.99.

A dramatic and sumptuous portrayal of the queen and empress, with a stunning performance by Jenna Coleman. (LJ 3/15/17)


Bates, Stephen. Royalty Inc.: Britain’s Best-Known Brand. Aurum. 2015. 368p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781781313565. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781781314791.

Objective and thought-provoking, Bates’s book examines the British monarchy’s talent for transformation and its current appeal throughout the world.

Nash, Michael L. Royal Wills in Britain from 1509 to 2008. Palgrave Macmillan. Feb. 2017. 217p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781137601445. $109.

In this book, according to the publisher the first on the subject since 1780, the author dispels the myth that all royals dispose of their estates only according to the rules of ­primogeniture.

Titchmarsh, Alan. The Queen’s Houses: Royal Britain at Home. Ebury. 2014. 256p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781849902175. $46.95; ebk. ISBN 9781448142958.

The royal residences offer a haven of peace for the royal family. Here, Titchmarsh takes readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of the royal homes and includes personal reflections by and interviews with staff.


The British Monarchy YouTube Channel

The official channel for the British Royal Family offers a wide variety of videos to satisfy even the most ardent royal watcher.

The British Royal Family

Per this official website of the British Royal Family, “written and managed by the Royal Household at Buckingham Palace, it aims to provide an authoritative resource of information about the Monarchy and Royal Family, past and present.” It provides access to the Court Circular (past engagements) and future ­engagements.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award USA

Started in 1956 by Prince Philip, “The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is the world’s leading youth achievement award, equipping young people for life. The Award is available for all young people aged 14 to 24, regardless of their background, culture, physical ability, skills, and interests. It is a fully inclusive program and has no social, political, or religious affiliations.”

The Prince’s Trust

“It all began in 1976, when HRH the Prince of Wales had a bold idea. Having completed his duty in the Royal Navy, His Royal Highness became dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged young people in the UK. He founded His Trust to deliver on that ­commitment.”

The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry

The main vehicle for the philanthropic activities of the two princes, the foundation grew out of the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fund.


The British Monarchy

Comprehensive reference guide to the monarchs of England and Scotland since the eighth century.

Kings and Queens: 1,000 Years of British Royal History

Comprehensive and easy to navigate, with child-friendly descriptions.

The Developing Schedule

JUL Cuba, History, & More
AUG Prostate Health & Wellness
SEPT Women in Sports
OCT Retelling the Classics
NOV Math & Science Literacy

To submit titles (new and/or backlist), contact Barbara Genco four to six months before issue dates listed above (email:

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