2019 Calendar

Some book links below may be Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to buy through that link, it doesn’t change your price at all, but Amazon will give me a few extra cents for the tiara research fund.

Do you love reading about royals as much as I do? If so, check out my 2020 royal reading list - all the research books I bought, borrowed, and re-read are listed here. I’m adding books as I read them, so check back to see if your picks made the list.

Just scroll down to get the info for each book, including my comments. Or use the table of contents below to jump straight to a book you’re already interested in.

Want to suggest a book for me this year? I’d love to know what titles you recommend. Click here to drop me a line.

Last updated: December 22

Albert Speer

Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth by Gitta Sereny

Subtitle: His Battle with Truth
Author: Gitta Sereny
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 1996
Available at: Amazon (used)

I read this book because Speer figures briefly in an upcoming tiara blog post – I won’t spoil it by telling you which tiara is it, since the post isn’t written yet. Long story short, I didn’t get any juicy tidbits relevant to my tiara story, but it was a fascinating read nonetheless.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies by Hayley Nolan

Subtitle: 500 Years of Lies
Author: Hayley Nolan
Publisher: Little A
Year: 2019
Available at: Amazon

I picked this up through my Kindle Unlimited membership. I’m not studying the Tudors or Anne, but I was curious about the author’s arguments. Anne Boleyn is a famously slippery figure to get a hold of, on paper and in one’s own mind. We have so little original writing from her that we have to interpret and interpolate major events in her life based on the writings of others, which often leads to questionable conclusions. That being said, I know there’s been an explosion in high-quality material on Anne in the past 20 years or so.

Does Nolan actually have new info for us?

Beloved and Darling Child

Beloved Mama, edited by Roger Fulford

Subtitle: Private Correspondence of Queen Victoria and the Crown Princess of Prussia 1886-1901
Editor: Agatha Ramm
Publisher: Alan Sutton
Year: 1990
Available at: Amazon (used)

This is the sixth and final volume of the letters between Queen Victoria and her eldest daughter, Vicky. It’s heartbreaking because you know both women die in 1901 – they’re facing the vicissitudes of aging, including watching friends and family members die. As for Vicky, she’s also battling painful spine cancer in the later years of this volume, so any moment of joy or levity is a superhuman effort for her. She’s an amazing human being who still has warmth, verve, and intelligence to spare. I miss her and I only ever knew her through these letters.

Beloved Mama

Beloved Mama, edited by Roger Fulford

Subtitle: Private Correspondence of Queen Victoria and the Crown Princess of Prussia 1878-1885
Editor: Roger Fulford
Publisher: Evans Brothers Limited London
Year: 1981
Available at: Amazon (used)

This is the fifth of six volumes of the correspondence between Queen Victoria and her eldest daughter, Vicky. I’m plowing through the rest of the series, to the complete confusion of my husband who can’t quite understand why I’d rather read dead women’s letters than watch Netflix. But I adore these letters. They’re hilarious, they’re touching, they’re informative...and they’re like an unintentional political history seminar of the late 19th century, all at the same time.

Berlin Diaries

Berlin Diaries 1940-1945 by Marie Vassiltchikov

Subtitle: 1941-1945
Author: Marie Vassiltchikov
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Year: 1985
Available at: Amazon (used)

Feel like we have it rough during the pandemic? After reading this book, I’m not so sure. Unless you’re being chased by an axe-murderer through a quicksand field, you’re probably not having as bad a time as the people of Berlin in 1943-1945.


Bernadotte by Alan Palmer

Subtitle: Napoleon’s Marshal, Sweden’s King
Author: Alan Palmer
Publisher: Lume Books (eBook)
Year: 2018
Available at: Amazon (free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers)

I read this book for free through Kindle Unlimited. Why’d I pick it? I knew next-to-nothing about Bernadotte, other than he somehow became king of Sweden. It’s like a dude’s Cinderella story, right? Ordinary French soldier becomes a king! Since I want to learn more about the Swedish monarchy, this seemed like a good starting point.

The Buchenwald Report

The Buchenwald Report

Translator: David A. Hackett
Publisher: Westview Press
Year: 1995
Available at: Amazon (used via the Marketplace)

I bought this book because I needed to know more about the concentration camp Princess Mafalda of Savoy died in. I’m working on a long blog post about her, and didn’t know enough specifics about the camp to understand her time there. It wasn’t a fun book to read, and because of the unique nature of this book, this won’t be a traditional review. But I can still share some of the interesting tidbits I found inside.

Chaumet in Majesty

Chaumet in Majesty exhibition book

Subtitle: Jewels of Sovereigns Since 1780
Authors: Christophe Vachaudez and Stéphane Bern
Publisher: Flammarion
Year: 2019
Available at: Amazon

I bought this book because...isn’t it obvious? Drool-worthy pictures of royal jewels (duh). But how does the text stack up?

Crowns in Conflict

Crowns in Conflict by Theo Aronson

Subtitle: The Triumph and the Tragedy of European Monarchy 1910-1918
Author: Theo Aronson
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
Year: 1986 (original), 2015 (digital)
Available at: Amazon

I’m an Aronson fan and spotted this title in Kindle Unlimited. It wasn’t on my reading list, but I gave it a shot anyway. Usually, Aronson’s character- and story-driven history books totally float my boat. This one…didn’t. Maybe it was too superficial? Covered too much at once? Either way, I came away feeling like I didn’t learn anything new or interesting.

Daisy, Princess of Pless

Daisy, Princess of Pless by Herself

Author: Daisy, Princess of Pless
Publisher: E.P. Dutton & Co.
Year: 1928
Available at: Archive.org (free)

The name Theresa Mary Cornwallis-West might not ring a bell…but how about Daisy, Princess of Pless? I kept seeing her memoir cited in other books, so I decided to give it a try. It’s available for free from Archive.org, but that’s not why I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Daisy knew so many people, from Kaiser Wilhelm II to Prince Metternich to Empress Eugénie. Her book includes entries from her diary, letters she received, as well as her narration of what happened in the 25 years leading up to the German Revolution. There weren’t any bombshells, but there were glimpses of people I’d written about and loved seeing more of (Christa Salm, that’s you). I’m pretty sure she’s an unreliable narrator, but surprisingly, that didn’t make this book any less enjoyable.

Darling Child

Darling Child edited by Roger Fulford

Subtitle: Private Correspondence of Queen Victoria and the Crown Princess of Prussia 1871-1878
Editor: Roger Fulford
Publisher: Evans Brothers Limited London
Year: 1976
Available at: Amazon (used)

The books containing Queen Victoria’s correspondence with her daughter Vicky are like Pringles - once you pop, you can’t stop. This is book 4 in the series of 6 - click here to jump down the page and see what I said about book 3. In this volume, we get to hear about Alfred’s engagement and marriage to a Russian grand duchess, Vicky’s in-law struggles at the Prussian court, the way each woman’s kids disappointed her, and tidbits about the doings of various German princely families (George of Meiningen’s shocking marriage - the scheming Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin - oh my!).

Daughters of the Winter Queen

Daughters of the Winter Queen by Nancy Goldstone

Author: Nancy Goldstone
Publisher: Back Bay Books (reprint edition)
Year: 2010
Available at: Amazon

I picked this up because I’ve read two other titles from Goldstone and enjoyed them both. This one is my favorite, though. It’s an easy read that goes into just enough depth on the four women portrayed. Even better? It’s a history book that’s written to be (gasp) enjoyed.

Diamond Jewelry

Diamond Jewelry by Diana Scarisbrick

Author: Diana Scarisbrick
Publisher: Thames Hudson
Year: 2019
Available at: Amazon

Diana Scarisbrick is well-known for her books based on jewelry exhibitions as well as books on specific jewel topics (portrait jewels, rings, Tudor jewels, etc.). The draw? The pictures of the amazing jewels and the chance to learn more about them.

This book on diamond jewelry should have been a grand slam, right? But it left me disappointed, feeling like I might not pick it up again.

What went wrong?

The Duchess of Windsor

The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King

Subtitle: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson
Author: Greg King
Publisher: Citadel Press
Year: 2011 (digital edition)
Available at: Amazon

I’ve never been interested in Wallis Simpson. There, I said it. But when this book showed up on sale (via BookBub, I think), I saw Greg King’s name and thought, hey, I like him, I’ll take a chance on this. Good thing I did. This book was fascinating. King freely admits to wanting to set the record straight about Wallis and the negative press she’s gotten since day one. It made me think back to a two-podcast series The History Chicks did on Wallis, which I’d enjoyed a lot. So I went for it. The twentieth century’s most vilified woman – what did it teach me?
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The Empress of Farewells

The Empress of Farewells by Prince Michael of Greece

Author: Prince Michael of Greece
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly press
Year: 1998
Available at: Amazon

I picked up this book years ago, when Borders was still a thing. Many moons ago, I’d read Joan Haslip’s biography of Charlotte, which is what prompted me to buy this one when I saw it. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by the story of a Belgian princess turned Empress of Mexico who went insane?
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Enchantress by Christine Sutherland

Author: Christine Sutherland
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Year: 1996
Available at: Amazon

Confession time: I bought a used copy of this book, like, fifteen years ago. I’m just now getting around to it. I should have jumped on this earlier – it was super enjoyable, a who’s who of European society from the turn of the 20th century through World War II. Turns out, Princess Marthe Bibesco knew everyone worth knowing and wrote about them in her journal.

Erzählungen aus Meinem Leben

Daughters of the Winter Queen by Nancy Goldstone

Author: Christian Ludwig Herzog zu Mecklenburg
Publisher: Stock & Stein
Year: 1996
Available at: ABEBooks.co.uk

I bought this book when I decided to dig into the history of Grand Duchess Alexandra of Mecklenburg-Schwerin’s diamond and aquamarine tiara. Her son, Christian Ludwig, wrote this memoir about his youth in Mecklenburg, his experience in World War II, his years in Soviet captivity after the war, and his return visits to Mecklenburg in the ’80s, ’90s, and beyond. It’s a fascinating story, with lots of information about the family...and some crazy wartime and post-war experiences (Dunkirk, the plot to assassinate Hitler, and capture by the Soviets, to name a few). And in one hilarious moment, when his Soviet captors ask him to sign his own sentencing document, Christian Ludwig refuses. When he asks to talk to an ambassador, a lawyer, anyone, all his requests are met with refusals. So he goes for broke... “Let’s call Stalin,” he says.

“That is impossible,” his captor says.

And Christian Ludwig slays with his response: “Oh, I assure you it’s possible - such a call can be made quite easily over the telephone.”

HA. Can’t you just imagine the movie version of this scene, with Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch as Christian Ludwig?

The Fall of Berlin 1945

The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Antony Beevor

Author: Antony Beevor
Publisher: Penguin
Year: 2003
Available at: Amazon

I read this as background for one of the tiara blog posts I’m writing, part of which takes place during the end of World War II and the fall of the Third Reich. I’d already read Beevor’s Stalingrad and loved it. Going into this, all I knew about the fall of Berlin was that the Allied and Soviet armies were basically in a race to see who could get there first. I couldn’t wait to find out more…

The Fall of the House of Habsburg

The Fall of the House of Habsburg by Edward Crankshaw

Author: Edward Crankshaw
Publisher: Penguin
Year: 1983
Available at: Amazon

I’ve had this book on my shelf for…a really long time. So long I can’t remember where or when I got it. I finally tackled it and was pleasantly surprised. Crankshaw isn’t a scholar…but he’s very opinionated and isn’t shy about telling you what sank the Habsburg empire (hint: the Hungarians). See what I mean about those opinions?

For a King's Love

The Fall of the House of Habsburg by Edward Crankshaw

Author: Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia
Publisher: Doubleday
Year: 1956
Available at: Amazon (used) or Archive.org (borrow for free)

I borrowed this book from Archive.org because I’ve always been curious about the Yugoslavian royal family. It was an easy read and very interesting, but disturbing for several reasons. I felt like I needed a shower and a whiskey after I finished.

The Golden Bees

The Golden Bees: The Story of the Bonapartes by Theo Aronson

Subtitle: The Story of the Bonapartes
Author: Theo Aronson
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
Year: 1964 (digital edition: 2015)
Available at: Amazon

I really enjoyed this book. Like all of Aronson’s books, they’re about people more than politics. I picked it up via Kindle Unlimited, and blazed through it in two weekends. It was interesting to hear more about Napoleon’s siblings, nieces, and nephews – I’ve read a fair amount on him and Josephine, but knew very little about the rest of the family. Many of them weren’t very nice people, unfortunately…but it sure was fascinating to read about them.

A History of France

A History of France by John Julius Norwich

Author: John Julius Norwich
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Year: 2018
Available at: Amazon

I picked this up in eBook format after hearing Norwich on the BBC Extra podcast. He was so charming and so obviously loved France that I decided to read his book. Years ago, I’d read a similar book – Alistair Horne’s La Belle France, and loved it. Would I feel the same about this one?

Journal of a Russian Grand Duchess

Journal of a Russian Grand Duchess edited by Helen Azar

Edited by: Helen Azar
Publisher: None listed
Year: 2015
Available at: Amazon (free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers)

If you’re a Romanov fan who’s already devoured most of the books about them, this is for you. It’s a chance to read part of the story in their own words – although, as you’ll find out, you have to read between the lines a bit. This is Olga’s diary for 1913, but these aren’t the kind of “dear diary” entries you’re probably thinking of. There are no confessional outpourings, or descriptions of how she feels about people or events (nothing longer than a sentence at a time, anyway). This is a record of where she went, who she spoke with, who came over for dinner, that sort of thing. There’s not a lot of raw emotion on the surface, but you can find it if you go looking for it.

The Kaiser

The Kaiser by Virginia Cowles

Author: Virginia Cowles
Publisher: Sharpe Books
Year: 1964; this digital edition, 2018
Available at: Amazon.com (free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers)

I picked up this book via Kindle Unlimited because, well, it didn’t cost me anything. Nowadays, John Röhl’s 3-volume biography of Wilhelm is considered the gold standard, but what about before Röhl? I was curious to see what a writer published in the 1960s thought of Wilhelm. Was there any rehabilitation? Revisionism? Nope. As it turns out, Virginia Cowles feels pretty much the same way about Wilhelm as I do.

Käre prins, godnatt

Kare prins, godnatt by Lennart Bernadotte

Author: Lennart Bernadotte
Publisher: Bonniers Grafiska Industrier
Year: 1977
Available at: Archive.org

In my never-ending search for tidbits on Fritz and Hilda of Baden, I decided to look for this memoir by Fritz’s grand-nephew. I Googled it and, lo and behold, there was a copy available to check out from the Archive.org lending library.

I know there’s a huge controversy in the writing world about this lending library. The argument from authors? It’s essentially piracy, robbing us of profits from our hard work. The argument from, well, me? The author never gets paid when you buy a secondhand book, so if a book is no longer in print and can only be purchased secondhand, why not make it available to borrow for free in digital format? That lets you figure out if it’s a book you want to buy and keep forever.

I didn’t mean to turn this into a political statement. It’s supposed to be about Lennart – and his fantastic book. Even with a shitty AI translation, his prose shines.

The Last German Empress

The Last German Empress by John Van der Kiste

Author: John Van der Kiste
Publisher: A&F Publishing
Year: 2015
Available at: Amazon (free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers)

John Van der Kiste is a regular on my reading list. I picked up this book through Kindle Unlimited…I’d read his book on Augusta, the first German empress, and figured I might as well read this, too, even though Dona is almost universally regarded as a not very nice person. I think it was Kaiser Wilhelm’s biographer, John Röhl, who wrote something to the effect of, I pity the foo who has to read her letters and diaries because she’s a racist and a bigot. But let’s find out the whole story, shall we?

The Last Palace

Kare prins, godnatt by Lennart Bernadotte

Author: Norman Eisen
Subtitle: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2018
Available at: Amazon

Okay, so this one doesn’t have anything to do with royalty or tiaras. But it popped up in a BookBub email and I couldn’t resist. After researching Eleonora von Schwarzenberg and a teensy bit of Czech history, I wanted to learn more. This book is the story of a palace built in Prague by Otto Petschek, a wealthy Jewish industrialist. The problem? He started building it between the World Wars. By the time it was done, he and his family had to leave to avoid the Nazi reprisals against Czechoslovakia’s Jews. What happened to his house afterward? It housed a German general, and then a series of American ambassadors, including Shirley Temple Black and the author, Obama’s ambassador to the Czech Republic. Today, the property still belongs to the United States – a little piece of American soil in Prague.

Mafalda di Savoia

Mafalda di Savoia by Cristina Siccardi

Author: Cristina Siccardi
Publisher: Paoline
Year: 1999
Available at: Amazon (used)

I read this book the hard way – a line-by-line DeepL/Google Translate translation. It’s probably not fair to say I even “read” it, since there was a definite authorial style that probably got a bit garbled. But this book filled in a lot of the gaps for me in Mafalda’s story…but left some questions, too.

Marie Antoinette’s Confidante

Marie Antoinette's Confidante by Geri Walton

Author: Geri Walton
Publisher: Pen & Sword History
Year: 2016
Available at: Amazon (free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers)

As a very disturbed child, I remember reading and re-reading accounts of the Princess de Lamballe’s murder. Later, as a very disturbed fiction writer, I made the 1792 September Massacres a huge plot point in my novel, The Carmelite Prophecy. So why not learn a little more about one of the most famous victims?

Memoirs of the Duchesse de Dino, Volume 1

Memoirs of the Duchesse de Dino, Volume 1

Editor: Princesse Radziwill (née Castellane)
Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons
Year: 1909
Available at: Archive.org (free)

Because I do everything backwards, I read volume 2 of these memoirs before volume 1. So for a general intro to the duchess and her memoirs, click here to read what I wrote when I reviewed volume 2. Then come back and see what we missed in the volume that covers 1831-1835.

Memoirs of the Duchesse de Dino, Volume 2

Memoirs of the Duchesse de Dino, Volume 2 1836-1840

Editor: Princesse Radziwill (née Castellane)
Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons
Year: 1910
Available at: Project Gutenberg (free)

I haven’t read it yet, but last fall, I picked up a copy of a book about the last Duchess of Courland. While skimming the first couple chapters to see where it should fall in my reading list, I realized her youngest daughter, Dorothea, had at least as interesting a life. Possibly more so, because she might have had a baby with her super-famous great-uncle by marriage. That bumped the daughter’s memoirs forward on my reading list. Come for the rumored incest. Stay for the fascinating royal tidbits on everyone from the Orléans to the Duchess of Kent to the Württembergs.

Memoirs of the Duchesse de Dino, Volume 3

Memoirs of the Duchesse de Dino, Volume 3

Editor: Princesse Radziwill (née Castellane)
Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons
Year: 1910
Available at: Google Books (free)

This is the volume I was most anxious to read since it covers a key period in the life of one of my research subjects, Grand Duchess Elizaveta Mikhailovna. But the date range was a bit deceiving, because there’s a huge gap in the duchess’s correspondence here that coincides almost exactly with the period of Lilli’s marriage to Adolph. BOO. But as the final volume in the series, I plowed through…and still found some interesting royal tidbits. Plus, she covers the explosive year of 1848. Reading her account of what that felt like was an eye-opener.

The Mistress of Paris

The Mistress of Paris by Catherine Hewitt

Author: Catherine Hewitt
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Year: 2015
Available at: Amazon

I picked up this book in a BookBub daily deal email for a couple bucks. The tagline is irresistible: “The 19th Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret.” Okay, so this isn’t directly relatable to my royal research, but sometimes you have to expand your horizons a bit. And it came with an unexpected connection to Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband. Bonus!

The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel

Subtitle: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
Author: Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter
Publisher: Center Street
Year: 2009
Available at: Amazon

I picked up this eBook when I realized there was a mention of the Grand Duchess of Baden in it. Turns out, it was inconsequential to the story, but I’m not sorry because this is a book worth reading and remembering.

My Memoirs

My Memoirs by Princess Victoria of Prussia

Author: Princess Victoria of Prussia
Publisher: A&F Reprints
Year: 2020
Available at: Amazon

I was super stoked to find this book for just a couple bucks on Kindle...although my heart broke a little when I saw the terrible cover slapped on it. (I could do better, and I suck at Photoshop.)

About a year ago, I’d looked into buying a hard copy, but the used copies I found were all in the $40+ range, so I held off. Why? Honestly, I wasn’t sure there would be any revelations in it. I just wanted to read it out of curiosity. And $40+ shipping is a lot (for me) to spend on idle curiosity. In this case, my cheapness was rewarded.

Who is Victoria of Prussia?

Victoria – “Moretta” to her family – had a turbulent life. Daughter of Princess Victoria of Great Britain and Crown Prince Friedrich of Prussia, she had the misfortune to fall for someone whose politics didn’t align with her family’s. She fell in love with Prince Alexander “Sandro” of Battenberg, Prince of Bulgaria.

Unfortunately, Sandro’s deteriorating relationship with Russia meant her grandfather, brother, and Bismarck heartily disapproved of the match. They wanted Prussia to maintain Russia as a friend and ally, so they sacrificed poor Victoria’s happiness on the altar of Prussian politics.

The problem? Her mom and grandmother (Queen Victoria) championed the match, creating endless family drama and pitting family members against each other. Long story short, the marriage never happened. Years later, she married Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe and, after being widowed, Alexander Zubkoff.

The Sandro story is Victoria’s claim to fame in most historical circles. But what else can we find in her memoirs?

My Own Affairs

My Memoirs by Princess Victoria of Prussia

Author: Princess Louise of Belgium
Translator: Maude M.C. ffoulkes
Publisher: Cassell and Company
Year: 1921
Available at: Archive.org

Princess Louise of Belgium's story includes elements that seem more like fiction: married to a man who turned her from an innocent teenager into a pleasure-loving party girl, held captive in an asylum, rescued by her lover, shunned by family, and forced to eke out a living on the fringes of proper society for decades. Not surprisingly, the media had a field day with her. But what was her take on her life? It’s always best to get the story from its source…and then figure out how much of that source to believe.

Napoleon’s Other Wife

Napoleon's Other Wife by Deborah Jay

Author: Deborah Jay
Publisher: Rosa’s Press
Year: 2015
Available at: Amazon

I read this book because - let’s face it - that’s an awesome cover. Yes, I can be that shallow. I read Michelle Moran’s novel about Empress Marie-Louise years ago and enjoyed it, so I was anxious to dive in and see what else I didn’t know about her.

A Nervous Splendor

A Nervous Splendor by Frederic Morton

Subtitle: Vienna 1888-1889
Author: Frederic Morton
Publisher: Diversion Books
Year: 1979
Available at: Amazon

This book weaves the story of Archduke Rudolf of Austria’s suicide at Mayerling in January of 1889 into the tapestry of Viennese society within the past year. Rudolf is just one character whose story Morton weaves throughout the narrative – others include Sigmund Freud, Anton Bruckner, Johann Strauss, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Klimt, and more.

Prince Albert

Prince Albert by AN Wilson

Subtitle: The Man Who Saved the Monarchy
Author: A.N. Wilson
Publisher: Harper
Year: 2019
Available at: Amazon

I grabbed this book out of a BookBub email. I’d almost picked it up in a bookstore, but the $20 price tag seemed hefty (I was moving at the time – money needed elsewhere), so I figured I’d wait for the paperback edition. Long story short, I love Wilson’s writing style and really enjoyed this book, but I don’t think he proved his point that Albert saved the monarchy.

Prince Henry of Prussia

Prince Henry of Prussia by John Van der Kiste

Author: John Van der Kiste
Publisher: A&F Publications
Year: 2015
Available at: Amazon

I’ve read plenty of Van der Kiste’s books before and always enjoyed them. He’s a solid writer who has covered the Hohenzollerns extensively. I picked this one up because Prince Henry seems like the forgotten prince of the dynasty, overshadowed by Wilhelm. I knew very little about him, other than the fact that he married Ella and Alix’s sister, Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhine. Was there more to the story? Let’s find out.

Princess Helena

Princess Helena by John Van der Kiste

Author: John Van der Kiste
Publisher: A&F Publications
Year: 2015
Available at: Amazon

I’m working my way through the Van der Kiste royal biographies available in Kindle Unlimited. Like many of the author’s other books, this short bio isn’t intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive. It’s compiled from mostly previously published sources, but it provides a worthwhile overview of Helena’s life.

Queen Victoria’s Cousins

Queen Victoria's Youngest Son by Charlotte Zeepvat

Author: Christina Croft
Publisher: Hilliard & Croft
Year: 2016
Available at: Amazon

There are plenty of books about Queen Victoria’s daughters, sons, granddaughters, and grandsons...but cousins? This sounded way more interesting to me. Her Belgian and Cambridge cousins were the only ones I could name instantly, which meant I needed the crash course this book provided.

Queen Victoria’s Youngest Son

Queen Victoria's Youngest Son by Charlotte Zeepvat

Author: Charlotte Zeepvat
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
Year: 2013
Available at: Amazon

I picked up this book through Kindle Unlimited because I’d read that Hilda of Nassau was considered as a bride for one of Queen Victoria’s sons. But which one? And how seriously? If it was Leopold (my guess, based on their ages), I was hoping to find mention of it in here.

Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815

Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr

Edited by: Clarissa Campbell Orr
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year: 2004
Available at: Amazon (used)

This is a scholarly compilation of essays that hits my sweet spot – royal women in early modern Europe. But if you’re not in the habit of reading scholarly prose (I haven’t been since grad school 8 years ago), be warned: this isn’t light reading. There are some gems in here, but you have to read slowly, carefully, and with a big cup of coffee. That’s how I found fascinating tidbits about court doctors who prescribe liquor, pornographic art and its supposed effect on a pregnancy, and the first woman awarded a phD from Göttingen.


Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm

Author: Sarah Helm
Publisher: Anchor
Year: 2015
Available at: Amazon

My junior year of college, I took a class on the Holocaust. I’m still not entirely sure why, other than maybe a niggling feeling that I needed to know more about it to be a global good citizen. It was a horrific quarter: 10 weeks of death, horror, and evil. But I can’t forget the subject – 22 years later, I’m still picking up books on the subject, and finding ways it dovetails with my royal history obsession. I grabbed this one because one of the prominent prisoners at the Ravensbrück concentration camp was Countess Karolina Lancorońska, whose family had a gorgeous sapphire and diamond tiara. If she was here, I had to know more.

The Rothschilds

Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm

Author: Virginia Cowles
Publisher: Sharpe Books
Year: 2018 (orig. 1973)
Available at: Amazon

I was impressed with Virginia Cowles’s The Kaiser, so I picked up another of her books through Kindle Unlimited. I didn’t know anything about the Rothschild family other than what everybody knows: a shit-ton of money, that famous ball that Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn attended, and maybe something about wine. Turns out, it’s a fascinating story full of characters you couldn’t make up if you tried. I mean, there’s no other way to connect the Elector of Hesse-Cassel and a PhD-worthy study of fleas.

TL;DR: It’s a little too sprawling, there’s next to nothing about Rothschild women, and the first half is much more comprehensive and balanced than the second half. But it’s worth reading because Cowles makes this a story about a family, one full of hard-working, interesting people who affected historical events – and epochs – in ways you never realized.

The Sancy Blood Diamond

The Sancy Blood Diamond by Susan Ronald

Author: Susan Ronald
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Year: 2005
Available at: Amazon

I’ve had this book on my shelf for about 15 years. I’d picked it up and flipped through it, looking for specific details on Nancy Astor’s tiara, but hadn’t read it all the way through. It might have been better that way.

Secrets of the Gotha

Secrets of the Gotha by Ghislain de Diesbach

Subhead: Private Lives of the Royal Families of Europe 
Author: Ghislain de Diesbach
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Year: 1993
Available at: Amazon (used)

I bought this because I kept seeing it turn up in bibliographies of other books I consulted. Does it live up to the title? Do we really get juicy secrets about royal private lives? I created a full Source Report for this one, available to Patreon subscribers.

If you're already a Patreon supporter, click here to access the post. Or just visit your Patreon account and read and/or download the PDF there.

A Woman’s Life in the Court of the Sun King

A Woman's Life in the Court of the Sun King

Subtitle: Letters of Liselotte von der Pfalz, Elisabeth Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orléans, 1652-1722
Translator: Elborg Forster
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Year: 1984
Available at: Amazon

This book is a collection of letters written by Madame, the second wife of Louis XIV’s brother, Monsieur. Elisabeth Charlotte, nicknamed Liselotte, was a German princess from the Palatinate, a seemingly unlikely choice to marry into the French royal family. During her fifty years at court, she wrote dozens of letters a week to family back in Germany and Hanover. The letters cover everything from her husband’s poor treatment of her to the rise of Madame de Maintenon to the French army’s destruction of her homeland at her brother-in-law’s orders. Long story short, they’re a fascinating look at the inner workings of Louis XIV’s court. But don’t expect a happy ending for this princess…as she put it, “Being Madame is a miserable job, and if I could sell it as they sell offices in this country, I would have put it up for sale long ago…” (123)

Your Dear Letter

Your Dear Letter: Private Correspondence of Queen Victoria and the Crown Princess of Prussia 1865-1871

Subtitle: Private Correspondence of Queen Victoria and the Crown Princess of Prussia 1865-1871
Editor: Roger Fulford
Publisher: Scribner’s
Year: 1971
Available at: ABE Books (used)

I love reading the letters Queen Victoria and her eldest daughter, Vicky, wrote to each other after Vicky married and went to Prussia. That’s partly because I’m nosy, and partly because it turns them into real people, not cardboard historical figures. Despite the tiaras and the gowns and the palaces, here are ladies talking about ordinary things you or I would talk about: the shittiness of menopause, skin conditions, annoying relatives, annoying kids, underachieving relatives, underachieving kids, goals, hopes, dreams, and losses. It’s fascinating.

What royal history books have you read in 2020? Send me a message to recommend your favorites!

Here’s to another great year of royal reading & research in 2020!

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