2021 Royal Reading List

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 2021 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: March 30

Blood & Banquets

Blood & Banquets by Bella Fromm

Author: Bella Fromm
Publisher: Birch Lane / Carol Publishing Group
Year: 1990 (orig. 1944)
Available at: Amazon

I read this book as background on Berlin society during the Nazi rise to power. It was way more fun to read than I expected. Not because of the content, which is downright horrifying at times – we see robbery, murder, suicide, despair, and the near-total eclipse of human compassion by the Nazis. But as hard as those parts are to process, Bella’s fighting spirit – and the courage of those who helped her – make this story about the triumph of humanity in the end.

Correspondence of the Russian Grand Duchesses

Correspondence of the Russian Grand Duchesses

Subtitle: Letters of the Daughters of the Last Tsar
Author: George Hawkins
Year: 2020
Available at: Amazon

I borrowed this book through Kindle Unlimited, but it’s worth buying if you’re a fan of the Romanovs. It includes letters to and from the four daughters of Tsar Nicholas II: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, all of whom were murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918. The author visited the Russian State Archives in Moscow to source the letters and images included in this book. In the introduction, he says he wants to do a future volume with letters to and from Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna (“Ella”). I can’t wait.

Crime at Mayerling

Crime at Mayerling by Georg Markus

Author: Georg Markus
Publisher: Ariadne Press
Year: 1995
Available at: Amazon

I went down a serious Mayerling rabbit hole, you guys. This book was written by the journalist who first published the story of Mary Vetsera’s grave robbery in the early 1990s. That grave robber shopped his story around a handful of Austrian newspapers, and Markus’s paper took the bait. The sensational story led to an official investigation that generated lots of new attention for the Mayerling incident. So what does Markus’s book have to offer?

Go-Betweens for Hitler

Go-Betweens for Hitler by Karina Urbach

Author: Karina Urbach
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2015
Available at: Amazon

This book is a brief history of aristocratic go-betweens from the period just before World War I to the early years of World War II. There are a lot of fascinating tidbits here and Urbach clearly did a ton of research, but as an entire package, this book felt scattered and left me wanting more. But I give her tons of bonus points for using Michael Frayn’s play Noises Off as a comparison point for go-between work. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the play (or even the movie), make the time.

Hitler and the Habsburgs

Hitler and the Habsburgs by James Longo

Subtitle: The Führer’s Vendetta Against the Austrian Royals
Author: James Longo
Publisher: Diversion Books
Year: 2018
Available at: Amazon

I’d had this book on my wishlist for awhile – and one day while browsing Amazon, I saw a $2.99 price tag and scooped up the eBook. Total score! It’s the story of Franz Ferdinand’s children and grandchildren, played out against Hitler’s rise to power, the Anschluss, and World War II. Hitler, an Austrian, had a strange hatred for the Habsburgs, and specifically, for Franz Ferdinand’s children. That hatred, argues Longo, was based on the way Hitler saw Franz Ferdinand: as willing to embrace and protect the multi-national character of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hitler wanted the opposite - in short, to remove all but ethnic Germans from the empire and join it with Germany. Once Franz Ferdinand was gone, Hitler transferred that hatred to his children, who were respected members of society. Respected, but not powerful enough to escape Hitler’s reach.

I won’t give too many more details because I don’t want to spoil the story for you. Let’s just say that the women in this story – Sophie Hohenberg (mother and daughter), Archduchess Maria Theresa, Countess Rosa von Lonyay Wood, Maisie Hohenberg, and Elisabeth Hohenberg – all kick ass.


I Live Again

I Live Again by Princess Ileana of Romania

Author: Princess Ileana of Romania
Publisher: Rinehart & Co.
Year: 1951
Available at: Amazon

Ever since reading The Last Romantic by Hannah Pakula as a teenager, about Queen Marie of Romania, I’ve been interested in the Romanian royal family. This is the memoir of Queen Marie’s youngest daughter, Ileana. It doesn’t cover her entire life – just from 1934 to 1948. It’s a fascinating look at Austria and then Romania during World War II and the ensuing Communist takeover. When you read how hard Ileana worked as a nurse, you’ll be exhausted. She loved her country and its people so much – you can feel how hard it was for her to leave them when she was exiled. This book is a poignant reminder of how well off we are here, today, in America. It made me feel the same way I did after reading Missie Vassiltchikov’s Berlin Diaries – profoundly grateful that I have not lived through a war on my home turf.

The King in Love

The King in Love by Theo Aronson

Subtitle: Edward VII’s Mistresses
Author: Theo Aronson
Publisher: Lume Books
Year: 2020
Available at: Amazon

I picked this up because its focus on Edward’s mistresses seemed interesting – and I knew next to nothing about the three ladies covered: Lillie Langtry, Daisy Warwick, and Alice Keppel. It doesn’t relate to anything I’m working on, but it was a fun romp through late Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

Mayerling

Mayerling by Fritz Judtmann

Subtitle: The Facts behind the Legend
Author: Fritz Judtmann
Publisher: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd
Year: 1971
Available at: Amazon

Fritz Judtmann is the professor you always wanted in college, but never got. At least that’s how I feel about him after reading this book. It’s amazing – his thoroughness and his clear explanations, his transparency – this book was a delight to read, despite the subject matter. The kicker? He was never even a professor! Trained in engineering, he was the chief scenery and stage designer at the Burgtheatre in Vienna. But based on this book, I’m guessing he would have made a hell of a teacher.

Memoirs of the Crown Princess Cecilie

The Memoirs of the Crown Princess Cecilie

Translator: Emile Burns
Publisher: V. Gollancz
Year: 1931
Available at: Archive.org

I borrowed this book from Archive.org because I was interested in Cecilie’s early years, growing up as a duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Turns out, this is one of those memoirs that’s so heavily sanitized it feels like Disney movie. It’s still interesting – there are always tidbits to glean – but you have to realize that this is the Pleasantville or Truman Show version of Cecilie’s life.

Not All Vanity

Not All Vanity by Agnes de Stoeckl

Author: Agnes de Stoeckl
Publisher: John Murray
Year: 1951
Available at: Abe Books

Born in Paris in 1874, Baroness Agnes de Stoeckl lived her life surrounded by royalty. Her memoir begins with her childhood in Paris, and takes you through her life as a diplomat’s wife, then as a companion to Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia and his morganatic wife, Countess Torby. Later, after a rift with Countess Torby, her husband became an equerry to Grand Duchess Maria Georgievna of Russia. Agnes and Sasha (her husband) traveled with Maria to England, where they sat out World War I. After the war and Maria’s remarriage, they split time between England, France, and Poland (where her son-in-law had family). Her memoir crops up frequently in the footnotes of other sources about these Russian royals, so I decided to go straight to the source. I’m glad I did - there are SO MANY interesting tidbits in this book, you guys.

Red Princess

Red Princess by Sofka Zinovieff

Author: Sofka Zinovieff
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Year: 2008
Available at: Amazon

I picked up this book from my local library when I saw it listed in the bibliography for The Russian Court at Sea. I knew nothing about Sofka Dolgorouky other than, as Welch’s book told me, she was also a passenger on the HMS Marlborough as it carried Empress Maria Feodorovna out of Crimea in 1919. Turns out, her life was incredibly interesting - Sofka was a complex woman who’s not always easy to like or admire.

Rudolf

Rudolf: The Tragedy of Mayerling by Carl Lonyay

Subtitle: The Tragedy of Mayerling
Author: Carl Lonyay
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Year: 1950
Available at: Amazon

If you’re going down the Mayerling rabbit hole, the author’s name alone is reason enough to get this book. Why? Because Archduke Rudolf’s wife, Stephanie, married as her second husband Count Elmer Lonyay. The author is his nephew. The book (and, let’s face it, the author) is incredibly flawed, but there are still some reasonable conclusions here.

The Russian Court at Sea

The Russian Court at Sea by Frances Welch

Subtitle: The Last Days of a Great Dynasty: The Romanovs’ Voyage into Exile
Author: Frances Welch
Publisher: Short Books
Year: 2011
Available at: Amazon

I stumbled on this book by accident – I had no idea it existed, although I’d read a previous book by this author. I ordered a used copy and read it in a weekend. While that sounds like a ringing endorsement, I wasn’t glued to the book. It actually fell flat for me. There were a few interesting sources used, but I didn’t feel like I learned much that was new, and the book seemed to lack depth. Most (non-Goodreads) reviews of this book are glowing, so maybe I was just off that day. YMMV.

Tatiana

The Russian Court at Sea by Frances Welch

Subtitle: Five Passports in a Shifting Europe
Author: Tatiana Metternich
Publisher: Heinemann
Year: 1977
Available at: Alibris (but try a library - copies are not cheap at the moment)

I bought this book because I loved her sister’s book so much (Missie Vassiltchikov’s Berlin Diaries). Tatiana’s memoir takes us from Russia during World War I through the revolution all the way to the bitter end of World War II. She knew less about the 1944 plot against Hitler than Missie, but we get more information about what it was like to try and protect historic estates from the SS, Americans, and Soviets in succession. She also describes her terrifying flight across Europe – on foot – to get from Königswart in Czechoslovakia to Johannisberg in the Rheingau.

Women of the Baden Court

Women of the Baden Court by Annette Borchardt-Wenzel

Author: Annette Borchardt-Wenzel
Publisher: Piper
Year: 2005
Available at: Amazon

I bought this book because there is next to no information on Grand Duchess Hilda of Baden in English, so I figured I’d start with the easy options in German. Turns out, this author didn’t have much information on Hilda, either – hers was the second shortest chapter in the book. Still, there were a few tidbits to glean, and several of the other chapters really piqued my interest.

What royal history books have you read in 2021? Send me a message to recommend your favorites!

Here’s to another great year of royal reading & research in 2021!


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