Want to know where you can do your own royalty research? Or what tools I use to write and put this website together? You’re in luck! I’ve had a drink and I’m ready to spill all my secrets.
These are my top resources for blogging, researching, running a fledgling business, and more. I use all these items and services myself. No pay to play, no sponsorship that forces me to promote stuff that sucks. If it’s on this list, I use it and like it.
Note: Some of these are affiliate links, which means I make a small amount of money if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links don’t affect the price you pay; it just helps me put a few extra dollars in the tiara research fund.
This is my go-to source for rare or foreign-language books. This is where I bought Queen Olga of Wurttemburg’s memoirs for a cool $92, every penny worth it. The seller, in Stuttgart, even included some lovely postcards of the city and of German language characters that don't appear in English. Amazon does own this site, but I love supporting the small, independent booksellers who make their stuff available here.Check It Out
I used to do all my used-book shopping at Half.com, but since eBay bought them and shut down the site, I gravitate towards the Amazon marketplace. Just look for the used copies available beneath the listed prices of the new copies.Check It Out
Your Local University Library
Every six or eight weeks, I drive to the UC Davis library to grab a new set of research books. They used to give alumni free library cards, but that program is gone with the wind, so now I pay my $60 a year like everyone else. So worth it. From political histories to memoirs to foreign-language references to books from alternate fields that touch on my interests, I get so much out of every batch of library books. For example, I recently checked out a book from the dentistry section - did you even know there was a dentistry section? Well, there is, and it has a book on Thomas Evans, the American dentist who befriended Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie.
Image from DavisWiki "Shields Library," CC BY 4.0.
Love ’em or hate ’em, Google has done royal researchers the world over a solid by digitizing a ton of books that are (apparently) no longer subject to copyright. Many of these books come from university libraries. I’ve scooped up free digital copies of Princess Louise of Belgium’s memoirs, Elizabeth Eastlake’s Baltic travel memoir where I stumbled on Augusta of Brunswick’s story, and a handful of Princess Catherine Radziwill’s gossipy biographies.Check It Out
Like Google Books, you can get free digital copies of out-of-copyright books here. Some of the books you’ll find here are Google's digitized copies, but not all. Every time I bring home a new book from the library, I open straight to the bibliography and run all the titles through Google Books and Archive.org. In most cases, you’ll get a good head start on tracking down the book’s source material. Recently, I’ve downloaded Prince Adam Czartoryski’s memoirs and Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich’s memoirs.Check It Out
Newspapers & Databases
British Newspaper Archive
This database contains so much information it’s almost criminal. Seriously. If you're looking up relatively well-known royal personages, don’t log on unless you have hours. It’s that absorbing. I’m still blown away at what I’ve found here. One of my favorite finds? A reprint of an 1852 statement issued in Nassau by the new duchess, Adelheid-Marie, about the ongoing famine and her plea for charitable donations. I’m an annual subscriber because I LOVE BNA THE WAY A FAT KID LOVES CAKE, but you can also go month-to-month if you’re not sure how much you'd use it.Check It Out
This database contains a multitude of American newspapers. It’s extremely useful when you want to research trips European royals took to the states, or American heiresses who married into European aristocracy. American newspapers also picked up a fair number of reprints from European sources, especially regarding royalty. I found a reprint announcing Hilda of Nassau’s wedding gifts when she married Fritz of Baden, and an article that told me Prince George, Duke of Kent’s golf score when he played Del Monte in 1928. I’m nosy. I want these kind of details. If you’re also an Ancestry.com member, you’ll get a slight discount on your membership.Check It Out
New York Times Digital Archive
It’s amazing what you can dig up in the Times’s digital archives. I found profiles on Queen Marie of Yugoslavia and Archduke Albrecht, as well as a series of interviews with Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria during World War I. I also really like getting several of the paper’s daily newsletters, so I have clue what’s going on outside the 19th century. I’m a digital-only subscriber, which means I can access every article they’ve digitized since 1851, and download 20 per month in PDF form. Not too shabby.Check It Out
This academic database is familiar to college students everywhere, but it’s now available to armchair researchers like me. You can pay for a single month and view whatever you want, or pay for a whole year. Both plans limit the number of PDFs you can download, but that’s usually all right. Read an article first so you know if it’s going to help you before you download it. I’ve found some crazy-specific tidbits here, like an article entirely devoted to a Russian tea set with painted scenes of Pavlovsk.Check It Out
Website, Graphics, Video
The X Theme
This theme can do pretty much anything. I don’t even touch half the features it offers, but for someone who’s not a programmer or good at CSS, it offers the right mix of design control and tweakability. The support and forums available from ThemeCo are top-notch, too. And mother of God, that gradient on their home page is gorgeous.Check It Out
This site runs on SiteGround’s shared hosting. It was lickety-split fast from the minute I installed WordPress. I was able to get my entire site up and running, transferring from a local host, in, like, two hours. I couldn’t ask for a better experience.Check It Out
The email marketing I do for this site is all through ConvertKit. I know a lot of beginners start with something free (MailChimp) or less expensive, but ConvertKit is an amazing company. From click tracking to automated sequences, they make it pretty easy not to eff up at email marketing. This is important for someone like me, who is terrified of email marketing.Check It Out
I use Storyblocks Video for AfterEffects templates and royalty-free video clips. It’s a yearly membership, and once you’re in, you can download as many of the clips and templates as you want. They also have a marketplace, with higher-priced clips available on a purchase-by-purchase basis. I stick with the basic membership and do just fine.Check It Out
I love this site. You can find gorgeous templates for emails, presentations, posters, flyers, and more. They also have fonts, images, Photoshop actions and brushes, Illustrator vector art, and more. I could spend hours browsing for just the right purple glitter brush. The rose-gold glitter you see on the letters in the hero image for each page? Yep, that was added using a Photoshop brush and action set from Creative Market.Check It Out
Yeah, I said it. It proves I’m a goddamn dinosaur, but there you have it. I’ve tried Scrivener. I really have. I know people live and die by it, but I prefer Word, especially because of how it exports to PDF and InDesign.
As you can see in the image, I created the template for my downloadable PDF blog posts entirely in Word, recreating the look and feel of the site. It’not that hard. And if you get your style mapping right, it really is a one-click import to InDesign.
Also, several of the things people say they love about Scrivener can be done in Word. Most people just don’t know how. Like using styles in conjunction with the navigation pane – this creates the navigation you need in a long document, enabling you to jump right to a chapter or section. Yes, I know that doesn’t help with jumping between multiple documents. That’s why I make insanely long documents and use navigation wisely. Like I said, I’m a goddamn dinosaur, but I make it work.
But I gotta tell ya, it really pissed me off when Microsoft stopped letting you customize Word’s ENTIRE color scheme. Blue, silver (read: flat ugly gray), or black? Really? REALLY? I HATE ALL THOSE FUCKING OPTIONS. Would it kill you to bring back total customization? Or at least throw those of us with two X chromosomes something like purple? If you know whoever’s in charge over there, please put in a good word for the return of fully customizable color schemes.
Check out the blog for fascinating stories about royal women and their tiaras. And don’t forget to join my mailing list to get Grand Duchess Louise of Baden’s meatloaf recipe! It’s finger-lickin’ good.