I was originally planning to live-blog the Royal Wedding, just like I did for William and Kate’s wedding seven years ago, but as I sit here at 3 a.m. in my sweatpants and tiara, with my tea in my Queen Elizabeth II 1977 Silver Jubilee mug that I got at a garage sale, I’m thinking more about the social and historical significance of this event than the event itself.
You see, I’ve read a lot about royalty. My typical-little-girl obsession with princesses never really went away; it just sort of evolved and deepened and acquired nuance. Royalty is fascinating, and it has evolved quite a bit as well over the centuries. Many people think it’s an outdated concept, that the world has moved beyond the need for these rich, gracious, and apolitical figureheads. But many others argue that monarchies, especially constitutional monarchies, are good for a nation’s culture and economy.
I’m intrigued by these deeper questions around the political science of modern monarchy and royal individuals, but I also still just really want to be a princess and wear a tiara.
Here are just a few of my favorite books about royalty, both real and fictional:
(Edit: as I was compiling this list and writing this post, I slowly realized that the idea of royalty represented here is pretty Euro- and Anglo-centric, which, especially considering the background of the bride today, seems like a glaring oversight. Therefore, after I finish this post, I’m going to begin to research and read about non-white, non-European royalty. Maybe I’ll even edit this list in the future to reflect what I learn!)
- On Royalty – Jeremy Paxman
This selection seems a little on-the-nose, but I can’t ignore what may be the definitive contemporary work on the modern British Royal family, the recent history that led to its current state, and its connections to and impacts on the rest of the world. Plus it’s wickedly funny, and there’s a photo of the Queen wearing a hot pink coat on the cover, so what’s not to love?
- Queen of Fashion – Caroline Weber
The subtitle of this book is “What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution,” but it’s really about the fashion choices she made (and that were made for her) throughout her life, and how those choices affected her nation and ultimately history. It’s such an interesting lens through which to view one of my favorite historical figures, an often misunderstood and stereotyped historical figure. The extremely powerful last chapter describes what she wore to her execution: “Though imposed by her enemies’ restrictions and her own meager resources in the Concierge, Marie Antoinette’s white outfit just may have been the most brilliant fashion statement of her entire career… Even before she reached the guillotine, this aspect of her history, her body, her being, had been erased–leaving her only white.”
- Someday My Prince Will Come – Jerramy Fine
I see so much of myself in this memoir, it’s comical. Fine’s childhood obsession with princesses and overwhelming desire to be one mirrors my own, but she took hers waaaay farther than I would ever think of doing. She actually planned the trajectory of her life and career to put herself in the path of the “prince” she felt destined to marry to fulfill her royal destiny. (I put “prince” in quotation marks because the man Fine envisioned as her royal soul mate was Peter Phillips, who is a grandson of the Queen but technically bears no royal title. Fine even discusses this irony and laughs a little at herself in the epilogue.)
- The Queen of the Tearling trilogy – Erika Johansen
If you’ve read anything about this trilogy on the internet, you may already know that the ending of the final book really pissed off a lot of people. I don’t want to spoil anything, though. After all, this is a royalty post, so I’ll just focus on that. The first book of this epic fantasy trilogy details princess Kelsea’s struggles to claim her throne after the death of her mother and establish herself as queen within a kingdom that’s falling apart. There are the inevitable comparisons to the Song of Ice and Fire series in discussion about the Tearling books, and I suppose that’s fair; both deal with political intrigue and violence in fantasy kingdoms. But what makes these books different is their focus on one sole protagonist and her struggle to balance political power with social justice.
- A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver – E. L. Konigsburg
Who would have thought that Eleanor of Aquitaine, a controversial twelfth century duchess and queen, would make the perfect subject for a children’s book? I devoured this middle grade novel when I was ten, and looking back I can see that it was partly responsible for helping evolve my pretty pretty princess phase into a more in-depth interest in real-life royalty and the history behind it.
- The Princess Diaries series – Meg Cabot
I credit Meg Cabot for my middle school fantasy of discovering that I was actually the heir to the throne of a small European principality and therefore a princess. I love that Princess Mia’s struggles are just like that of an average teenager, except she also has that whole royalty thing to deal with. The movies take a pretty stark departure from the books, but they’re still good. The second movie even has a royal wedding in it, which brings me full circle. See what I did there?
All right, folks, I have book club this morning, so I’m going to take a nap for a couple hours. Congratulations to Prince Harry! Even though it didn’t work out between us, I’m still happy for him. And Meghan is now officially my favorite princess. Ok, time for sleep. Goooojg’pWgj;hg;