When I was a kid, we would have to sing “God Save the Queen” every morning; along with “O Canada” and the first and last verses of the “Ode to Newfoundland” (we were a very choral and nationalistic bunch). There was a large portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in the main foyer of the school and she’d peer down at us with those matronly royal blue eyes as if she was actually watching everything we did. There was a time when I had myself convinced her eyes actually followed me around the room, like one of those paintings on the walls of a haunted house. She was always watching…
As Elizabeth II celebrates her 60th year of reign this month, I don’t feel like I should send her a card but I do find myself thinking about all the historical fiction I read that are set in within the varying eras of royal life in Britain. From Tudor England to the Victorian Age, the royal families are steeped in betrayals, secrets, lies and unceasingly complicated plot twists. And the best historical novels, while grounded in fact, take liberties to expose the human side of those famous historical figures.
So, to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, I present to the court the following list of royally inspired novels. May you read them with a hot cup of tea and a stately sense of self!
Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England, does not want immortality. She does not need glory. All she desires is what rightfully belongs to her family – and that is the throne of England. Her husband the king cannot rule, but the enemies who doubt her will and dispute her valor underestimate the force of a mother’s love. Her son is the House of Lancaster’s heir and last hope, and her fight for him will shake the crown forever. (Back cover)
Windsor Castle, 1861. For the second time in over twenty years, Irish barrister Patrick Fitzgerald has been summoned by the Queen. The first time, he'd been a zealous young legal clerk, investigating what appeared to be a murderous conspiracy against her. Now he is a distinguished gentleman at the top of his profession. And the Queen is a woman in the grip of fear. For on this chilly night, her beloved husband, Prince Albert, lies dying. With her future clouded by grief, Fitzgerald can't help but notice the Queen is curiously preoccupied with the past. Yet why, and how he can help, is unclear. His bewilderment deepens when the royal coach is violently overturned, nearly killing him and his brilliant young ward, Dr. Georgiana Armistead, niece of the late Dr. Snow, a famed physician who'd attended none other than Her Majesty. Fitzgerald is sure of one thing: the Queen's carriage was not attacked at random--it was a carefully chosen target. But was it because he rode in it? Fitzgerald won't risk dying in order to find out. He'll leave London and take Georgiana with him--if they can get out alive. For soon the pair find themselves hunted. Little do they know they each carry within their past hidden clues to a devastating royal secret...one they must untangle if they are to survive. From the streets of London to the lush hills of Cannes, from the slums of St. Giles to the gilded halls of Windsor Castle, A Flaw in the Blood delivers a fascinating tale of pursuit, and the artful blend of period detail and electrifying intrigue that only the remarkable Stephanie Barron can devise. (Syndetics)
A country divided. A newly crowned, desperately vulnerable young queen. Can one man uncover the secret that will save her throne? It is 1560, and Elizabeth Tudor has been on the throne for a year. Dr. John Dee, at 32 already acclaimed throughout Europe, is her astrologer and consultant in the hidden arts... a controversial appointment in these days of superstition and religious strife. When dangerous questions of Elizabeth's legitimacy arise, the mild, bookish Dee finds himself summoned before William Cecil, who tasks him with an important mission. Along with Robert Dudley, Dee's daring friend and former student who is also rumored to be the Queen's secret lover, Dee must travel to the famously mystical town of Glastonbury to find the missing bones of King Arthur. Once these long-lost relics, the embodiment of a legacy vitally important to the Tudor line, are ensconced in London, doubts as to the Queen's supremacy as the rightful Tudor heir will be dispelled. But the quest quickly turns deadly--Dee and Dudley arrive in Glastonbury to discover the town mourning the gruesome execution of its abbot, and more death soon follows at the old abbey. Racing to uncover the secrets buried there, Dee finds himself caught in the tangled roots of English magic, unexpected violence, the breathless stirring of first love... and the cold heart of a complex plot against Elizabeth. (Syndetics)
Briskly original and subversively funny, this novella from popular British writer Bennett (Untold Stories; Tony-winning play The History Boys) sends Queen Elizabeth II into a mobile library van in pursuit of her runaway corgis and into the reflective, observant life of an avid reader. Guided by Norman, a former kitchen boy and enthusiast of gay authors, the queen gradually loses interest in her endless succession of official duties and learns the pleasure of such a "common" activity. With "the dawn of her sensibility... mistaken for the onset of senility," plots are hatched by the prime minister and the queen's staff to dispatch Norman and discourage the queen's preoccupation with books. Ultimately, it is her own growing self-awareness that leads her away from reading and toward writing, with astonishing results. Bennett has fun with the proper behavior and protocol at the palace, and the few instances of mild coarseness seem almost scandalous. There are lessons packed in here, but Bennett doesn't wallop readers with them. It's a fun little book. (Publisher’s Weekly Review)