New and forthcoming

Gwynne's Kings and Queens

N.M. Gwynne

Do you know your Kings and Queens of England by heart? Can you tell your Ethelred from your Aethelbert? Your Marcia from your Matilda?

Well, Mr Gwynne is back – and you will never be in the dark again. Within the pages of this little gem – bursting with our small island’s rich past – he teaches us the history of England through her remarkable monarchs.

Mr Gwynne, it turns out, has very strong opinions on this subject – and it is his belief that a certain amount of what you might read in other history books is wrong. It is his aim to show you why.

And don’t forget, Mr Gwynne is never wrong.

Concise, thorough and utterly fascinating, this is the perfect book to be enjoyed by young and old, to be read at a time when, for many, harking back to our rich past seems much more preferable than living in the dreary present.

Elizabeth I (Penguin Monarchs)

Helen Castor

In the popular imagination, as in her portraits, Elizabeth I is the image of monarchical power. The Virgin Queen ruled over a Golden Age: the Spanish Armada was defeated and England's enemies scattered; English explorers reached almost to the ends of the earth; a new Church of England rose from the ashes of past conflict, and the English Renaissance bloomed in the genius of Shakespeare, Spenser and Sidney. But the image is also armour.

In this illuminating new account of Elizabeth's reign, Helen Castor shows how England's iconic queen was shaped by profound and enduring insecurity-an insecurity which was both a matter of practical political reality and personal psychology. From her precarious upbringing at the whim of a brutal, capricious father and her perilous accession after his death, to the religious division that marred her state and the failure to marry that threatened her line, Elizabeth lived under constant threat. But, facing down her enemies with a compellingly inscrutable public persona, the last and greatest of the Tudor monarchs would become a timeless, fearless queen.

Henry VII (Penguin Monarchs)

Sean Cunningham

Part of the Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers in a collectible format

Henry VII was one of England's unlikeliest monarchs. An exile and outsider with barely a claim to the throne, his victory over Richard III at Bosworth Field seemed to many in 1485 like only the latest in the sequence of violent convulsions among England's nobility that would come to be known as the wars of the roses - with little to suggest that the obscure Henry would last any longer than his predecessor. To break that cycle of division, usurpation, deposition and murder, he had both to maintain a grip on power and to convince England that his rule was both rightful and effective. Here, Sean Cunningham explores how, in his ruthless, controlling and personal kingship, Henry VII did so; in the process founding the Tudor dynasty and, arguably, helping to lay the foundations for modern government.

Sean Cunningham is a Principal Records Specialist at The National Archives. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he has published widely on late medieval and early Tudor England. His books include, most recently, a historical biography of Henry VII.

Richard I (Penguin Monarchs)

Thomas Asbridge

Richard I's reign is both controversial and seemingly contradictory. One of England's most famous medieval monarchs and a potent symbol of national identity, he barely spent six months on English soil during a ten-year reign and spoke French as his first language. Contemporaries dubbed him the 'Lionheart', reflecting a carefully cultivated reputation for bravery, prowess and knightly virtue, but this supposed paragon of chivalry butchered close to 3,000 prisoners in cold blood on a single day. And, though revered as Christian Europe's greatest crusader, his grand campaign to the Holy Land failed to recover the city of Jerusalem from Islam.

Seeking to reconcile this conflicting evidence, Thomas Asbridge's incisive reappraisal of Richard I's career questions whether the Lionheart really did neglect his kingdom, considers why he devoted himself to the cause of holy war and asks how the memory of his life came to be interwoven with myth. Richard emerges as a formidable warrior-king, possessed of martial genius and a cultured intellect, yet burdened by the legacy of his dysfunctional dynasty and obsessed with the pursuit of honour and renown.

White King

Leanda de Lisle

Less than forty years after the golden age of Elizabeth I, England was at war with itself. The bloody, devastating civil wars set family against family, friend against friend. At the head of this disintegrating kingdom was Charles I. His rule would change the face of the monarchy for ever.

Charles I’s reign is one of the most dramatic in history, yet Charles the man remains elusive. Too often he is recalled as weak and stupid, his wife, Henrietta Maria, as spoilt and silly: the cause of his ruin. In this portrait -- informed by newly disclosed manuscripts, including letters between the king and his queen -- Leanda de Lisle uncovers a Charles I who was principled and brave, but also fatally blinkered. He is revealed as a complex man who pays the price for bringing radical change; Henrietta Maria as a warrior queen and political player as impressive as any Tudor. Here too are the cousins who befriended and betrayed them: the peacocking Henry Holland, whose brother engineered the king’s fall; and the magnetic ‘last Boleyn girl’, Lucy Carlisle.

This is a tragic story for our times, of populist politicians and religious war, of a new media and the reshaping of nations, in which women vied with men for power. For Charles it ended on the scaffold. Condemned as a traitor and murderer, he was also heralded as a martyr: his reign destined to sow the seeds of democracy across Britain and the New World.

James I (Penguin Monarchs)

Thomas Cogswell

James's reign marked one of the rare breaks in England's monarchy. Already James VI of Scotland, he rode south on Elizabeth I's death to become James I of England and Ireland, uniting the British Isles for the first time and founding the Stuart dynasty which would, with several lurches, reign for over a century. His descendant still occupies the throne.

Thomas Cogswell's dramatic new biography brings James to life as a complex, learned, curious man and great survivor, one who drastically changed court life in London and presided over the Authorized Version of the Bible and the establishment of English settlements across the globe. Although he failed to unite England and Scotland, he insisted that ambassadors acknowledge him as King of Great Britain, and that vessels from both countries display a version of the current Union Flag.

Cogswell tells the story of James's personal life and private passions as much as his public achievements. James was often accused of being too informal and insufficiently regal - but when his son, Charles I, decided to redress these criticisms in his own reign he was destroyed. This is a vivid portrait of an often underappreciated monarch.

Cnut (Penguin Monarchs)

Ryan Lavelle

Cnut, or Canute, is one of the great 'what ifs' of English history. The Dane who became King of England after a long period of Viking attacks and settlement, his reign could have permanently shifted eleventh-century England's rule to Scandinavia. Stretching his authority across the North Sea to become king of Denmark and Norway, and with close links to Ireland and an overlordship of Scotland, this formidable figure created a Viking Empire at least as plausible as the Anglo-Norman Empire that would emerge in 1066.

Ryan Lavelle's illuminating book cuts through myths and misconceptions to explore this fascinating and powerful man in detail. Cnut is most popularly known now for the story of the king who tried to command the waves, relegated to a bit part in the medieval story, but as this biography shows, he was a conqueror, political player, law maker and empire builder on the grandest scale, one whose reign tells us much about the contingent nature of history.

George I (Penguin Monarchs)

Tim Blanning (and others)

George I was not the most charismatic of the Hanoverian monarchs to have reigned in England but he was probably the most important. He was certainly the luckiest.

Born the youngest son of a landless German duke, he was taken by repeated strokes of good fortune to become, first the ruler of a major state in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and then the sovereign of three kingdoms (England, Ireland and Scotland).

Tim Blanning's incisive short biography examines George's life and career as a German prince, and as King. Fifty-four years old when he arrived in London in 1714, he was a battle-hardened veteran, who put his long experience and deep knowledge of international affairs to good use in promoting the interests of both Hanover and Great Britain. When he died, his legacy was order and prosperity at home and power and prestige abroad. Disagreeable he may have been to many, but he was also tough, determined and effective, at a time when other European thrones had started to crumble.

Queens of the Conquest

Alison Weir

The story of England’s medieval queens is vivid and stirring, packed with tragedy, high drama and even comedy. It is a chronicle of love, murder, war and betrayal, filled with passion, intrigue and sorrow, peopled by a cast of heroines, villains, stateswomen and lovers. In the first volume of this epic new series, Alison Weir strips away centuries of romantic mythology and prejudice to reveal the lives of England’s queens in the century after the Norman Conquest.

Beginning with Matilda of Flanders, who supported William the Conqueror in his invasion of England in 1066, and culminating in the turbulent life of the Empress Maud, who claimed to be queen of England in her own right and fought a bitter war to that end, the five Norman queens emerge as hugely influential figures and fascinating characters.

Much more than a series of individual biographies, Queens of the Conquest is a seamless tale of interconnected lives and a rich portrait of English history in a time of flux. In Alison Weir’s hands these five extraordinary women reclaim their rightful roles at the centre of English history.

Diana

Sarah Bradford

*20th anniversary edition featuring a new afterword*

Glamour. Duty. Tragedy: The Woman Behind the Princess.

Sarah Bradford delivers an authoritative and explosive study of the greatest icon of the twentieth century: Diana.

After more than a decade interviewing those closest to the Princess and her select circle, Sarah Bradford exposes the real Diana: the blighted childhood, the old-fashioned courtship which saw her capture the Prince of Wales, the damage caused by the spectre of Camilla Parker Bowles, through to the collapse of the royal marriage and Diana's final and complicated year as single woman.

Diana paints an honest portrait of a woman riddled with contradictions and whose vulnerability and unique empathy with the suffering made her one of the most extraordinary figures of the modern age.

The Diana Chronicles

Tina Brown

The 20th Anniversary Edition of Tina Brown's definitive behind-the-scenes insight into the life of Diana Princess of Wales with a brand new introduction by Andrew Marr.

Twenty years after her death, Princess Diana remains a mystery. Was she "the people's princess," who electrified the world with her beauty and humanitarian missions? Or was she a manipulative, media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy?

In this new 20th anniversary commemorative edition, which includes a new introduction by Andrew Marr, The Diana Chronicles parts the curtains on Diana's troubled time in the mysterious world of the Windsors, as she breaks out of her royal cage into celebrity culture, where she found her own power and used it to devastating effect.

Knowing Diana personally, Tina Brown understands her world, understands its players and has-reaching insight into the royals and the Queen herself. Meet the formidable female cast and get to know the society they inhabit, as you never have before.

Charles

Sally Bedell Smith

Prince Charles: The passions and paradoxes of an impossible life is the first major biography of Prince Charles in more than two decades, with new insights into his family and his two marriages, from the bestselling author of Elizabeth the Queen.

'Brilliant, startling. The royal biography everyone's talking about' Daily Mail

Drawing on extensive access to the Royal Family's inner circle, Sally Bedell Smith delivers unprecedented insights into Prince Charles, a man who possesses a fiercely independent spirit, and yet has spent his life in waiting for the ultimate role.

Beginning with his lonely childhood, Smith details his intellectual quests, his entrepreneurial pursuits, and his love affairs, from the tragedy of his marriage to Diana to his eventual reunion with Camilla, as well as his relationship with the next generation of royals, including Will, Kate, Harry, and his beloved grandchildren.

As this sweeping biography shows, Prince Charles is more complicated and compelling than we knew, until now.

"For all we know about Prince Charles, there is so much we didn't know - until now." - Tom Brokaw

Elizabeth

John Guy

History has pictured Elizabeth I as Gloriana, an icon of strength and power -- and has focused on the early years of her reign. But in 1583, when Elizabeth is fifty, there is relentless plotting among her courtiers -- and still to come is the Spanish Armada and the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. We have not, until now, had the full picture.

This gripping and vivid portrait of her life and times -- often told in her own words (and including details such as her love of chess and marzipan) -- reveals a woman who was insecure, human ('You know I am no morning woman'), and unpopular even with the men who fought for her. This is the real Elizabeth, for the first time.

Oliver Cromwell (Penguin Monarchs)

David Horspool

Although he styled himself 'His Highness', adopted the court ritual of his royal predecessors, and lived in the former royal palaces of Whitehall and Hampton Court, Oliver Cromwell was not a king - in spite of the best efforts of his supporters to crown him.

Yet, as David Horspool shows in this illuminating new portrait of England's Lord Protector, Cromwell, the Puritan son of Cambridgeshire gentry, wielded such influence that it would be a pretence to say that power really lay with the collective. The years of Cromwell's rise to power, shaped by a decade-long civil war, saw a sustained attempt at the collective government of England; the first attempts at a real Union of Britain; the beginnings of empire; a radically new solution to the idea of a national religion; atrocities in Ireland; and the readmission to England of the Jews, a people officially banned for over three and a half centuries. At the end of it, Oliver Cromwell had emerged as the country's sole ruler: to his enemies, and probably to most of his countrymen, his legacy looked as likely to last as that of the Stuart dynasty he had replaced.

Elizabeth the Queen

Sally Bedell Smith

This definitive biography of Queen Elizabeth II is the first all-round, up-close picture of one of the most fascinating, enigmatic and admired women in the world.

With exclusive access to the Queen's personal letters, close friends and associates, this intimate biography is a treasure trove of fresh insights on her public persona and her private life. It also explores her close relationships with her family, her children, and Prince Philip.

This book will transport you back to a moment nine decades ago when a young Princess Elizabeth first discovered her destiny. Here we see how over the years she has navigated through the political challenges and personal sacrifices ahead of her, to put the Crown, the Country and her unswerving sense of duty first.

There is so much more to our Queen than that which is reported, but in these pages we at last get to meet the leader, strategist, and diplomat; the daughter, wife, mother and grandmother - Elizabeth the Queen.

Henry VI (Penguin Monarchs)

James Ross

Succeeding to the throne at the age of only nine months, Henry VI had a turbulent reign: he inherited a war with France and, in time, found himself at war with his own nobles. James Ross surveys this eventful life, including Henry's deposition at the hands of Edward IV and his eventual return to the throne.