New and forthcoming

George IV (Penguin Monarchs)

Stella Tillyard

George IV spent most of his life waiting to become king: as a pleasure-loving and rebellious Prince of Wales during the sixty-year reign of his father, George III, and for ten years as Prince Regent, when his father went mad.

'The days are very long when you have nothing to do' he once wrote plaintively, but he did his best to fill them with pleasure - women, art, food, wine, fashion, architecture. He presided over the creation of the Regency style, which came to epitomise the era, and he was, with Charles I, the most artistically literate of all our kings. Yet despite his life of luxury and indulgence, George died alone and unmourned.

Stella Tillyard has not written a judgemental book, but a very human and enjoyable one, about this most colourful of all British kings.

The Pope

Anthony McCarten

On 28 February 2013, a 600-year-old tradition was shattered: Pope Benedict XVI made a startling announcement. He would resign.

From the prize-winning screenwriter of The Theory of Everything and Darkest Hour, The Pope is a fascinating, revealing and often funny tale of two very different men whose destinies converge with each other and the wider world.

How did these two men become two of the most powerful people on Earth?
What does the future hold for the Catholic Church?
What is it like to be the Pope?

The Pope is a dual biography that masterfully combines these two popes' lives into one gripping narrative. From Benedict and Francis' experiences of war in their homelands - when they were still Joseph and Jorge - and the Church's sexual abuse scandal that shocked the world, to the failing smoke signals announcing the election of a new pope and Benedict's robes being too small, The Pope glitters with the lighter and the darker details of life inside one of the world's most opaque but significant institutions.

Benedict and Francis both live in the Vatican. This is their story.

King and Emperor

Janet L. Nelson

A major new biography of one of the most extraordinary of all rulers, and the father of present-day Europe

Charles, king of the Franks, is one of the most remarkable figures ever to rule a European super-state. That is why he is so often called by the French 'Charlemagne', and by the Germans 'Karl der Grosse'. His strength of character was felt to be remarkable from early in his long reign. Warfare and accident, vermin and weather have destroyed much of the evidence for his rule in the twelve centuries since his death, but a remarkable amount still survives.

Janet L. Nelson's wonderful new book brings together everything we know about Charlemagne and sifts through the evidence to come as close as we can to understanding the man and his motives. Nelson has an extraordinary knowledge of the sources and much of the book is a sort of detective story, prying into and interpreting fascinating material and often obdurate scraps, from prayerbooks to skeletons, gossip to artwork.

Above all, Charles's legacy lies in his deeds and their continuing resonance, as he shaped duchies and counties, rebuilt and founded towns and monasteries, and consciously set himself up not just as King of the Franks, but as the new 'Emperor governing the Roman Empire'. His successors - in some ways to the present day - have struggled to interpret, misinterpret, copy or subvert Charlemagne's legacy. Nelson gets us as close as we can ever hope to come to the real figure, as understood in his own time.

Aethelred the Unready (Penguin Monarchs)

Richard Abels

A major new title in the Penguin Monarchs series

In his fascinating new book in the Penguin Monarchs series, Richard Abels examines the long and troubled reign of Aethelred II the 'Unraed', the 'Ill-Advised'. It is characteristic of Aethelred's reign that its greatest surviving work of literature, the poem The Battle of Maldon, should be a record of heroic defeat. Perhaps no ruler could have stemmed the encroachment of wave upon wave of Viking raiders, but Aethelred will always be associated with that failure.

Richard Abels is Professor Emeritus at the United States Naval Academy. He is the author of Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in Anglo-Saxon England and Lordship and Military Obligation in Anglo-Saxon England. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

A Tudor Christmas

Alison Weir (and others)

Christmas in Tudor times was a period of feasting, revelry and merrymaking ‘to drive the cold winter away’. A carnival atmosphere presided at court, with a twelve-day-long festival of entertainments, pageants, theatre productions and ‘disguisings’, when even the king and queen dressed up in costume to fool their courtiers. Throughout the festive season, all ranks of subjects were freed for a short time from everyday cares to indulge in eating, drinking, dancing and game-playing.

We might assume that our modern Christmas owes much to the Victorians. In fact, as Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke reveal in this fascinating book, many of our favourite Christmas traditions date back much further. Carol-singing, present-giving, mulled wine and mince pies were all just as popular in Tudor times, and even Father Christmas and roast turkey dinners have their origins in this period. The festival was so beloved by English people that Christmas traditions survived remarkably unchanged in this age of tumultuous religious upheaval.

Beautifully illustrated with original line drawings throughout, this enchanting compendium will fascinate anyone with an interest in Tudor life – and anyone who loves Christmas.

Behind the Throne

Adrian Tinniswood

Behind the Throne is a history of family life.

The families concerned were royal families. But they still had to get up in the morning. They ate and entertained their friends and worried about money. Henry VIII kept tripping over his dogs. George II threw his son out of the house. James I had to cut back on the drink bills.

The great difference is that royal families had more help with their lives than most. Charles I maintained a household of 2,000 people. Victoria’s medical establishment alone consisted of thirty doctors, three dentists and a chiropodist. Even in today’s more democratic climate, Elizabeth II keeps a full-time staff of 1,200. A royal household was a community, a vast machine. Everyone, from James I’s Master of the Horse down to William IV’s Assistant Table Decker, was there to smooth the sovereign’s path through life while simultaneously confirming his or her status.

Behind the Throne uncovers the reality of five centuries of life at the English court, taking the reader on a remarkable journey from one Queen Elizabeth to another and exploring life as it was lived by clerks and courtiers and clowns and crowned heads: the power struggles and petty rivalries, the tension between duty and desire; the practicalities of cooking dinner for thousands, or ensuring the king always won when he played a game of tennis.

Behind the Throne is nothing less than a domestic history of the royal household, a reconstruction of life behind the throne. Readers go on progress with Elizabeth I as she takes her court and her majesty to her subjects. They dance the conga round the state rooms of Buckingham Palace with George VI.

They find out what it was like to dine with queens, and walk with kings.

Queen of the World

Robert Hardman

WRITTEN ALONGSIDE A MAJOR UPCOMING ITV DOCUMENTARY

‘Dazzling, poignant and full of delicious surprises; the true story of how Elizabeth II took on the world – and won. The Crown is fictional. Here is the real thing.’ Andrew Roberts
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Written by the renowned royal biographer, Robert Hardman, and with privileged access to the Royal Family and the Royal Household, a brilliant new portrait of the most famous woman in the world and her place in it.

On today's world stage, one leader stands apart. Queen Elizabeth II has seen more of the planet and its people than any other head of state, and has engaged with them like no other monarch in British history. Since her coronation, she has visited over 130 countries across the ever-changing globe, acting as diplomat, stateswoman, pioneer and peace-broker.

She has transformed her father’s old empire into the Commonwealth, her ‘family of nations’, and has come to know its leaders better than anyone. In 2018, they would gather in her own home to endorse her eldest son, the Prince of Wales, as her successor.

With extensive access to the Queen’s family and staff, Hardman tells a true story full of drama, intrigue, exotic and even dangerous situations, heroes, rogues, pomp and glamour – and, at the centre of it all, the woman who has genuinely won the hearts of the world.

Henry I (Penguin Monarchs)

Edmund King

The youngest of William the Conqueror's sons, Henry I (1100-35) was never meant to be king, but he was destined to become one of the greatest of all medieval monarchs, both through his own ruthlessness and intelligence and through the dynastic legacy of his daughter Matilda, who began the Plantagenet line that would rule England until 1485. A self-consciously diligent and thoughtful king, his rule was looked back on as the real post-invasion re-founding of England as a new realm, integrated into the continent, wealthy and stable.

Edmund King's wonderful portrait of Henry shows him as a strikingly charismatic and thoughtful man. His life was dogged by a single great disaster, the death of his teenage heir William in the White Ship disaster. Despite astonishing numbers of illegitimate sons, Henry was now left with only a daughter. This fact would shape the rest of the 12th century and beyond.

William III & Mary II (Penguin Monarchs)

Jonathan Keates

The acclaimed Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback

William III (1689-1702) & Mary II (1689-94) (Britain's only ever 'joint monarchs') changed the course of the entire country's history, coming to power through a coup (which involved Mary betraying her own father), reestablishing parliament on a new footing and, through commiting Britain to fighting France, initiating an immensely long period of warfare and colonial expansion.

Jonathan Keates' wonderful book makes both monarchs vivid, the cold, shrewd 'Dutch' William and the shortlived Mary, whose life and death inspired Purcell to write some of his greatest music.

George V (Penguin Monarchs)

David Cannadine

The acclaimed Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback

For a man with such conventional tastes and views, George V had a revolutionary impact. Almost despite himself he marked a decisive break with his flamboyant predecessor Edward VII, inventing the modern monarchy, with its emphasis on frequent public appearances, family values and duty. George V was an effective war-leader and inventor of 'the House of Windsor'. In an era of ever greater media coverage - frequently filmed and initiating the British Empire Christmas broadcast - George became for 25 years a universally recognised figure. He was also the only British monarch to take his role as Emperor of India seriously. While his great rivals (Tsar Nicolas and Kaiser Wilhelm) ended their reigns in catastrophe, he plodded on.

David Cannadine's sparkling account of his reign could not be more enjoyable, a masterclass in how to write about Monarchy, that central - if peculiar - pillar of British life.

Henry VIII (Penguin Monarchs)

John Guy

The acclaimed Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback

Henry VIII's reign transformed the physical and spiritual landscape of England. Magnificent, tyrannical, a strong ruler, a 'pillager of the commonwealth', this most notorious of kings remains a figure of extreme contradictions: a devout traditionalist who oversaw a cataclysmic rupture with the church in Rome; a talented, charismatic, imposing figure who nevertheless could not bear to meet people's eyes when he talked to them. In this revealing new account, John Guy explores how Henry himself understood the world and his place in it - from his sheltered and increasingly isolated upbringing and the blazing glory of his accession; to his desperate quest for recognition, fame and an heir, and the terrifying paranoia of his last, agonising, 54-inch-waisted years - and in doing so casts new light on his choice of wives and ministers, his impact on the European stage, and his extraordinary legacy.

Henry II (Penguin Monarchs)

Richard Barber

The acclaimed Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback

Henry II (1154-89) through a series of astonishing dynastic coups became the ruler of an enormous European empire. One of the most dynamic, restless and clever men ever to rule England, he was brought down both by his catastrophic relationship with his archbishop Thomas Becket and his debilitating arguments with his sons, most importantly the future Richard I and King John. His empire may have ultimately collapsed, but in Richard Barber's vivid and sympathetic account the reader can see why Henry II left such a compelling impression on his contemporaries.

Richard Barber has written for Penguin The Penguin Guide to Medieval Europe, The Holy Grail and Edward III and the Triumph of England. He is a major figure in medieval studies, both as a writer and as a publisher.

Edward VI (Penguin Monarchs)

Stephen Alford

The acclaimed Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback

Edward VI, the only son of Henry VIII, became king at the age of nine and died wholly unexpectedly at the age of fifteen. All around him loomed powerful men who hoped to use the child to further their own ends, but who were also playing a long game - assuming that Edward would long outlive them and become as commanding a figure as his father had been.

Stephen Alford's wonderful book gives full play to the murky, sinister nature of Edward's reign, but is also a poignant account of a boy learning to rule, learning to enjoy his growing power and to come out of the shadows of the great aristocrats around him. England's last child monarch, Edward would have led his country in a quite different direction to the catastrophic one caused by his death.

William I (Penguin Monarchs)

Marc Morris

Part of the Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback

On Christmas Day 1066, William, duke of Normandy was crowned in Westminster, the first Norman king of England. It was a disaster: soldiers outside, thinking shouts of acclamation were treachery, torched the surrounding buildings. To later chroniclers, it was an omen of the catastrophes to come.

During the reign of William the Conqueror, England experienced greater and more seismic change than at any point before or since. Marc Morris's concise and gripping biography sifts through the sources of the time to give a fresh view of the man who changed England more than any other, as old ruling elites were swept away, enemies at home and abroad (including those in his closest family) were crushed, swathes of the country were devastated and the map of the nation itself was redrawn, giving greater power than ever to the king.

When, towards the end of his reign, William undertook a great survey of his new lands, his subjects compared it to the last judgement of God, the Domesday Book. England had been transformed forever.

Edward VII (Penguin Monarchs)

Richard Davenport-Hines

The acclaimed Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback

Like his mother Queen Victoria, Edward VII defined an era. Both reflected the personalities of their central figures: hers grand, imperial and pretty stiff; his no less grand, but much more relaxed and enjoyable. This book conveys Edward's distinct personality and significant influences. To the despair of his parents, he rebelled as a young man, conducting many affairs and living a life of pleasure. But as king he made a distinct contribution to European diplomacy and - which is little known - to London, laying out the Mall and Admiralty Arch.

Richard Davenport-Hines's book is as enjoyable as its subject and the age he made.

Elizabeth II (Penguin Monarchs)

Douglas Hurd

The acclaimed Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback

Elizabeth II is the longest-serving monarch who ever sat on the English or British throne. Yet her personality and influence remain elusive. This book, by a senior politician who has spent significant periods of time in her company, and is also a distinguished historian, portrays her more credibly than any other yet published.

Douglas Hurd was a politician, biographer and novelist who served in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, as Minister for Europe (1979-83), Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1984-85), Home Secretary (1985-89) and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1989-95). His previous books include his Memoirs, Robert Peel: A Biography and, with Edward Young, Choose Your Weapons: The British Foreign Secretary - 200 Years of Argument, Success and Failure.