Love them or loath them, the royal family continues to capture international attention. We welcome any invitation to catch a glimpse of them, be it at a public event or among the pages of our favourite magazines. Whether we're cooing over the adorable Princess Charlotte or feeling torn about the nuptials of Charles and Camilla, we can't help but get pulled into their extraordinary lives.
Royals are the ultimate celebrities, born into a life of luxury and public service—a role in which they had little say in the matter. As the 32-year-old Prince Harry recently put it: "Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don't think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time."
So, how do the royals really feel about their role in society? What are their fears, hopes and dreams? What goes on behind closed doors at royal residences like Buckingham Palace or Clarence House? We grasp at what little information is afforded us from TV interviews and magazines—and we turn to biographies written by renowned royal historians in the hopes of gleaning something new.
The younger royals—Princes William and Harry and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge—are drawing back the curtain on their family's previously shuttered lives in effort to be more relatable to the masses. The three appear frequently in public and speak openly about their individual battles with mental health in an effort to raise awareness. "We are involved in modernising the British monarchy," Harry says. "We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people."
It appears to be working: At the moment, William, Harry and Kate are arguably the most popular members of the royal family—overshadowed only by the charming antics of four-year-old George and two-year-old Charlotte. Yet so much remains shrouded in mystery.
Here, we look at some of the all-time best (and most revealing) royal biographies written about members of the House of Windsor.
For those interested in...the early years
Must-Read Book: The Royals by Kitty Kelley
Buy It Here: Amazon
This exhaustively researched history of the House of Windsor (containing a whopping 1,000+ interview subjects) pulls back the curtain on one of the world's most secretive families, sharing revealing anecdotes concerning isolation, jealousy, gambling, alcoholism and womanizing. Originally published in 1997, The Royals is the perfect way to brush up on the abdication of King Edward VIII, the reign of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth's ascension to the throne in 1952.
Must-Read Book: Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother by William Shawcross
Buy It Here: Amazon
The life of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (aka. the Queen Mum) spanned the whole of the 20th century. Born in 1900, this remarkable woman went on to represent her nation during its best and worst moments, even throughout her widowhood. Author William Shawcross draws on her personal correspondence and other unpublished materials from the Royal Archives in order to paint a vivid portrait of a woman who tackled adversity with wit and bravado. It remains the definitive biography of the Queen Mum.
Must-Read Book: The Reluctant King: The Life and Reign of George VI (1895-1952) by Sarah Bradford
Buy It Here: Amazon
When his older brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson, George VI (incredibly reluctantly) assumed throne at crucial time in history and formed a "great wartime partnership" with Winston Churchill. Yet George remains a somewhat tragic figure: almost painfully shy (with a stutter that had to be corrected) and uncomfortable with the notion of leading a nation, his reign took a toll on his health. A longtime smoker, he ultimately succumbed to a blood clot in his heart (hastened by his battle with lung cancer) at the age of 56. Often overshadowed by more flamboyant members of the Royal Family, interest in George VI's reign has been renewed recently thanks to the Oscar-winning The King's Speech and Netflix's The Crown.
Next: Biographies on Queen Elizabeth II...
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