We may all be toasting the Queen during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, but how much do we actually know about the monarch who has reigned for 70 years and her wider family?
A plethora of books have been published to coincide with the celebrations, focusing not only on the history of the Queen’s reign, the decisions she has had to make and the scandals her family have faced, but also her fashion sense and even what she might like to eat.
So, why not immerse yourself in the monarchy through a book to take you through those 70 glorious years on the throne? Here are a few of the best.
The Queen: 70 Glorious Years (Royal Collection Trust, £19.95)
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A great coffee table choice, this official souvenir publication celebrates the Platinum Jubilee through 77 photographs chosen to illustrate memorable events in the reign of Britain’s longest serving monarch. Images capturing the Coronation, the State Opening of Parliament and the Trooping the Colour all feature, as well as more informal pictures of the Queen as a young girl, a wife and a mother, on holiday and at leisure. A perfect pictorial present for every royal watcher.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Celebration by Brian Hoey (Pitkin, £9.99)
The author has written a staggering 36 books about royalty, interviewing many members of the Royal Family including the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal, was one of the BBC’s first royal newscasters and is well-placed to reflect on the highlights and challenges of the Queen’s reign. The book recalls Princess Elizabeth’s childhood, the war years and her accession and beyond. Readers keen to learn about her typical working day will find it in these pages, as well as her enduring contribution to life in the UK and the Commonwealth, and her enviable reputation worldwide.
The Palace Papers by Tina Brown (Century, £20)
Out of all the royal books of late, Tina Brown’s account of the Royal Family since the death of Princess Diana through to the defection of Harry and Meghan has grabbed the most headlines and become a bestseller, for its riveting, gossip-layered style and waspish observations.
Picking up where she left off with The Diana Chronicles, her 2007 biography of Princess Diana, the former editor of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Tatler reportedly spent two years interviewing sources including royal acquaintances and former employees to produce this weighty tome.
Brown leaves no slippery stone unturned. She delves into the private and public lives of the firm, the family quarrels, honing in on the royal peccadillos with relish. If you like soap operas, you’ll love this.
The Queen by Andrew Morton (Michael O’Mara, £20)
Famed royal biographer Andrew Morton, best known for his controversial book Diana: Her True Story, has now turned his attention on the Queen, but he has not thrown any punches at our country’s longest serving monarch. Instead, he offers an entertaining, insightful portrait spanning her idyllic childhood and the unexpected road to becoming sovereign at the age of just 25 – through the premature death of her father and the previous abdication of King Edward VIII. Morton explores the Queen’s public life of duty and service alongside her private family life.
He says: “While her reign has been defined by divorce, her private life has been moulded by an irascible husband, an extravagant mother and a querulous eldest son. As she celebrates her platinum anniversary, the first monarch to reign for 70 years, she has, during a once in a lifetime pandemic, become the reassuring face of hope and optimism, the grandmother to the nation.”
The Platinum Jubilee Cookbook by Ameer Kotecha (Jon Croft Editions, £30)
This first book from diplomat and pop-up chef Ameer Kotecha, who co-founded the nationwide Platinum Pudding Competition to find a new pudding dedicated to the Queen, offers 70 recipes from British embassies and high commissions around the world.
You may not learn much about the Queen’s dietary preferences but Kotecha entertains with diplomatic dinner party anecdotes through the years and provides contemporary stories of food being used as a potent diplomatic tool.
With a foreword by the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, the book brings together recipes – many of them served during royal visits – that are British, inspired by local influences from the embassy’s host country, or a fusion of the two. It’s a tasty offering and a feelgood buy, as 100% of royalties from sales will be donated to charity, split equally between the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT) and the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund (PWCF).
The Other Side Of The Coin (Platinum Jubilee Edition) by Angela Kelly (HarperCollins, £25)
Readers can learn so much about life inside ‘HMS Bubble’ through these stories from the woman who has worked with the Queen and walked the corridors of the Royal Household for 28 years, firstly as Her Majesty’s senior dresser and latterly as her personal advisor, curator, wardrobe and in-house designer.
The book, for which the Queen has given her blessing, shares their extraordinary bond, giving insights into what it’s like to work closely with the reigning monarch, from curating her wardrobe to cutting her hair during the pandemic, as well as the laughter that was shared behind closed doors, even in the darkest moments.
Queen Of Our Times by Robert Hardman (Macmillan, £20)
As an experienced commentator for the BBC and a former royal correspondent for the Daily Telegraph who now writes for the Daily Mail, Robert Hardman has interviewed almost every key member of the Royal Family apart from the Queen herself.
So he is well placed to bring us this definitive new biography, which features original insights from family, friends and staff, new interviews with world leaders plus unseen photographs and papers, including diaries and letters from the Royal Archives.
As well as the enormous responsibility the role of the Queen entails, the biography is lightened with humorous anecdotes from a monarch who actually seems to like the job and has a ‘timelessness’ that other public figures lack.
The Queen: 70 Years Of Majestic Style by Bethan Holt (Ryland Peters & Small, £18.99)
We know the Queen always wears bright colours so she can be easily identified among the cheering crowds – but there’s a lot more to the monarch’s wardrobe choices, explains acclaimed fashion writer Bethan Holt.
Her colour choices often spark a rise in public interest, while she’s very particular about her silk scarves when she isn’t wearing a formal hat. Her handbags have an extra-long 16-inch strap so they hang comfortably from her arm, and are lined in silk rather than suede. This book celebrates the fashion evolution of Queen Elizabeth II, her sartorial history and her inspirational style.
Lilibet: The Girl Who Would Be Queen by A N Wilson (Manilla Press, £9.99)
Based on his endless love for the Queen, this bestselling author brings us his fictionalised imaginings, set on the eve of the Platinum Jubilee as the Queen is nodding off to sleep and her mind harks back to memorable times. This biographical novel plays out scenes from her life, as she discovers, at the age of 10, that she is heir to the throne.
He paints a picture of personalities as well as actions, which is where the magic lies, writing of her tantrum-prone father and her loneliness in the early years, before meeting the dashing Prince Philip of Greece, who she loved steadfastly from the age of 15. Circumstances led to her astonishing sense of vocation and public duty, which grew during the dark years of World War Two and her father’s subsequent years of ill health.
Best of the rest…
Of course, there are many other royal reads, featuring the wider family, just published or to look out for – William At 40 (Ad Lib, out June 9) by royal commentator Robert Jobson, who explores the life of the Duke of Cambridge; A Royal Life by The Duke of Kent and Hugo Vickers (Hodder & Stoughton), in which the Duke reflects on the Queen’s 70-year reign; and, of course, Prince Harry’s forthcoming memoir … which will no doubt continue the drama.