It’s easy to become fixated on the rich and powerful, whose lives often appear seasoned with intricacies or dripping in luxury, only to self-destruct in sudden downward spirals. The Romanoffs, the long-awaited new TV show from Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, has all of the required elements: wealth, drama, color, history, and family legends. These independent episodes depict the lives of people who think they’re descended from the famous Romanoff (or Romanov) dynasty of Russian history. For those of you who can’t get enough of this riveting miniseries, we’ve got you covered with these books starring royal families or influential individuals who have played a (sometimes little-known) role in history.
9 Royal Reads for Your Post-“Romanoffs” Binge
The Romanov family has certainly proven themselves worthy of volumes of sensational material. Continue your obsession with THE ROMANOV SISTERS by Helen Rappaport, which looks past the girls’ royal clothing and paparazzi-depicted personas by way of previously unseen letters and diary entries. Rappaport’s successful attempt to humanize four young women with distinctive personalities, hopes, and expectations, while she examines the breadth of their experiences, will keep you rooted to the page—especially knowing their tragic end.
A captivating, thoughtful, and eye-opening look at the four tragic Russian grand duchesses, killed in their early teens and twenties in 1918. Though they’ve captured the public imagination, their intelligence, thoughtful personalities, and private lives had never been fully explored until Helen Rappaport’s revealing and informative bestselling biography.
1853 is a dramatic year to bear witness to the affairs at the Habsburg court, home to one of Europe’s most powerful royal houses. Emperor Franz Joseph prepares to marry one girl, then falls for her younger sister instead. Suddenly Elisabeth, or “Sisi,” is an Austro-Hungarian empress, inserted into a life of wealth and influence and all the responsibilities that come along with it. Allison Pataki’s historical novel THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS captures Sisi’s charisma and complexities while giving us front-row seats to the trials and vibrancy of this little-known episode of European history.
In 1853, Emperor Franz Joseph is Europe’s most powerful ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS tells the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi,” the woman who became Franz Joseph’s wife, and the Austro-Hungarian Empress, when she was just fifteen.
Imagine being the wife of a founding father, in on the ground floor where history is being made, with progress, innovation, policies, and declarations. ELIZA HAMILTON by Tilar Mazzeo gives us the inside look at Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, the strong woman who sealed her own place in history beside Alexander Hamilton, with fascinating anecdotes about growing up in the prominent Schuyler family of New York.
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL by Philippa Gregory is a captivating romp in the Tudor court of Henry VIII through the lives of the influential Boleyn family. Family feuds, conflicting interests, the allure of a prince—this historical fiction imagines the detailed actions and consequences of pitting sister against sister, all in the name of an heir and a throne.
You know Daphne du Maurier as the author of REBECCA, MY COUSIN RACHEL, and THE BIRDS. In Jane Dunn’s biography DAPHNE DU MAURIER AND HER SISTERS, you can get to know the entire family, part of an artistic dynasty full of talent and personality and privilege. The three sisters, each talented in her own way, sought to find themselves and come to terms with their upbringing. Under Jane Dunn’s keen eye, we see the past bleed into the present—especially interesting when examining a writer like du Maurier.
CATHERINE THE GREAT brings us back to Russia with an intimate look at the life of a brilliant woman who knew how to socialize with intellectuals, exert influence, and act as a steady leader: Catherine II, empress of Russia. Deftly written and covering the full span of Catherine’s life, this biography captivates on both a personal and political level. Learning about her childhood helps us understand her adult decisions, and the book’s intricate details propel us further into the world of a woman who holds a significant place in Russian history.
The extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and through sheer determination transformed herself into Empress of Russia and became one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.
What does royalty look like in 16th-century India during the Mughal empire? Mehrunnisa, one of India’s most controversial empresses, tells her story in THE TWENTIETH WIFE by Indu Sundaresan. As a young girl, Mehrunnisa watches Prince Salim marry, and wills herself to one day join him as his wife. With fascinating detail and compelling characters, this historical novel feels like an authentic look at Indian life and culture, especially the treatment of women, during the Mughal empire.
King Louis XI of France and the women in his life are the stars of THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES by Sally Christie. Four out of five sisters become the king’s mistresses, making for a book with a royal court–size share of scandalous drama that also investigates the connection between siblings. Well researched, this historical novel is told from all five women’s points of view, making for a wild, insightful ride through a little-known segment of French history.
Were you scandalized by Madame Nesle de la Tourelle’s costumes at Louis XV’s Versailles? Would you be surprised to learn that four of her sisters were also mistresses to the king? Sally Christie reimagines the lush Versailles court in all its excesses and offers up a complex exploration of power and sisterhood.
In THE LAST CASTLE, the spectacle isn’t centered on one individual or family, but rather on a home and all its secrets: the grand, Gilded Age estate of a Vanderbilt. The massive Biltmore mansion, built in North Carolina by George Vanderbilt, has outlasted many an era: wars, cultural movements, and the rise and fall of other wealthy families. Imagine the parties, the drama, and the history to which it must have borne witness!