11 Historical Fiction Books Exploring Royalty Around the World

May 16 2022
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If the popularity of The Crown, The Great, and Spencer proves anything, it’s that we can’t get enough of dramatic stories about royalty. If you’re equally fascinated by royals, or simply a historical fiction fan, you’ll want to check out these unforgettable and evocative novels featuring sultans, queens, emperors, and more from history.

The Eyes of the Queen
by Oliver Clements

Based on the true story of John Dee—scientist, alchemist, and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I—this gripping historical thriller traces the beginning of England’s intelligence gathering. Together with his queen, Dee must face her enemies before they destroy the new Age of Enlightenment and the rising British Empire in 1572.

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The Eyes of the Queen
Oliver Clements

“[A] rollicking new historical thriller…taut, made-for-movie-theater tension and delicious, snickering-from-the-back-row wit.” —New York Times Book Review

In this first novel of the exhilarating Agents of the Crown series, a man who will become the original MI6 agent protects England and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I from Spain’s nefarious plan to crush the Age of the Enlightenment.

After centuries locked in an endless cycle of poverty, persecution, and barbarity, Europe has finally emerged into the Age of Enlightenment. Scientists, philosophers, scholars, and poets alike believe this to be a new era of reason and hope for all. But the forces of darkness haven’t completely dissipated, as Spain hunts and butchers any who dare to defy its ironclad Catholic orthodoxy.

Only one nation can fight the black shadow that threatens this new age, and that is Britain, now ruled by a brilliant young Queen Elizabeth I. But although she may be brave and headstrong, Elizabeth knows she cannot win this war simply by force of arms. After her armies have been slashed in half, her treasury is on its knees. Elizabeth needs a new kind of weapon forged to fight a new kind of war, in which stealth and secrecy, not bloodshed, are the means.

In this tense situation, Her Majesty’s Secret Service is born with the charismatic John Dee at its head. A scholar, a soldier, and an alchemist, Dee is loyal only to the truth and to his Queen. And for her, the woman he’s forbidden from loving, he is prepared to risk his life.

A visceral and heart-pumping historical thriller, The Eyes of the Queen is perfect for fans of Ken Follett and Dan Brown.

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The Sisters of Versailles
by Sally Christie

Passion, politics, and palace intrigue are a family affair in this lush novel about the famous Nesle sisters—four of whom would become mistresses of France’s King Louis XV. THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES is a vivid look at how sex was (and still is) used to exact control over a monarch, and how even the bonds of sisterhood may not be strong enough to withstand the grandeur of Versailles.

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The Sisters of Versailles
Sally Christie

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.

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The Empire of Darkness
by Christian Jacq

Get transported to ancient Egypt in the midst of invasion. The pharaoh’s widow is determined to restore Egypt to its former glory, but with limited power and time running out, she has no choice but to depend on her teenaged daughter—a princess who will stop at nothing to halt these invaders and save the Empire’s once magnificent kingdom.

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The Empire of Darkness
Christian Jacq

Christian Jacq, author of the international triumphs Ramses and The Stone of Light, brings the people and passions of ancient Egypt to life in an enthralling epic novel in three volumes.
Egypt is a shadow of its former self. An army of barbarians mounted on horse-drawn chariots has swept through the Empire, destroying everything in its path. Known as the Hyksos, these "leaders from foreign lands" have reduced the country of the pharaohs to slavery. Only the city of Thebes resists, protected by the widow of the last pharaoh, Teti the Small. But Teti knows that her reign is limited, that it's only a matter of time before her men succumb to the barbarities of the cruel Hyksos. She has an eighteen-year-old daughter, however: Ahhotep. Fierce, beautiful, and courageous, this girl whom history will call "Egypt's Joan of Arc" will never accept defeat. And so she decides to re-ignite the flame of Egyptian resistance. All by herself.
Combining historical fact with a vivid imagination, Christian Jacq tells the enthralling true story of this Ancient Egyptian warrior-heroine. Without the courage and passion of Queen Ahhotep, the Valley of the Kings and the glorious treasures of the pharaohs, including Ramses the Great, would never have existed.

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The Architect's Apprentice
by Elif Shafak

Taking us to the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman the Magnificent, THE ARCHITECT’S APPRENTICE follows a young man as he begins an epic journey from stowaway to apprentice in the royal household. A colorful and thrilling tale that brings the splendor of 1500s Istanbul to vibrant life.

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The Architect's Apprentice
Elif Shafak

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Napoleon's Last Island
by Thomas Keneally

The stunning final act of Napoleon’s controversial and remarkable life is vividly depicted in this evocative and atmospheric novel. The former emperor has been exiled to a small island, trapped and alone—that is, until he crosses paths with a high-spirited British teenager. Through this unlikely pairing, one of Europe’s most complicated and enigmatic figures is richly explored as never before.

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Napoleon's Last Island
Thomas Keneally

The bestselling author of Schindler’s List and The Daughters of Mars returns with an “insightful and nimble...consistently fresh and engaging” (The New York Times Book Review) novel about the remarkable friendship between a quick-witted young woman and one of history’s most intriguing figures, Napoleon Bonaparte, during the final years of his life in exile on St. Helena.

In October 1815, after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte was sent to live the remainder of his life in exile on the remote Southern Atlantic island of St. Helena. There, on what he called “the cursed rock,” with no chance of escape, he found an unexpected ally: a spirited British teenager named Betsy Balcombe who lived on the island with her family. While Napoleon waited for his own accommodations to be made livable, the Balcombe family played host to the infamous exile, a decision that would have far-reaching consequences for them all.

In Napoleon’s Last Island, based on a true story, acclaimed author Thomas Keneally re-creates Betsy’s powerful and complex friendship with the man dubbed The Great Ogre, her clashes and alliances with his remaining courtiers, and her uneasy journey to adulthood as she begins to see the imperfections and weaknesses of human nature. As he brings a fascinating period vividly to life, Keneally shines a fresh light on one of history’s most enigmatic, charismatic figures. “The book is a complex and mesmerizing success,” raves the Christian Science Monitor, hailing it as “a masterpiece in miniature…unfailingly great reading [and] testimony to the fact that Keneally is our greatest living practitioner of historical fiction.”

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Rebel Queen
by Michelle Moran

With nineteenth century India divided into different kingdoms, Great Britain’s conquest seems assured, but there is one royal who will never surrender. The fiercely determined Queen Lakshmi—known as India’s Joan of Arc—will do whatever it takes to protect the country she loves, in this dazzling novel that will inspire and move you.

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Rebel Queen
Michelle Moran

From the internationally bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter comes the breathtaking story of Queen Lakshmi—India’s Joan of Arc—who against all odds defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom.

When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the mid-nineteenth century, it expects a quick and easy conquest. India is fractured and divided into kingdoms, each independent and wary of one another, seemingly no match for the might of the English. But when they arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, the British army is met with a surprising challenge.

Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male and one female—and rides into battle, determined to protect her country and her people. Although her soldiers may not appear at first to be formidable against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi refuses to back down from the empire determined to take away the land she loves.

Told from the unexpected perspective of Sita—Queen Lakshmi’s most favored companion and most trusted soldier in the all-female army—Rebel Queen shines a light on a time and place rarely explored in historical fiction. In the tradition of her bestselling novel, Nefertiti, and through her strong, independent heroines fighting to make their way in a male dominated world, Michelle Moran brings nineteenth-century India to rich, vibrant life.

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The October Horse
by Colleen McCullough

In this renowned classic from Colleen McCullough, one of Egypt’s most famous royals entices the powerful Julius Caesar. But is he willing to forsake Rome and his supremacy just for one woman? And can he truly trust those who claim to be his closest allies? A searing retelling of the saga of Cleopatra and Caesar that you won’t soon forget.

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The October Horse
Colleen McCullough

With her renowned storytelling gifts in full force, Colleen McCullough delivers a breathtaking novel that proves once again that she is the top historical novelist of our time.

Grand in scope and vivid in detail, McCullough’s gripping narrative thrusts readers headlong into the complex and fascinating world of Rome in the tumultuous last days of the Republic. At the height of his power, Gaius Julius Caesar becomes embroiled in a civil war in Egypt, where he finds himself enraptured by Cleopatra, the nation's golden-eyed queen. To do his duty as a Roman, however, he must forsake his love and return to the capital to rule.

Though Caesar’s grip on power seems unshakable, the political landscape is treacherous—the returning hero has no obvious successor, and his legacy seems to be the prize for any man with the courage and cunning to fell Rome’s laurelled leader. Caesar’s jealous enemies masquerade as friends and scheme to oust the autocrat from power and restore true republican government to Rome. But as the plot races to its dramatic conclusion, it becomes clear that with the stakes this high, no alliance is sacred and no motives are pure.

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The Last Grand Duchess
by Bryn Turnbull

As the oldest of the tragic children of the last tsar of Russia, Olga comes of age during a time of violent upheaval in Europe. Though sheltered within her close-knit family, rumors of revolution and the enigmatic Rasputin trickle through and Olga faces an uncertain future, even as she holds on to a secret romance. A lush and moving tale of the end of the Romanovs.

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The Last Grand Duchess
Bryn Turnbull

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Shadow of the Swords
by Kamran Pasha

Two major religions and kingdoms engage in the bloody and history-changing Third Crusade in this epic novel. With a fresh focus on Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria, as he faces King Richard the Lionheart, SHADOW OF THE SWORDS is an unputdownable tale of faith, war, and forbidden romance, and it will change the way you view the infamous Crusades.

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Shadow of the Swords
Kamran Pasha

An epic saga of love and war, Shadow of the Swords tells the story of the Crusades—from the Muslim perspective.

Saladin, a Muslim sultan, finds himself pitted against King Richard the Lionheart as Islam and Christianity clash against each other, launching a conflict that still echoes today.
      In the midst of a brutal and unforgiving war, Saladin finds forbidden love in the arms of Miriam, a beautiful Jewish girl with a tragic past. But when King Richard captures Miriam, the two most powerful men on Earth must face each other in a personal battle that will determine the future of the woman they both love—and of all civilization.
      Richly imagined, deftly plotted, and highly entertaining, Shadow of the Swords is a remarkable story that will stay with readers long after the final page has been turned.

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Abdication
by Juliet Nicolson

Three people search for love, security, and their futures as they bear witness to Britain on the brink of a second World War. Meanwhile, an exciting but controversial young king (Edward VIII) ascends to the throne. But his passion for a married divorcée (Wallis Simpson) could have catastrophic repercussions for the entire British Commonwealth and change the course of history.

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Abdication
Juliet Nicolson

From critically acclaimed historian Juliet Nicolson comes a glorious debut novel set in 1936 London about secrecy, tumultuous love, and a king and his subjects torn between public duty and private desire.

England, 1936.

The year began with the death of a beloved king and the ascension of a charismatic young monarch, sympathetic to the needs of the working class, glamorous and single. By year’s end, the world would be stunned as it witnessed that new leader give up his throne in the name of love, just as the unrest and violence that would result in a Second World War were becoming impossible to ignore.

During the tumultuous intervening months, amidst the whirl of social and political upheaval, wise-beyond-her-nineteen-years May Thomas will take the first, faltering steps toward creating a new life for herself. Just disembarked at Liverpool after a long journey from her home on a struggling sugar plantation in Barbados, she secures a position as secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt, a job that will open her eyes to the activities of the uppermost echelons of British society, and her heart to a man seemingly beyond her reach.

Outwardly affable spinster Evangeline Nettlefold is a girlhood friend to the American socialite Wallis Simpson, a goddaughter to Lady Joan Blunt and a new arrival to London from Baltimore. She will be generously welcomed into society’s most glittering circles, where one’s daily worth is determined by one’s proximity to a certain H.R.H. and his married mistress. But as the resentment she feels toward Wallis grows in magnitude, so too does the likelihood of disastrous consequences.

Young, idealistic Julian Richardson’s Oxford degree and his close friendship with Rupert Blunt have catapulted him from excruciating hours in his mother’s middle-class parlor to long holidays spent at stately homes and luxurious dinners in the company of a king. But even as he enjoys his time in this privileged world, his head cannot forget the struggles of those who live outside its gilded gates, and his uneasy heart cannot put aside his undeclared affection for May.

May, Evangeline and Julian will all become embroiled in the hidden truths, undeclared loves, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities that define the year chronicled in Abdication. In pitch-perfect prose, Juliet Nicolson has captured an era in which duty and pleasure, tradition and novelty, and order and chaos all battled for supremacy in the hearts and minds of king and commoner alike. As addictive as Downton Abbey, as poignant as The Remains of the Day, Abdication is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when the world was on the brink of war.

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Twilight Empress
by Faith L Justice

Rome has been sacked. Empress Placidia knows that to secure the throne for her children, she must do whatever it takes to save the empire before it falls completely. But among her fifth-century enemies are the dangerous Goths, the infamous Attila the Hun, and even members of her own family. Featuring shocking deceptions, deadly conspiracies, and an unforgettable heroine, TWILIGHT EMPRESS is a stirring read.

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Twilight Empress
Faith L Justice

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Photo credit: iStock / tomertu

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