Books about England
Kings and Queens

England's long history wouldn't be nearly as entertaining without the antics of its many rulers.

Everyone knows the story of King Henry VIII and his six wives. But do you know which ruler employed pirates? Which king sold Scotland to finance his crusade? Which king was murdered by his wife and her lover? Or which king lost the crown jewels?

Do you know which kings and queens England didn't have? And why? Do you know how many English kings died on the battlefield? And which king was killed by an arrow while out hunting?

I've always liked to dig around in the darker recesses of the history books for those little stories that bring the past to life. And according to the questions many of you ask on this site, I'm not the only one.

Why is royalty so fascinating?

Maybe it is because Kings and Queens appear to have more choices than other people, whether they were born to rule or took the throne by force - and we know more about the choices they made.

This book, The Concise Guide to the Kings and Queens, explores those choices and the men and women behind them. If you're looking for books about England and English history, then this is a good starting point.

But it's also more than that. It tries to show how each of the monarchs shaped and changed the country during their rule, the impact they had on the lives of their people.

The beautiful illustrations bring the past to life in vivid detail and colour and - best of all - the author has included fascinating asides, little snippets of information that allow a glimpse into fashion, treason, finance, art and general life during England's long history.

And for all of that, Kings and Queens is not a worthy tome of doorstop proportions. It's but a little thing, fit for a bedside table, a cavernous handbag or a glove compartment.

It's one of those books about England that won't have time to gather dust on a shelf. You'll dip into it quite frequently for its many little details... to remind yourself, or simply for pleasure.