6 must-reads for the royal obsessed from expert and author Carolyn Harris

harris-raisingroyalty.pngPhoto courtesy of Carolyn Harris.

Carolyn Harris is an historian and a frequent media commentator on European royals. Her latest book, Raising Royalty, analyzes how royal families have influenced and responded to parenting trends over the past millennium. The one thing they all have in common? The intense public scrutiny that comes with every decision.

After reading Raising Royalty, you may have a hankering for more royal reads. Below, Harris provides us with the definitive reading list.

nonfictionroyal.png Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg Raising Royalty by Carolyn Harris

Raising Royalty by Carolyn Harris

My book examines how 20 sets of royal parents raised their children over the past 1,000 years, from facing the imminent threat of Viking attacks to dealing with the paparazzi. There is sometimes a perception that royal parenting remained traditional and unchanging until Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer and they became the parents of Prince William and Prince Harry. In fact, royal parents have responded to the parenting trends of their times - or set new ones - throughout history. Public scrutiny of royal parenting has also existed for centuries. I discuss how each set of royal parents related to the parenting standards of their times. What I found particularly interesting in my research is how different generations of royal parents disagreed with each other concerning the proper way to raise royal children. For example, Queen Victoria disapproved of her daughters breastfeeding their own children and objected to some of the names that her grown children chose for their own children. Royalty continue to shape parenting trends. When Prince George was born, his father Prince William became the first royal father to take a formal parental leave, prompting a broader conversation about the importance of parental leave for new fathers.

Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg Our Queen by Robert Hardman

Our Queen by Robert Hardman

I have provided royal commentary for the media since 2011. A book that I have revisited on numerous occasions over the course of my career is Our Queen, one of the numerous books published in 2012, in honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The book discusses how the Queen continues to introduce innovations to modernize the monarchy, even though she has now been the sovereign for more than 60 years. Throughout her reign, the Queen has embraced new technologies, allowing her coronation to be televised in 1953 and now showcasing royal tours and philanthropy on social media. I was particularly interested to read about the 50 per cent increase in hospitality at Buckingham Palace between 2005 and 2010, allowing more people from all walks of life to meet with members of the royal family and have their achievements recognized.

Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg Monarchy and the End of Empire by Philip Murphy

Monarchy and the End of Empire by Philip Murphy

There is sometimes a popular perception that Queen Elizabeth II is a purely ceremonial figure, existing above politics. In her role as Head of the Commonwealth, however, the Queen has exerted political influence around the world. The Queen supported sanctions to aid the collapse of apartheid in South Africa and encouraged continued democracy in Ghana. There is of fascinating material in the book about the decline and rebirth of popular interest the Canadian monarchy during the reign of Elizabeth II. Murphy also illuminates the influence of gender on public perceptions of the monarchy. Just as the public saw Queen Victoria as the "mother" of the British Empire, Elizabeth II has been viewed as a maternal figure for the Commonwealth.

Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg fictionroyal.png Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

In 1997, the royal yacht Britannia, was decommissioned and the Queen is reported to have shed a tear at the ceremony. Britannia had been the setting for Commonwealth tours and royal family holidays. Britannia is now a museum ship in Leith, outside Edinburgh, and I had the opportunity to visit in the summer of 2014, while lecturing on a cruise ship sailing to ports around the United Kingdom. In Mrs. Queen Takes The Train, Kuhn imagines the Queen slipping out of Buckingham Palace incognito and travelling by train to Scotland to see the yacht one last time. Frantic members of the royal household attempt to locate the Queen before the press finds out that she is missing. The novel is filled with humour (the Queen is mistaken for Helen Mirren by a passenger on the train) and the thoughtful reflections by the fictional Queen about her life and reign.

Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund

Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund

For my MA and PhD in European history at Queen's University, I examined perceptions of Marie Antoinette as a wife and mother. My second book, Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette, compares Marie Antoinette to King Charles I of England's queen, Henrietta Maria, who also had a controversial reputation. While Henrietta Maria is comparatively unknown today, Marie Antoinette has entered popular culture and has been the subject of numerous films and historical novels. My favourite historical novel about Marie Antoinette is Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund. There is a real sense of being inside Marie Antoinette's mind from the moment she arrives in France at the age of 14 until her last moments at the guillotine during the French Revolution. The novel is beautifully written and evocative of late 18th century France.

Thumbnail image for whitespace-620.jpg The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

I have long been fascinated by Imperial Russian history and literature. I am currently writing a monthly column for Smithsonian Magazine online about the Russian Revolution in honour of the 100th anniversary of these world changing events in 1917. With the exception of Russia's last Imperial family, Nicholas II, Alexandra and their children, there is comparatively little English language historical fiction about Russia's rulers so I was delighted to read Eva Stachniak's novel about Catherine the Great's rise to power. The young Catherine was summoned to Russia from what is now Germany as a teenager by Peter the Great's daughter, Empress Elizabeth, to marry Elizabeth's nephew, Peter III. Catherine had to learn to survive at the Russian court and, ultimately, how to wield power. A very compelling story.

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