History in the Making

Vintage Royal Reads

I am really trying to limit the number of physical books I purchase- as I’m hoping to move in 3 years, I really can’t move all of my books across the ocean! I either try to borrow them from the library, buy an e-book, or read them from NetGalley. However, I really the hit jackpot in September when I went to the local children’t hospital book sale- I found SO MANY amazing royal reads! I love being able to wander because you never know what you are going to find, especially when it comes to older royal histories and biographies. These are my favourite vintage royal reads lately!

A collection of vintage royal reads

There is something about finding a vintage book that makes it more exciting- who knows who has held and read this book before?? And what did historians and biographers of the past think of their subjects? It doesn’t hurt that you can usually grab a book for less than $5, either… I actually found more books at the book sale but these are three that I am most excited about!

The First Elizabeth, Carolly Erickson

I am always torn on Elizabeth I. I always felt like a bad historian because I never saw her as a glorious queen but rather a manipulative and desperate woman who used those around her to prop up her ego. However, she still was fascinating. Carolly Erickson’s novel about Mary, Queen of Scots is one of my favourite pieces of historical fiction, so I am fairly happy to read non-fiction from her, as well. From what I’ve read so far, she does a wonderful job of bringing in all sorts of details that normalise Elizabeth and her court, to give you a better sense that they aren’t a foreign species (as many people view those in the past) but rather just the same as you and me. Also, several of the more recent Elizabeth biographies focus on the people around her rather than Elizabeth herself, so it is lovely to go “back to the basics”. For only $1.50 CAD, I am thrilled to have this in my collection now!

Debrett’s Royal Scotland, Jean Goodman and Sir Iain Moncrieffe

This caught my eye because the Queen’s role in Scotland is not always discussed- she goes to Balmoral for vacations and to Holyroodhouse for a week but that is about it. There are also just so many gorgeous castles and ruins in Scotland! “This book gives the background to the Kingdom of Scotland through the story of its Royal Family and the castles and palaces they made their own from Dunbarton to the Castle of Mey.” It is a great coffee table book- you can read a handful of pages on a particular castle and then put it down for a while, without it affecting anything. My favourite part of the book is the last section which details all of the royal visits to Scotland, from George IV to Prince Charles! (It was published in 1983, so only a few of his…) Although it is an older book, it is still certainly a worthwhile read. The incredibly detailed family tree is a great resource for both the serious historian and the casual royalist, and the research is solid. Now to find out if I can get a job updating it!

The Little Princesses, Marion Crawford

This is a first Canadian edition of The Little Princesses and the fact that I got it for $1 CAD is possibly the greatest accomplishment in my adult life (including my degrees). For those who don’t watch endless royal documentaries and inhale any books available, Marion Crawford was the governess to the then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. She wrote The Little Princesses after retiring and as a result, the family that loved her entirely froze her out because of the perceived betrayal. It is actually quite a sweet and loving memoir about the princesses, and it is heartbreaking to think that she would never speak to them again. This copy is in particularly good condition, so it really is a steal (and from my research could probably be sold for over $100 CAD)! I know that tell-alls and revealing books are a dime a dozen this days, but in the mid-twentieth century, this just wasn’t done. I am so thankful that I found this book, and I’m doubtful I will ever be able to top it.

Do you have any vintage royal reads? And have you ever found a steal at a book sale?

The Historian
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