Our book of the month for January is Kings and Queens from the National Portrait Gallery. The book explores the monarchy of England from Alfred the Great up to our reigning monarch Elizabeth II, providing a biography for each of them. 

The book was written by David Williamson in 1998 and has since been revised and updated several times to include the latest additions to the royal family. David Williamson was a well-respected genealogist who spent much of his life researching the various bloodlines of the English and European monarchies. Aside from his scholarly research he used his expert knowledge to write and edit for Burke’s Peerage and Debrett’s, co-editing Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage and editing Debrett’s Kings and Queens of Britain

Kings and Queens: National Portrait Gallery

This book takes you through the many rulers of England and Great Britain in chronological order starting with Alfred the Great: it is divided into sections for each dynasty so you can see the transition of the ruling families and varying bloodlines. At the end of each section there is a helpful family tree provided so you can track the movement of the crown through each dynasty. Each biography is accompanied by a full colour portrait of the relevant monarch, sourced from the National Portrait Gallery’s large collection. The portraits develop from profiles on early coinage for the Anglo Saxons to photographs for the later monarchs of the House of Hanover, providing a wonderful insight into the changing nature of art and the way we record our history.

This book is a wonderful introduction to the history of the English monarchy as a whole and highlights the key points of each reign in a very accessible style. However, despite being an overall guide it does not gloss over important information and includes monarchs no matter how short their reign was. One of the highlights is the inclusion of Lady Jane Grey within the Tudor section who ruled for only nine days between King Edward VI and Queen Mary I. Despite her brief rule, and the fact she was never crowned in a coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey, there is still a two page spread enlightening us on her upbringing and the events leading up to her execution at the young age of 16.

To see this, and our many other books relating to the monarchy of Great Britain, please click here.