On February 6th, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to reach her Sapphire Jubilee. A 41-gun salute in the center of London honored the Queen’s 65 years on the throne. There was no public celebration and it is suspected that the next large-scale jubilee celebration is being saved for her Platinum Jubilee in 2022 which will mark 70 years on the throne.
In honor of her majesty’s long reign, keep reading for 10 books about other great queens of history.
1. The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick
This novel is the first in a series about Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor was 13 when she was married off to Prince Louis of France. Over the course of her life, she became one of the most influential queens of the middle ages.
2. Child of the Morning by Pauline Gedge
Hatshepsut was a ruler who was nearly erased from history. She does not appear on dynastic scrolls nor is her reign celebrated in the great monuments of Egypt. But at one point, Hatshepsut was the first and only woman to rule Egypt as Pharaoh.
3. Maria Theresa by Edward Crankshaw
When Maria Theresa of Austria came to the throne in 1740 at the age of 23, her empire was in ruins. It was bankrupt with barely an army to protect it as half of Europe was coming to tear it apart. Armed with only her charm and will, Marie Theresa completely turned around an empire.
4. The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton
The great Empress Theodora began as anything but. After the death of her father at a young age, Theodora makes a living in the only way she can; first as a prostitute, and then as an actress. Her rise does not end there. She soon becomes a concubine to the Emperor’s nephew, with the crown in her sights.
5. Empress by Shan Sa
Like Hatshepsut and Theodora earlier on this list, Empress Wu Zeitian of China had humble beginnings. After becoming a concubine in the Forbidden City, Wu Zeitian rose through the ranks to become the first and only female emperor. While some have tried to distort her story, her legacy of ushering China into a golden age has never been erased.
6. The Queen’s Vow by C. W. Gortner
Isabella of Castile was a queen who shaped not only a nation, but the world. This novel begins as Isabella and her brother are taken from their mother to live in the court of their half-brother, King Enrique.
7. The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir
No list dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II would be complete with the other English queen by the same name. Queen Elizabeth I was an unlikely heir to the throne with two siblings in line before her. This biography details her rise to the throne, her illustrious reign, and attempts to shed light on her guarded personal life.
8. Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang
At the age of 16, Cixi was chosen as a concubine to the Chinese Emperor. After the death of her husband, their 5-year-old son was the heir to the dynasty. At once, Cixi staged a coup against the appointed regents and became the true ruler of China. She ended up ruling for decades and brought China into the modern era.
9. Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
Despite being born into German nobility, Catherine II became one of the most notable figures in Russian history. This biography follows Catherine the Great in the creation of a golden age of the Russian empire.
10. Becoming Queen Victoria by Kate Williams
There is only one other Queen of England who has ruled nearly as long as Queen Elizabeth. This novel follows Queen Victoria from a young age, through her long and prosperous reign.
What would you do if you were Queen or King for the day?
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