Biographies of The French Kings

History books in English of the kings of France


This bibliography of the kings of France grew from the creation of the website  Survey of the Yale English Monarchs Series which looks at the publishing history of that series of biographies of the kings of England since its commencement in 1964. Over five decades later nearly every English or British monarch from the first English king Æthelstan to George IV has a scholarly political biography. In compiling that site the paucity of good biographical accounts for French kings in the English language became apparent.

The pages which follow attempt to construct an illustrated bibliography of biographies of French kings in the style of the English Monarchs survey. Many of these kings have no biographer in English and most of these are from the early point in the timeline.

Researching the books on French kings was not as grim a task as it first looked. Twelve kings between Philip II and Louis XVI have no biographers in English. However, for sixteen kings English language biographies were found, and for some kings more than one.  A list is present for consecutive kings with no book to their name and these can be seen in the two ‘Interregnum’ pages.

This bibliography is made with English language speakers in mind. It would be a very different beast were it constructed from a French point of view. With that in mind, each page has a note of the concurrent English monarch. This is for the reference of English speakers who will already be familiar with the kings and queens of England and unfamiliar with those of France. It will assist in knowing where to place the French kings in history. For the moment at least this survey ceases with Louis XVI but perhaps later the restoration period may be added, as indeed might some earlier kings.

Though it will advantage only French speakers, links have been included if a biography in French has been found when there is no biography in English.

We start with Philip II. Philip was the first king to use the title King of France. Prior monarchs were kings of the Franks. It’s a good starting point because Philip was a remarkable king. In another sense there isn’t a choice - no biographies exist in English for the first six Capetians kings (987-1180): Hugh Capet; Robert II; Henry I; Philip I; Louis VI and Louis VII and therefore Philip has to be the starting point! See the Prélude page linked above for general reading suggestions for this early period.


Pygmalion (an imprint of Flammarion in Paris) has produced a series of biographies on French kings called Histoire des rois de France, and French language readers will be delighted to find that there are many books in the series, numbering over one-hundred. These are available from the publisher, the French Amazon store, and no doubt other vendors. A list of titles is provided here.

Go to the first book

Email me here for any comments or suggestions. There have to be some biographies out there not yet encountered.