The Kings and Queens of England

history book series


In 1972 Weidenfeld and Nicholson publishers issued the first volume of ‘The Kings and Queens of England’ series which would grow to be a massive 31 book set. These books were aimed to please both the general reader and those who already were informed about the reign of the monarch assessed in each volume.

Most of the volumes were published between 1972 and 1974, with a few being published as late as 1981. There was also a short run of reprints from 1992 to 1994 of some of the titles which extended the life of the series. The name of whoever was responsible for abandoning the attractive original covers for the newer ones has not been discovered!

Each book was written by a different author, with some authors writing more than one. The general editor was Antonia Fraser who in 1972 was already a well known and best selling historian. Her best known work at that stage was the 1969 biography ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ which is still in print today. She also authored the book in this series on King James IV and I.

In 1975, three years after the series commenced in 1972, a British publisher called Cardinal Books was contracted to release paperback versions of five of the series books. Cardinal was an imprint of Sphere/Macdonald Books and was active from 1973 to 1991. The five series books they published, with covers considerably different to the Weidenfeld and Nicholson hardbacks, were Henry V; Elizabeth I; Charles II; George IV; and Edward VII. Each book bore an abbreviated series attribution, stating: Kings & Queens, General Editor Antonia Fraser. Of these five Cardinal books it is worth noting that George IV was the only one of the five not published in a paperback version in the 1990s when Weidenfeld and Nicholson reissued fourteen of the titles in that format. No evidence was found that Cardinal published any further Kings and Queens of England series titles after these five in 1975.

At least twenty-five of the books were accompanied by a small 32 page booklet called ‘An illustrated guide to places of interest’. It had black and white photos and descriptions of important landmarks mentioned in the text of the main book. Use the link above to see a list of what was published in this sub-series.

Where possible I’ve added the ISBN for each book. Bear in mind that although an ISBN is a unique identifier the number is used for all printings of the same book, so the 1990s reprints of the hardback books in this series with the new-style dust jackets will have the same ISBN as the original 1970s printing.

Even though the series was published from 1972 to 1981 and 31 titles, several monarchs were omitted. There were no books on the first four Henrys, Henry VI, Edward VI, George II, Edward VIII, or Elizabeth II.

The final book in the series (chronologically) was George VI.

The genesis of the series was an idea from Christopher Falkus (the writer of the Charles II volume) to improve the fortunes of the faltering publisher Weidenfeld and Nicholson. He persuaded Antonia Fraser to be the general editor and the series went into production. It was a success - so much so that it continued for nearly all the kings and queens of England.

This site is the product of having to research the titles for my own satisfaction after finding very little information about the books in print or on the internet. It is also an attempt to interest other readers of English and British history into seeking out these books which now are found only in the inventories of used booksellers around the world. It might help in completing your collection or for identifying that one title you didn’t  know existed.


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