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The British Royal Family 101

By Beth Clark • May 10, 2018

The British royal wedding is fast approaching—only a few sleeps to go. It was only a few years ago when we all skived off work to watch Will and Kate tie the knot. This time is a tad more special. It's rebellious Harry marrying an American actress. Fairytale dreams do come true.

Our marketing team delegated me to write this blog post. The team said I was uniquely qualified because of my Commonwealth passport. And that was before I admitted to remembering hearing when Prince Harry was born (it was the talk of third grade, or Grade Three to put it in Australian). I've also seen the Queen and Prince Philip. Well, the car they were in. It was hard to see anything through the smush of students by the side of the road.

The British Royal family is confusing. Most countries don't have real kings and princesses and have to make do with Disney stories. Fortunately, we have books to answer your questions (and the questions you didn't know you have yet). I promise you will after the wedding, like what's with the hats and handbags.

American Princess by Leslie Carroll

Let's start with the happy couple, Harry and Meghan. The Chicago Tribune describes Leslie Carroll's books on royalty are "an irresistible combination of People Magazine and the History Channel." This makes her the perfect person to write one of the first books about the couple. She goes back over their history and all that lead to this happy moment: Harry's childhood, his mother's death, his young adult days. Chapters alternate with Meghan's story, most of which is new to us. Leslie also describes why this pairing wouldn't have been allowed even a generation ago. Last time a Royal wanted to marry a divorcee it prompted a constitutional crisis. Harry and Meghan are breaking many of the rules and rituals.

Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage by Gyles Brandreth

Harry's childhood wasn't easy with his parents' scandalous divorce and his mother's death, so the strongest relationship example he saw was his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (he's the Queen's consort and husband, not a king). This is the first biography that solely looks at their relationship. Gyles Brandreth sprinkles his book with first-hand anecdotes from the royals themselves—he's personally known Prince Philip for more than 25 years, so you know this is a behind-the-scenes biography.

Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son by Penny Junor

I've always been disappointed that Prince Harry couldn't be king (he's too far down the hierarchy to stand a chance). He was the wild child we all wanted. OK, so that doesn't make good king material, but the party boy is more relatable. Penny Junor describes it as an "occasional not-so-royal indiscretion," but we also heard he's not that good at playing billiards. Discover more about Harry's childhood and how he grew into the amazing man he is today, with some twists and turns. This was published pre-Meghan, so there's no mention of the romance or Harry's recent work raising awareness of mental health issues.

More Books on the Royal Family

The descriptions are courtesy of each book's blurb.

OK, I couldn't resist, here's a bonus one that's actually fiction, but it's quintessentially British. The Queen and I by Sue Townsend tells the story of the Queen and her family being evicted from Buckingham Palace, stripped of their titles, and sent to live on a housing estate in the Midlands. It's a hilarious laugh at the family's adjustment to having to open doors for themselves, and eating boiled eggs instead of caviar. The Queen and I is very tongue-in-cheek and was published in 1992, so the princes are small children and the Queen still has her corgis. RIP, Willow.

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