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Royalty in Spain

Spain's King Juan Carlos ascended the throne in 1975. His wife, Queen Sofia, was born a Greek princess. Married in 1962, they had two daughters, Infanta Elena and Infanta Cristina, and a son, Felipe.

Prince Felipe married former television journalist Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano in 2004. Their first child, a girl named Leonor, was born in October 2005. Their second child, Sofía, was born in April 2007.

In 2014, King Juan Carlos decided to abdicate. His son was proclaimed King Felipe VI on June 19, 2014. The heir to the throne is Felipe's eldest child, Leonor, Princess of Asturias. After the abdication, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia retained the titles king and queen. In 2020, amid scandals and investigations, Juan Carlos went into exile.

King Juan Carlos

King Juan Carlos of Spain
Photo © 2007 by Aleph. License

Books About Spanish Royalty

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Categories: Juan Carlos, History, Visigoths, Medieval, Aragon, Castile, Alfonso X, Al-Andalus, Inquisition, Isabella I, Joanna the Mad, Charles I, Philip II, 17th & 18th Centuries, Philip III, Philip IV, 19th & 20th Centuries, Bourbons, Habsburgs, Palaces & Art, Royalty & Theater, the Americas, Portugal

King Juan Carlos & Family

Juan Carlos: Steering Spain From Dictatorship to Democracy by Paul Preston. A 2004 biography of Spain's King Juan Carlos, who matured from a playful prince into the king who defended Spain's democracy.

The King: A Life of Juan Carlos of Spain by Jose Luis De Vilallonga. A 1994 biography of the calm man who starved off the 1981 military coup and went on to become the architect of the modern Spanish state.

Ladies of Spain by Andrew Morton. A look at the lives of Queen Sofía, wife of King Juan Carlos; their daughters, Elena and Cristina; and Letizia, wife of Juan Carlos's son, Felipe. This book is in Spanish.

La Soledad de la Reina - Sofia: Una Vida by Pilar Eyre. Biography of the queen of Spain, "a woman cold outside but passionate inside, with a difficult childhood and an adulthood full of deception and suffering." This book is in Spanish.

Adiós, Princesa by David Rocasolano. A tell-all book about Princess (now Queen) Letizia written by her cousin. This book is in Spanish.

Spanish History

Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain by Brian A. Catlos. How Muslims, Christians, and Jews built a sophisticated civilization between the 7th century and the 17th century even as they waged relentless war against each other and themselves.

Rivers of Gold by Hugh Thomas. The rise of the Spanish empire, from Columbus to Magellan. Followed by two sequels, The Golden Empire and World Without End.

Empire: How Spain Became a World Power, 1492-1763 by Henry Kamen. Recreates the dazzling world of imperial Spain, including its expansion into Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Imperial Spain 1469-1716 by John H. Elliot. Study of the sudden rise of a barren and isolated country to be the greatest power on earth, and its equally sudden decline.

A Concise History of Spain by William D. Phillips Jr. and Carla Rahn Phillips. A survey of Spain's complex history from prehistoric times to the modern era, with illustrations and maps.

The Story of Spain by Mark Williams. A brief, readable account of the country's rich history.

Polycentric Monarchies edited by Pedro Cardim, Tamar Herzog), José Javier Ruiz Ibáñez and Gaetano Sabatini. How early modern Spain and Portugal achieved and maintaind a global hegemony.

Books About the History of Portugal

Books About the Habsburgs

Visigothic Kings of Hispania

Visigothic Spain 409-711 by Roger Collins. Between the end of Roman rule in the early fifth century and the Arab conquest in the eighth, Spain was ruled by the Visigoths. This book looks at how the Visigothic kingdom was governed, the Arab conquest, and the rise of Spain as an intellectual force. I found it very interesting.

King Sisebut and the Culture of Visigothic Spain by John Martyn. Explores the intersection of the political and the religious in medieval times. Includes translations of selected letters of Sisebut, Sisebut's poetry, lives of saints Desiderius and Masona, and more.

The King and the Whore: King Roderick and La Cava by Elizabeth Drayson. King Roderic was an 8th century Visigoth king of Hispania. This book explores the legends about his relationship with a woman called La Cava.

A Chronicle of the Kings of the Visigoths: From Alraric to the Moorith Conquest (395-737 A.D.) by Malcolm Drew Donalson. Sorry, so far I can't find a description of this book.

Medieval Rulers

Caliphs and Kings: Spain, 796-1031 by Roger Collins. Investigates a time in Spanish history when Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in apparent harmony. Includes a broad treatment of the tenure of the Umayyad dynasty in Spain.

Queenship and Political Power in Medieval and Early Modern Spain edited by Theresa Earenfight. The essays in this collection demonstrate the range and depth of current research on Iberian queenship, and re-examine long-held assumptions about women and power in pre-modern Spain.


Transforming the State by Marta Vanlandingham. King, court, and political culture in the realms of Aragon, 1213-1387.

The Mediterranean World of Alfonso II and Peter II of Aragon by Ernest E. Jenkins. How Alfonso II (1162-1196) and his son Peter II (1196-1213) of Aragon forged a tighter Mediterranean regional network.

Power, Piety, and Patronage in Late Medieval Queenship: Maria de Luna by Nuria Silleras-Fernandez. Biography of María de Luna, wife of King Martin I of Aragon.

Elionor of Sicily, 1325-1375: A Mediterranean Queen of Two Worlds by Donald J. Kagay. Third wife of the King Peter IV of Aragon, Elionor was extremely active as a queen, feudal lord, and energetic builder of royal sites.

A Kingdom of Stargazers: Astrology and Authority in the Late Medieval Crown of Aragon by Michael A. Ryan. About 14th century kings and their astrologers.

The Chronicle of San Juan de la Pena translated by Lynn H. Nelson. A 14th century official history of the Crown of Aragon. Extensive notes explain critical passages and point out historical inaccuracies.

Kingship and Propaganda: Royal Eloquence and the Crown of Aragon C.1200-1450 by Suzanne F. Cawsey. Looks at letters of the kings and queens of Aragon and their advisers.

The King's Other Body: Maria of Castile and the Crown of Aragon by Theresa Earenfight. Queen María of Castile, wife of Alfonso V of Aragon, governed Catalunya in the mid-15th century with powers equivalent to the king's. This book is both a biography and an analysis of her political partnership with her husband.

Anti-Jewish Riots in the Crown of Aragon and the Royal Response, 1391-1392 by Benjamin R. Gampel. Explores why the royal family's authority failed to protect the Jews during devastating riots in Castile and Aragon.

Castile and Leon

The Queen's Hand: Power and Authority in the Reign of Berenguela of Castile by Janna Bianchini. Berenguela of Castile (1180-1246) inherited the Castilian throne, elevated her son, Fernando III, to kingship and ruled alongside him.

Berenguela the Great and Her Times (1180-1246) by Salvador H Martínez, translated by Odile Cisneros. Biography of Queen Berengaria of Castile, who dominated public life for over 40 years.

María de Molina, Queen and Regent: Life and Rule in Castile-León, 1259-1321 by Paulette Pepin. Biography of the wife of King Sancho IV, who protected the throne of her son Fernando IV and her grandson Alfonso XI.

Knights on the Frontier: The Moorish Guard of the Kings of Castile (1410-1467) by Ana Echevarria. The kings of Castile maintained a personal cavalry guard in the 15th century.

King Alfonso VIII of Castile: Government, Family, and War edited by Miguel Gómez, Kyle C. Lincoln, and Damian Smith. During his 57-year reign, Alfonso VIII was at the epicenter of dramatic events.

Alfonso X, King of Castile and Leon

The Wise King: A Christian Prince, Muslim Spain, and the Birth of the Renaissance by Simon R. Doubleday. A biography of Alfonso X, the 13th-century philosopher-king sith an affinity for Islamic culture.

Alfonso X, the Justinian of His Age: Law and Justice in Thirteenth-Century Castile by Joseph F. O'Callaghan. This legal and historical biography highlights the struggles the king faced in creating an all-embracing body of law.

Alfonso X, the Learned by H. Salvador Martinez. Biography of 13th century king of Castile, León and Galicia.

The Triumph of an Accursed Lineage: Kingship in Castile From Alfonso X to Alfonso XI (1252-1350) by Fernando Arias Guillén. How Alfonso XI ended the internal turmoil which plagued Castile.

Alfonso X, the Cortes, and Government in Medieval Spain by Joseph F. O'Callaghan. A collection of essays covering the Cortes and royal taxation, the economic and financial policies of Alfonso the Learned, kings and lords in conflict, and more.

Alfonso X & Literature

Alfonso X and the Cantigas De Santa Maria: A Poetic Biography by Joseph F. O'Callaghan. In the "Cantigas de Santa Maria," a collection of more than 400 poems in praise of the Virgin Mary, Alfonso X tells us about his family, his war against the Muslims, the treachery of the nobility, and more.

Songs of Holy Mary of Alfonso X, the Wise: A Translation of the Cantigas De Santa Maria by Alfonso X, translated by Kathleen Kulp-Hill.

Alfonso X: El Sabio: Cantigas De Loor by Alfonso X, edited by Martin G. Cunningham. An edition for performers and scholars of the "Cantigas de Loor," a sub-corpus of the "Cantigas of Santa Maria." Includes a chapter on the pronunciation of medieval Galician.

Supernatural in Early Spain Studied in the Works of the Court of Alfonso X, El Sabio by Frank Callcott. Analyzes references made in the works of Alfonso X to the supernatural.

Alfonso X of Castile-León: Royal Patronage, Self-Promotion and Manuscripts in Thirteenth-Century Spain by Kristin Kennedy. Argues that Alfonso preferred to restrict the literary works he commissioned to a courtly audience.

Chronicle of Alfonso X by Fernan Sanchez De Valladolid, translated by Shelby Thacker and Jose Escobar. Alfonso X, the Wise (1221-1284), king of Castille and Leon from 1252, is noted as a patron of science and the arts. This is a translation of the "Chronica de Alfonso X," commisioned by Alfonso XI in the 14th century to memorialize his grandfather.

Al-Andalus and Granada

Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus by Hugh Kennedy. The first study in English of the political history of Muslim Spain and Portugal based on Arab sources. It covers the region from 711 to the fall of Granada in 1492.

The Ornament of the World by Maria Rosa Menocal. How Muslims, Jews and Christians created a culture of tolerance in Medieval Spain.

Granada: A Pomegranate in the Hand of God by Steven Nightingale. During the Middle Ages, Moslems, Jews, and Christians, lived together in Granada.

Court of Lions: A Novel by Jane Johnson. This romantic saga tells the dual stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada.

The Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition by Cecil Roth. History of the Spanish Inquisition, which from its establishment in 1478 until its abolishment in 1834 relentlessly sought to destroy everyone who was not a Roman Catholic Christian.

Inquisition: The Reign of Fear by Toby Green. Who were the Inquisition's targets? How and where did it operate? Why was it founded, and why did it last for so long? This book focuses on the stories of people from all walks of life who were affected by the Inquisition.

God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World by Cullen Murphy. Established by the Catholic Church in 1231, the Inquisition continued for almost 700 years. It pioneered surveillance, censorship, and "scientific" interrogation.

Ferdinand and Isabella

Books About Queen Isabella I
Books About Joanna the Mad
Books About Katherine of Aragon

Spanish Habsburgs

The Spanish Habsburgs and Dynastic Rule, 1500-1700 by Elisabeth Geevers. Focuses on the Habsburg as a family group and how family dynamics gave rise to practices and roles.

Charles I (Emperor Charles V)

The Golden Empire: Spain, Charles V and the Creation of America by Hugh Thomas. King Charles V exceeded his predecessors in his ambitions for conquest. At first he tried to maintain the humanity of his new subjects in the Americas, but in the end he was interested only in profit.

Charles V and the Castilian Assembly of the Clergy: Negotiations for the Ecclesiastical Subsidy by Sean T. Perrone. Illuminates the limits of royal control over the church in 16th century Castile.

The Empire of the Cities: Emperor Charles V, the Comunero Revolt, and the Transformation of the Spanish System by Aurelio Espinosa. Provides insight into the monarchical government, royal institutions and management procedures under Emperor Charles V.

More Books About Charles V

King Philip II

Philip of Spain by Henry Arthur Francis Kamen. Biography drawing on unpublished correspondence and other archival sources.

Philip of Spain, King of England: The Forgotten Sovereign by Harry Kelsey. The life of Spain's King Philip II. According to this book, during his marriage to Mary Tudor, Philip was an active king of England.

Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II by Geoffrey Parker. A biography of Spain's King Felipe II, husband of England's Queen Mary I, based on documents that have changed significantly what we know about him.

Philip II by Patrick Williams. Looks at Philip's government and the pressures of his tortured private life, exploring the paradox of a prudent young ruler who became extraordinarily aggressive in old age, reshaping the world through his successes and failures.

World Without End: Spain, Philip II, and the First Global Empire by Hugh Thomas. Chronicles the lives, loves, conflicts, and conquests of the men and women who carved up the Americas for the glory of Spain.

The Courtier and the King: Ruy Gómez de Silva, Philip II, and the Court of Spain by James M. Boyden. Thanks to his oily affability, Ruy Gómez de Silva rose from obscurity to become the favorite and chief minister of the enigmatic Philip II.

Philip II of Spain and the Architecture of Empire by Laura Fernández-González. Philip II of Spain was a major patron of the arts, known for his magnificent palace and mausoleum.

A King Travels: Festive Traditions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain by Teofilo F. Ruiz. The scripting and performance of festivals in Spain between 1327 and 1620.

Philip and Mary I

Mary and Philip: The Marriage of Tudor England and Habsburg Spain by Alexander Samson. Argues for Mary as a great Catholic queen while fleshing out Philip's important contributions in England.

More Books About Mary I


For a Queen's Love: The Stories of the Royal Wives of Philip II by Jean Plaidy. The story of Philip II of Spain: fanatic, murderer, husband, father, and lover. First published in 1954 as "The Spanish Bridegroom."

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen. Novel based on the story of artist Sofonisba Anguissola at the court of King Felipe II.

Modern Era

Monarchy and Liberalism in Spain: The Building of the Nation-State, 1780-1931 edited by David San Narciso, Margarita Barral Martínez, and Carolina Armenteros. Essays discuss the eve of the French Revolution, the unstable reign of Isabel II, the republican monarchy of Amadeo I, and Alfonso XIII's expulsion from Spain.

17th and 18th Centuries

The Resilience of the Spanish Monarchy 1665-1700 by Christopher Storrs. A new appraisal of the reasons for the survival of Spain and its empire under the last Spanish Habsburg, Carlos II.

The Prince and the Infanta: The Cultural Politics of the Spanish Match by Glyn Redworth. The struggle of a 17th century Prince of Wales to win a Spanish princess as his bride.

Habsburg Madrid: Architecture and the Spanish Monarchy by Jesús Escobar. Madrid took on a grander public face in the 17th century, creating a court space for residents and visitors.

Voices of Conscience by Nicole Reinhardt. Royal confessors and political counsel in 17th century Spain and France.

Politics and Piety at the Royal Sites of the Spanish Monarchy in the Seventeenth Century edited by Jose Eloy Hortal Munoz. Institutions under royal control included residences, convent-palaces, and monasteries.

King Philip III

Raised to Rule: Educating Royalty at the Court of the Spanish Habsburgs, 1601-1634 by Martha K. Hoffman. Draws on palace rulebooks, chronicles, household accounts, correspondence, and other documents of the time.

The Empress, the Queen, and the Nun by Magdalena S. Sanchez is about three powerful women in the court of Philip III of Spain -- Empress Maria, Margaret of Austria, and Margaret of the Cross.

England and Spain in the Early Modern Era by Óscar Alfredo Ruiz Fernández. Royal love, diplomacy, trade and naval relations, under Philip III and Philip IV, 1604-25.

The Great Favourite: The Duke of Lerma and the Court and Government of Philip III of Spain, 1598-1621 by Patrick Williams. Biography of Francisco Gómez de Sandoval, Duke of Lerma (1553-1625).

King Philip IV

Philip IV and the Government of Spain, 1621-1665 by R. A. Stradling. The political history of Philip's reign and the role of the king.

Royal Favouritism and the Governing Elite of the Spanish Monarchy, 1640-1665 by Alistair Malcolm. A study of the later years of the reign of Philip IV from the perspective of his favourite (valido), don Luis Mendez de Haro, and other ministers.

A Palace for a King: The Buen Retiro and the Court of Philip IV by Jonathan Brown and Sir John Elliott. The Buen Retiro, a royal pleasure palace, was built for Philip IV of Spain in the 1630s. This is a total history of its construction, decoration, and use.

Paintings for the Planet King: Philip IV and the Buen Retiro Palace edited by Andres Ubeda De Los Cobos. Philip IV of Spain (r. 1621-65) was known as the Planet King. This book is a guide the 800 paintings by master artists that once hung in his Buen Retiro Palace. Illustrated.

Charles II

Queen, Mother, and Stateswoman: Mariana of Austria and the Government of Spain by Silvia Z. Mitchell. When Philip IV of Spain died in 1665, his heir, Carlos II, was three years old. This book is an account of his mother's ten-year regency and her subsequent role as queen mother.

Philip V

Philip V of Spain: The King Who Reigned Twice by Henry Arthur Francis Kamen. Sympathetic biography of the 18th century Spanish king who suffered from depression (and sometimes thought he was a frog). The title refers to the fact that Philip abdicated in favor of his son but later returned to the throne.

Patrons, Partisans, and Palace Intrigues: The Court Society of Colonial Mexico 1702-1710 by Christoph Rosenmüller. Appointed viceroy of New Spain by King Philip V, the Duke of Alburquerque thwarted Spanish reform efforts and persecuted local craftsmen and merchants. In the end, a clique at the royal court in Madrid sought revenge.

19th and 20th Centuries

Modernizing the Nation by Javier Moreno Luzón. A short history of Spain during the reign of Alfonso XIII, 1902-1931.

Ena: Spain's English Queen by Gerald Noel. Biography of Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, nicknamed Ena. A granddaughter of Queen Victoria, she married Spain's King Alfonso XIII.

Ena and Bee: Queen Victoria's Spanish Granddaughters by Ana de Sagrera. Princess Eugenia of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg married into Spain's royal family.

Royal Vendetta: The Crown of Spain 1829-1965 by Theo Aronson. The story of the fight for the throne of Spain between the Bourbon and Carlist pretenders.

Raising Heirs to the Throne in Nineteenth-Century Spain: The Education of the Constitutional Monarch by Richard Meyer Forsting. About Isabel II (1830-1904), Alfonso XII (1857-1885) and Alfonso XIII (1886-1941) during their time as monarchs-in-waiting.

The Reign in Spain: Fall & Rise of the Spanish Monarchy by W. Kristjan Arnold. How the monarchy fell in the 1930s, how royalists schemed to get the throne back, and how that goal was achieved.

Royalty and Theater

Majesty and Humanity: Kings and Their Doubles in the Political Drama of the Spanish Golden Age by Alban K. Forcione. In an age of regal spectacles, Spanish theater showed a surprising preoccupation with the disrobing of the king, reflecting a struggle to reconcile the monarch and the man.

Gendering the Crown in the Spanish Baroque Comedia by Maria Cristina Quintero. Playwrights such as Pedro Calderon de la Barca and Francisco Bances Cadamo repeatedly staged fantasies of feminine rule.

Monarchy, Political Culture and Drama in Seventeenth-Century Madrid: Theater of Negotiation by Jodi Campbell. Analyzes portrayals of kingship during the age of absolutism. Spanish popular theater is shown to favor the idea of reciprocal obligations between subjects and monarch.

Spanish Palaces and Art


Spanish Splendor: Great Palaces, Castles, and Country Homes by Juan José Junquera y Matos and Enrique Ruspoli y Morenés, photographs by Roberto Schezen. Visits more than 30 historically significant properties, from Aragon, Galicia, and the Basque regions in the north to the central cities of Madrid and Toledo, from the fabled Andalusian cities of Seville and Granada in the south to the Catalan capital, Barcelona.

Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain by D. Fairchild Ruggles. A history of the gardens and palatine architecture of Islamic Spain.

The Alhambra: From Darkness to Light photos by Adrian Tyler. Photographs of the palace built by Moorish rulers in Spain during the Middle Ages.

Gardens of the Alhambra by Maria del Mar Villafranca-Jiménez. A comprehensive book illustrated with photos, plans, and previously unpublished archive material.

The Royal Chapel in the Time of the Habsburgs: Music and Court Ceremony in Early Modern Europe edited by Tess Knighton, Juan José Carreras, Bernardo Garcéa García. The royal chapel established by Philip II in Madrid was a central institution of royal power until well into the 18th century. Using it as a focus, the essays in this illustrated volume examine the development of the main court chapels of Europe.


The Escoriál: Art and Power in the Renaissance by Henry Kamen. Looks at King Philip II's motives for building the Escorial, a Spanish royal palace, and the meaning of its design.

Resplendence of the Spanish Monarchy by Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, Concha Herrero Carretero, and Jose A. Godoy. Renaissance tapestries and armor from Spain's royal sites.

Framing Majismo: Art and Royal Identity in Eighteenth-Century Spain by Tara Zanardi. How the popularity of traditional Spanish customs and garment helped the Bourbons fashion themselves as the legitimate rulers of Spain. Illustrated.

The Art of Power: Royal Armour and Portraits From Imperial Spain published by TF Editores. Catalogue for a Washington National Gallery of Art exhibition of armor and paintings from the collection of the Royal Palace in Madrid.

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