Kate Williams

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Assistant: Molly Jamieson
Agent: Robert Kirby
Assistant: Kate Walsh

Books

Kate Williams is a historian, author and broadcaster. She is the author of historical biographies, ENGLAND'S MISTRESS ('wonderful', Washington Post), BECOMING QUEEN ('outstanding', Spectator), YOUNG ELIZABETH ('fascinating', Telegraph), JOSEPHINE ('a sparkling account,' The Daily Mail) and the novels, THE PLEASURES OF MEN ('thrilling..a soaring talent let loose', Independent) and THE STORMS OF WAR ('the new Cazalet Chronicles,' Lisa Hilton). She wrote THE RING AND THE CROWN on the history of royal weddings with fellow history girls, Alison Weir, Sarah Gristwood and Tracy Borman.

She studied her degree and DPhil at Somerville College, Oxford and is now the Director of Life Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.

She appears weekly on television and radio, discussing social history, royal history and general politics and culture. She was the social historian on BBC2's Restoration Home and her BBC 2 documentary 'Young Victoria is often repeated. She is CNN's in-house historian and analyst. She reviews and writes often for newspapers and magazines and lives in London.

Praise for Kate Williams:

'Historian Extraordinaire', John Humphries, Today Programme.

'One of our finest young historians', Independent

'History at its best', Guardian

'One of the brightest and the best,' Dr David Starkey, Evening Standard

Current Publication:

HOUSE OF SHADOWS, Orion:

The final compelling historical saga concluding a trilogy that began with Storms of War and The Edge of the Fall, from popular TV historian and critically-acclaimed author Kate Williams.

Celia De Witt is half-German, half-English and heir to her family's vast fortune. But it is 1929, the world is changing and her life seems less secure than ever. A shocking revelation from her father sends her far from England and the life she knew and headlong into New York, a city brimming with money and promise.

Celia sets about saving the family firm by creating an innovative new range of convenience foods for the new generation of independent young women. But she also has other plans. The son she thought was dead is in America and the man she once thought she loved is nearby - but if she opens the Pandora's Box of the past, she may find other secrets will escape...

Upcoming publication:
 
 
Kate Williams’s thrilling new history tells the story of Elizabeth I of England and her betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots. At the end of the Tudor era, here were two women on two thrones. But this was a man’s world and many believed that no woman should govern. All around Elizabeth and Mary were sycophants, spies and detractors who wanted their power, their favour and their bodies. And so they became one another’s closest confidants in the struggle to be both women and queens.

Alliances were few, but for many years theirs survived – until the forces rising against them, and the struggles of love and dynasty, drove them apart. It was a schism that would end in secret assassination plots, devastating betrayal and, eventually, the signing of Mary’s death warrant in Elizabeth’s hand.

Kate Williams’ Rivals Queens offers an electrifying new perspective on Elizabeth and Mary, and the most important relationship of their lives – that which they had with one another.

 
Reviews:
"A beautifully conjured family saga. Fans of DOWNTON ABBEY will love it." Alison Weir on House of Shadows.
 
"Brilliant - a passionate and poignant story of a glittering family on the precipice of a vanished world. Spellbinding, gripping and beautiful - a must read . . . the new CAZALET CHRONICLES." Lisa Hilton
 
["An] all-encompassing, sweeping epic. It's a book to get immersed in for hours at a time . . . powerful . . . a wonderful achievement." (Katherine Webb)
 
"A wonderful evocation of a family torn apart by war, packed with drama and written with a sensitive warmth and fantastic historical insight." Imogen Robertson
 
"Shades of Downton, with a dash of Atonement." Tatler
 
"An epic story." Sunday Telegraph
 
"Every time I read a good biography of Mary, Queen of Scots, I fall hopelessly in love again... [Rival Queens] has something that sets it apart - an acute reminder that, underneath all that finery, Mary was just a woman' - Gerald DeGroot, Times Ireland
 
"Kate has looked past tired stereotypes to give fresh insights into Mary's tumultuous life and death" Anna Burnside, Daily Record
 
"Williams is too good a historian for melodramatic sentimentality; trusting the historical detail, the reader can relax into a well-paced, truly affecting narrative . . . Richly detailed, light of foot, Williams tantalises with loose ends and disturbs with shocking shadows." Independent
 
This terrific saga comes with a fascinating twist ... Williams has a gift for showing how great movements in history affect the lives of people caught up in them. Kate Saunders, The Times
 
"Williams keeps her story moving and the result is a vivid portrait of a perennially fascinating period of history."Stephanie Merritt, The Observer
 
"Wartime-saga lovers will be kept on their toes to the end." Daily Mail
"The book flows and jumps, taking the reader by the hand through tormented times in French history without ever letting you go or losing itself in the intricacies of French politics. . .  Williams' . . . serious and thorough investigation is presented in an accessible and playful way." The Times

"Kate Williams’s entrancing biography of Josephine is a sparkling account of this most fallible and endearing of women." Daily Mail

"* * * *" The Daily Telegraph

"That Josephine was able to weather the storms that beset her throughout her eventful life is a testament to a determination that history has often underestimated, but which receives full credit in this scintillating new biography. . . Kate Williams illuminates with skill." Country Life

"THE PLEASURES OF MEN shares with Wolf Hall an ambitious, challenging concern with form combined with a pitch-perfect historical ear... This intoxicating and disturbing novel is properly thrilling and extraordinarily well-written. Kate Williams is already an accomplished biographer; The Pleasures of Men shows a soaring talent let loose." Independent

"Intense, intelligent and hugely entertaining, THE PLEASURES OF MEN will add Williams to the ranks of queens of contemporary fiction" Guardian

"Sumptuous period detail and a narrative crammed with intrigue and speculation, this is the debut novel Kate Williams was born to write" Sunday Telegraph

‘This is accomplished history, told with literary grace and intellectual confidence. Even the most fervent anti-monarchist might warm to this history about the young, pragmatic and reserved ‘Lilibet’. BBC History Magazine

"Kate Williams has excelled herself. One is engaged from the very first line. She has perfected the art of historical biography and her pacy writing is underpinned by the most impeccable scholarship. This fresh and vivid portrayal of the young Queen Victoria is deserving of the highest praise. I cannot recommend it highly enough." Alison Weir

"BECOMING QUEEN showcases an oustanding talent, from which we can expect much more." Spectator Books of the Year

"The amazing untold story of Victoria before she was Queen...Kate Williams reveals a passionate young woman beloved of her future subjects but at war with her family." Sunday Telegraph

"The first self-made superstar, the first manipulative media celebrity, dazzling Europe with her style and beauty as muse to artists and mistress to Nelson. Emma famously gets her comeuppance, and her headlong flight to romantic destruction is told with novelistic dash." Times Book of the Year

Sparkling like Emma's pawned diamonds, this biography, drawing on quantities of unmined material, finally makes us understand why Nelson needed to be prised out of Emma's embrace. Expect a catfight over who gets to play Emma in the Hollywood movie which is surely destined to follow." Daily Mail

'Downton fans will love the elegance, intrigue and drama of The House of Shadows'  Yours magazine

'A rocket of a historical novel' - The Lady magazine

Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2014

Orion

In the idyllic early summer of 1914, life is good for the de Witt family. German Rudolf and his aristocratic English wife Verena are planning the wedding of their daughter, Emmeline, while their eldest son Arthur is studying in Paris and Michael is just back from his first term at Cambridge. Celia, the youngest of the de Witt children, is on the brink of adulthood, and secretly dreams of escaping her carefully mapped out future and exploring the world.

But with the onslaught of war, the de Witts find themselves in danger of losing everything they hold dear. As Celia struggles to make sense of the changing world around her, she lies about her age to join the war effort and finds herself embroiled in a complex plot that puts her and those she loves in danger.

With gripping detail and brilliant empathy, Kate Williams tells the story of Celia and her family as they are shunned by a society that previously embraced them, torn apart by sorrow, and buffeted and changed by the storms of war.

2012

Penguin

Spitalfields, 1840.

A murderer nicknamed The Man of Crows.

A heroine with a mysterious past and a vivid imagination.

Catherine Sorgeiul lives with her Uncle in a rambling house in London's East End. When a murderer strikes, ripping open the chests of young girls and stuffing hair into their mouths to resemble a crow's beak, Catherine is fascinated, and devours news of his exploits.

As the murders cause panic throughout the city, she comes to believe she can channel the voices of his victims and that they will lead her to The Man himself. But she's already far closer than she realises - and lurking behind the lies she's been told about her past are secrets more deadly and devastating than anything her imagination can conjure

Non-Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2013

Hutchinson

The incredible rise and unbelievable fall of Josephine, a mistress, courtesan and Revolutionary heroine whose energy and ambition has often been overshadowed by Napoleon's military might. Historian Kate Williams, author of Becoming Queen, tells Josephine's searing story of sexual obsession, politics and surviving as a woman in a man's world.

Abandoned in Paris by her aristocratic husband, Josephine's future did not look promising. But while her friends and contemporaries were sent to the guillotine during the Terror that followed the Revolution, she survived prison and emerged as the doyenne of a wildly debauched party scene, surprising everybody when she encouraged the advances of a short, marginalised Corsican soldier, six years her junior.

Josephine, the fabulous hostess and skilled diplomat, was the perfect consort to the ambitious but obnoxious Napoleon. With her by his side, he became the greatest man in Europe, the Supreme Emperor; and she amassed a jewellery box with more diamonds than Marie Antoinette's. But as his fame grew, Napoleon became increasingly obsessed with his need for an heir and irritated with Josephine's extravagant spending. The woman who had enchanted France became desperate and jealous. Until, a divorcee aged forty-seven, she was forced to watch from the sidelines as Napoleon and his young bride produced a child.

2013

Phoenix

We can hardly imagine a Britain without Elizabeth II on the throne. It seems to be the job she was born for. And yet for much of her early life the young princess did not know the role that her future would hold.

Kate Williams explores the sheltered upbringing of the young princess, her complicated relationship with her sister, Princess Margaret, and her dependence on her nanny. She details the profound and devastating impact of the abdication crisis, where at the impressionable age of ten, Elizabeth's position changed overnight: she was now heiress to the throne.

Elizabeth's monarchy would be a very different one to that of her parents and grandparents. As Kate Williams shows, its continuing popularity in the twenty-first century owes much to the intelligence, fortitude and elusive personality of this remarkable woman.

2011

Hutchinson

As the wedding of William and Kate approaches, this book takes an informative and entertaining look at royal weddings through English history

2010

Hutchsinson

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, monarchies across Europe found themselves in crisis. With mad King George III and his delinquent offspring tarnishing the realm, the English pinned their hopes on the only legitimate heir to the throne: the lovely and prudent Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince of Wales and granddaughter of the king. Sadly, those dreams faded when, at age twenty-one, she died after a complicated pregnancy and stillbirth. While a nation grieved, Charlotte’s power-hungry uncles plotted quickly to produce a new heir. Only the Duke of Kent proved successful in his endeavor, with the birth of a girl named Victoria.

Writing with a combination of novelistic flair and historical precision, Williams reveals an energetic and vibrant woman in the prime of her life, while chronicling the byzantine machinations behind Victoria’s struggle to occupy the throne—scheming that continued even after the crown was placed on her head.

Upon hearing of the death of her predecessor, King William IV, Victoria—in her bold first act as queen—banished her overambitious mother from the room, a simple yet resolute move that would set the tone for her reign. The queen clashed constantly not only with her mother and her mother’s adviser, the Irish adventurer John Conroy, but with her ministers and even her beloved Prince Albert, all of whom, in one way or another, attempted to seize control from her.
By connecting Charlotte’s sad fate to Victoria’s majestic rule, Kate Williams lays bare the passions that swirled around the throne—the court secrets, the sexual repression, and the endless intrigue. The result is a grand and satisfying tale of a woman whose destiny began long before she was born and whose legacy lives on.

2007

Hutchinson

A dramatic, sparkling tale of sex, glamour, intrigue, romance and heartbreak, ENGLAND'S MISTRESS traces the rise and rise of the gorgeous Emma Hamilton.

Born into poverty, she clawed her way up through London's underworlds of sex for sale to become England's first media superstar. Nothing could stand in the way of her dreams- except her self-destructive desires.

Drawing on hundreds of previously undiscovered letters, and told with a novelist's flair, England's Mistress captures the relentless drive, innovative style and burning passion of a true heroine. In a world of tabloid fame and three-minute wonders, Emma's life is truly a tale for our time.