Unruly: A History of England’s Kings and Queens

David Mitchell / Non-Fiction

Book cover

UK Publisher

Michael Joseph

US Publisher


Date Published

September 28th, 2023


Taking us right back to King Arthur (spoiler: he didn’t exist), UNRULY tells the founding story of post-Roman England right up to the reign of Elizabeth I (spoiler: she dies) as the monarchy began to lose its power. It’s a tale of narcissists, inadequate self-control, excessive beheadings, middle-management insurrection, uncivil wars, and at least one total Cnut, as the English evolved from having their crops nicked by the thug with the largest armed gang to bowing and paying taxes to a divinely anointed King.

David explores how early England’s monarchs, while acting as feared rulers firmly guiding their subjects’ destinies, were in general as silly and weird in real life as they appear to us today in their portraits. How some people became ‘royal’, who it happened to and why on earth it matters in twenty-first-century Britain are all questions David answers with thoughtfulness and wit.

Watch David the Historian explain it to David the Comedian here.



Just fantastic. Delightfully contrary and hilariously cantankerous. Very, very funny

- Jesse Armstrong, Creator of Succession and Peep Show

Clever, amusing, gloriously bizarre and razor sharp... Here is HORRIBLE HISTORIES for grownups.

- The Times

Clever, funny, makes you think quite differently about history

- Dan Snow, Historian and Broadcaster

This book is like history written on LSD…gloriously bizarre….refreshingly raw.

- Gerard DeGroot in The Times

A very enjoyable, rollicking read.

- Hadley Freeman in The Sunday Times

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