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They Never Reigned-bookcover

By: Blair Hoffman

They Never Reigned

Pages: 250 Ratings: 5.0
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British kings and queens are famous today. But many heirs to the British throne never became the actual king or queen due to various quirks of fate. This is their story. The stories include the oldest son of William the Conqueror, who lost the chance to become king because he was off fighting in the First Crusade; the White Ship disaster of 1120, England’s medieval Titanic, in which the sole male heir to the throne, and many others, drowned; an intrepid woman who nearly became queen in her own right four centuries before a woman actually did so; two princes who should have become a second King Arthur; the romantic warrior known to history as the Black Prince; the Princes in the Tower, who were supposedly murdered by King Richard III; the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots, beheaded by Queen Elizabeth I after an utterly unfair trial; James, who was born the heir and then was overthrown while still a baby, and was later known as the Old Pretender; a beloved Nineteenth Century princess who tragically died in childbirth at the age of 21; and many more.

Who suspected that the heirs who never reigned are every bit as interesting as those who did reign?

Blair Hoffman was a judicial staff attorney with the California Supreme Court for many years, until his recent retirement. History, and especially medieval English history, has fascinated him since his youth. In addition to his work as an appellate attorney, he authored a murder mystery, Murder for the Prosecution, and has written various legal articles. This is his first foray into writing about history since his university days. He lives in Moraga, California, with his wife of over four decades, Peggy. His daughter and son have blessed him with three cute and adorable grandchildren.

Customer Reviews
3 reviews
3 reviews

    I had very high hopes for Blair Hoffman‘s most recent book, and I was certainly thrilled to see that the book justified my expectations!
    If you are someone who enjoyed “The Crown” on Netflix, or the musical “Six” in the theater, then this backstory, which brings to light a very unusual aspect of British history, is just the thing to immerse oneself in. I really enjoyed the way this book made the “almost reigns” of history come to life, even, occasionally, after more than 1000 years!
    It also would make a wonderful gift for any Anglophile on your list—I plan to order more copies!
    Linda Friedman

  • Richard Waters

    As a Brit with an average knowledge of history, I was captivated by this hugely enjoyable romp through an alternative history of the British monarchy. Reading about the Crusades, the Wars of the Roses or the Hundred Years’ War from the perspective of characters who never quite made it to the throne brings a real freshness to events I thought I knew. The “what if’s” are tantalizing: Had it not been for a jousting accident here or a well-timed piece of regicide there (there are far more bloody terminations, civil wars and attempted rebellions than I was ever taught at school), consequential monarchs like Henry VIII and Richard II would never have stamped their mark on history.

    Hoffman is particularly good at drawing out the women - often brave and long-suffering - whose claims to the throne are woven through a surprising number of these historical episodes. But what really makes this book is how deeply personal it feels: Hoffman cares, and he makes you care, as he draws out his characters. Though he doesn’t stray from the demands of strict scholarship, this willingness to grapple with the historical record enables him to bring to life fascinating figures who would otherwise be lost in the mists of history, like the indomitable Empress Maud and the captivating Princess Charlotte, who died in childbirth at 21. It makes you wonder how different things might have been had these women donned the crown!

  • Paul Verbanszky

    "They Never Reigned" is a captivating exploration of the lesser-known figures in British royal history. Blair Hoffman skillfully weaves together a tapestry of stories about heirs who, despite being next in line for the throne, never had the chance to wear the crown. The narrative is both informative and engaging, providing a fresh perspective on the complexities of monarchy and the unpredictable nature of succession. Mr. Hoffman skillfully navigates through political intrigue, familial dynamics, and societal expectations, providing a nuanced understanding of the circumstances that shaped these heirs' destinies. He humanizes these historical figures, allowing readers to empathize with the challenges they faced and the paths they navigated.

    As a teacher of European History, I appreciate how Mr. Hoffman delves into the lives of these overlooked heirs with a keen eye for detail, drawing from a wealth of historical sources to paint vivid portraits of each individual. The prose is both accessible and elegant, making the book a pleasure to read for both history enthusiasts and casual readers alike. “They Never Reigned" is a gem for anyone interested in history, royalty, or the intricate dance of power.

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