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Ruled Britannia

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  1,352 ratings  ·  84 reviews
The New York Times bestselling author turns his talent for alternate history to Elizabethan England-transformed by Spanish conquerers-where the question "Is England to be or not to be?" can only be answered by a man named William Shakespeare.

"Nobody plays the what-if game better than Harry Turtledove." (Publishers Weekly)
Hardcover, 458 pages
Published November 5th 2002 by NAL Hardcover (first published November 2002)
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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna ClarkeThe Golden Compass by Philip PullmanThe Eyre Affair by Jasper FfordeNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Alternate England
65th out of 240 books — 231 voters
The Taming of the Shrew by William ShakespeareThe Shaping of England by Isaac AsimovRuled Britannia by Harry TurtledoveJulius Caesar by William ShakespeareRomeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Tudor Era 1485 and 1603
3rd out of 18 books — 1 voter

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Community Reviews

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Ben Aaronovitch
The central conceit is brilliant and I can't fault the scholarship or the choice of protagonists but the prose is turgid and overwritten. The Guns of the South proves that Turtledove can write a fast paced novel while retaining the fruits of his research so I guess what he needs to find is a friendly neighbourhood editor.
Carol Storm
Warning! If you read GUNS OF THE SOUTH by Harry Turtledove and thought it was a classic . . . don't imagine this book is going to be the same kind of story.

I have to admit that the premise was intriguing. What if Spain had conquered in England in 1588? And what if William Shakespeare had become a shadowy fighter in the underground, trying to drive out the Spanish by writing fiery patriotic plays in secret?

Unfortunately, there is almost NO military action in this book until fifty pages before the
Sue Bursztynski
I've read and re-read this one and I'm re-reading yet again. To be honest, many of Harry Turtledove's alternative universe books confuse me, with the multiple viewpoints; this is one of a number that only have two viewpoints. In this case, the viewpoints are those of William Shakespeare, living in an England occupied by the Spanish when the Armada succeeded, and Lope de Vega, a playwright who was Spain's answer to Shakespeare, who, in this novel, is one of the occupying soldiers. Shakespeare has ...more
Jim Smith
One thing I’ve noticed about Harry Turtledove is that his mind-blowingly brilliant ideas and concepts are often let down by clunky delivery and wooden dialogue. Not so in this case. However, my one real gripe does concern Turtledove’s attempt to weave Shakespearean style language into the book. The problem here is that he isn’t always consistent and that jars somewhat. With that proviso, this is an exciting and absorbing story and one full of indications that Turtledove has done his background r ...more
I often found the pacing of the book tedious. I'm all for long books, but this one felt unnecessarily wordy. Elevated to 2-star status only because of the interweaving of beloved Shakespearean text and good use of period detail.
Lisabet Sarai
I was excited when I discovered this book at a library sale. Alternative history is a favorite genre of mine, and this fat, juicy-looking novel featured a promising premise. What if instead of England defeating the Spanish Armada, Spain was victorious? Mr. Turtledove sets his story in London nine years after Spanish soldiers have occupied Britain. Elizabeth I has been imprisoned in the Tower of London. Isabella, daughter of Philip the II of Spain, rules the country in her stead. Agents of the In ...more
For those who have ever thought about reading at least one alternate history novel, Harry Turtledove's Ruled Britannia is the one you should try. The premise of the novel is the successful invasion of England via the famed Spanish Armada by the Duke of Parma's army that places Queen Elizabeth in captive within the Tower of London and places Philip II's daughter Isabella on the throne along side her husband-cousin Albert. Almost 10 years later, celebrated English playwright Williams Shakespeare i ...more
This is an alternate history novel where the Spanish Armada succeeded, picking up ten years after England's defeat with Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower of London and Phillip II on his deathbed. Don't let all that scare you off - you don't need to know much beyond the very basic jist of what the Spanish Armada was to enjoy this book, although I don't think it's a surprise to say that history nerds will get much more out of it. The other audience I'd recommend the book for is Shakespeare fans, a ...more
Dakota Rusk
This is one of my favorite alternate histories. Its point of departure is the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588. In our universe, the smaller, more nimble English fleet (aided by some killer winds) pulverized the bloated, slow-moving Armada, and ushered in an era of English triumphalism. But in Silverberg's novel, which opens in 1597, it's the Spanish who won; and for the past decade, England has been ruled by Spain, its Protestant religion outlawed and Roman Catholicis ...more
What if the Spanish Armada had conquered England? What if Shakespeare and his company had got pulled into a plot to incite the English populace with a play to rise up against their Spanish oppressors? What if the person who wrote about it filled the book with strong characters and vivid historical detail? The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that it bogged down in the middle--the plot thickened but slowly and repetitively (warning: a little bawdy).
Jason Reeser
This was a nice surprise. Having given up on Turtledove for his overly slow and both too-academic/too-cheesy plot lines and dialogue, I was happy to find something that was both creative and exciting. But I love Shakespeare, so that might have helped. This was a truly good read.
Well, maybe 3.5 stars. Interesting premise and for the most part I think he did a fair job of extrapolating what kind of changes might occur should the Spanish Armada have won, not to mention using different characters than you usually see in historical pieces. And Strawberry was a very good take-off of Shakespeare's own Dogberry.

But the one thing that bugged me throughout was the relative freedom of (view spoiler). I can sort of see sparing Elizabeth
A facsinating read. I truly enjoy Mr. Turtledove's alternate histories, and this one did not disappoint.

The language got a little too intense sometimes (I found towards the end that I was actually replacing "thou" and "thee" with their modern-day counterparts), but the story itself was strong.

I'll admit, picking up this novel, I didn't have a whole lot of information on Shakespeare (beyond what I retained from school). That didn't much matter, though, because the Shakespeare that the reader is i
The premise of Harry Turtledove's alternate history tale, Ruled Britannia, is that the Spanish Armada did manage to take over England in 1588. Philip II installs his daughter Isabella and her consort Albert on the throne of England, imprisons Elizabeth in the Tower, and returns England to Catholicism. Ten years later, Philip is dying, Elizabeth is yet imprisoned, and while most of the populace complies with the will of their Spanish overlords, a current of discontent still runs beneath the surfa ...more

For my own reference, my edition was 557 pages.

Any ways, this book is an odd ball, but in a good way. To be honest, I'm still very new to Turtledove's work, and a lot of his stuff has been meh to good, but never amazing to me. This book actually broke the threshold for me, as most of what I've read by him has been very hard sci-fi.

In Ruled Britannia, Shakespeare is a badass who you don't want to f*ck with. I loved that aspect of the book and on numerous occasions I found myself laughing out
Bill Ward
This is a great story of Elizabethan England, in an alternate universe where the Armada was a success and the Spanish invaded and held England. In the book, England has suffered under Spanish rule for ten years, and the main character, William Shakespeare, gets wrapped up in plots and schemes on both sides of the issue. Another main character, Spanish Lieutenant Lope de Vega, gives us insight into the Spanish side of the story.

I've been a big fan of Harry Turtledove's alternative history books f
I confess it -- I'm a sucker for alternate history. And this one was especially fun.

"Ruled Britannia" takes place 10 years after the Spanish Armada defeated Queen Elizabeth's fleet and successfully invaded England. Now officially a Catholic country (with Spanish troops and Irish mercenaries in the street to keep it that way), the country is growing restive as two great figures near the end of their life ... King Philip of Spain and Lord Burghley, one of Elizabeth's former advisers. The book foll
This is a fun, long reimagining of history, giving Shakespeare a questionably central role. In Turtledove’s book, the Spanish Armada conquered the English (and the Dutch) to take over England, interrupting Elizabeth I’s reign (and locking her in the Tower of London). So, the English are under Spanish, Catholic and Crusader rule. Yuck, right? It’s especially difficult for Shakespeare as his plays still need to entertain and sell, but now he has to also worry about not raising the ire of the Inqui ...more
Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove.


I’m a great fan of Turtledove’s works of alternative history but I’m usually sceptical about his fantasy and sci-fi outpourings. Nonetheless, the man is the recognized king of alternate history and this is where his acknowledged strength lies. Therefore, I was a little confused and more than a little apprehensive as Guns of the South is part alternate history, part sci-fi and part fantasy – I normally distrust cross-genre books because authors have a tend
Danielle Reily
This book was a lot of fun. I really enjoy reading books about the Tudor monarchy and the time period surrounding it, it's really interesting to think about what might have happened.What if the Spanish Armada had overrun England and imprisoned Queen Elizabeth? If the Inquisition came to England and the Spanish and Irish troops controlled the English people? The book starts ten years after the Spanish have taken control. Most of the Engish people are outwardly submissive to the Spanish regime an ...more
When it comes to creating alternate history, Harry Turtledove is THE MAN! Nobody does it better, as he proves once again in this tale of England conquered by the Armada and lying uneasily under Spanish rule. Will Shakespeare, like his fellow Londoners, is just trying to make a living when he is asked by William Cecil to write a play. Writing plays is what Will does, but Cecil wants a particular play, a cunning piece of sedition, intended to incite rebellion against the Spanish, in favor of Eliza ...more
A great read that works through literary and military history, altering it as per Turtledove's take on alternative history. Seeing Lope De Vega and Shakespeare interact is a culturally interesting alternative history in and of itself and providing the backdrop of the Spanish Armada being successful and Brittain being ruled by the Spanish provides a form of commentary on colonization and engagement from a warped point of view. The tension Turtledove builds as Shakespeare makes a choice between em ...more
This really was a decent book. The plot kept moving at a decent pace so there was no more than maybe two or three slow spots of a few pages throughout the books. I *loved* the characterization of Shakespeare.

It falls short of 5 stars because of Turtledove's choice to have the English talk in, well...English. Real English...with thees and thous and such. The Spanish used modern dialect, but the English used Shakespearean English, which made for a very slow read. I don't need to fly through a boo
I am a fan of alternate history generally and Ruled Britannia is one of the best I've read of the genre. This stand-alone novel tells the story of an England conquered by the Spanish Armada and living under Spanish rule for a decade. The plot revolves around a conspiracy to incite the populace to revolt against the Spanish through a play secretly created by William Shakespeare. Author Harry Turtledove is the largely undisputed master of alternate history fiction and here he proves he still deser ...more
This is an interesting retelling of history in which the Spanish Armada succeeds in conquering Britain. This is in the time of Shakespeare, and he is the central character. There is sex, intrigue, plots, conspiracies, lots of drinking, and a fascinating look at what it might have been like to perform or see a play in Elizabethan times.

A meticulously researched book, this is also its downfall at times; the attention to detail and verisimilitude bogs the story down at some points, and the language
Emily Ann Meyer
I attended a panel on which Harry Turtledove was participating at Comic Con in 2007. I'd never heard of him prior to that, but left determined to read some of his books as the idea behind alternative history is fascinating to me. I'd hoped, actually, to cut my teeth on one of the alternative Civil War or alternative WWII books, but it was too difficult to ascertain order and which were/were not series in the book store. So instead I picked up this one as it was a nice stand-alone.

It was amazingl

I think I could easily become a fan of the 'alternative history' genre; or as I like to call it 'history fanfiction' :)

This book is the first I've read by Turtledove and I aim to read more. It started off great and continued just as lively, had some memorable passages, but weirdly enough, precisely towards the end, when things got 'heated', so to speak, it veered slightly into 'boring and predictable'.
Additionally, I found the character of 'Cicely' much too 'ahead of her time' and 'awakening fi
This is the second of Harry Turtledove's alternative histories that I've read, and I found them both fascinating. I'm always intimidated by the sheer size of them, but once I start reading, I just get wrapped up in them. The premise of Ruled Britannia is that England was defeated by the Spanish Armada and Queen Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower of London. William Shakespeare was recruited to write a play that would encourage the English people to revolt against the Spaniards and restore England ...more
Kilian Metcalf
What if . . . ? What if the South won the Civil War? What if Germany won WWII? What if the Spanish Armada had successfully invaded England and imprisoned Elizabeth I?

What if . . . ? is Harry Turtledove's stock in trade. HIs books are filled with deep and accurate research woven into a compelling story. Life under the Spanish dons is risky business for a playwright, but somehow Master William Shakespeare and his company manage to prosper. With the help of a wise woman, Shakespeare writes the inf
good alternate history and fascinating the way the author works lines from Shakespeare's plays into the dialogue.
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Dr Harry Norman Turtledove is an American novelist, who has produced a sizeable number of works in several genres including alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction.

Harry Turtledove attended UCLA, where he received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history in 1977.

Turtledove has been dubbed "The Master of Alternate History". Within this genre he is known both for creating original sce
More about Harry Turtledove...
The Guns of the South In the Balance (Worldwar, #1) How Few Remain (Timeline-191, #1) Tilting the Balance (Worldwar, #2) Striking the Balance (Worldwar, #4)

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