Alison Weir is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British royalty.
Her first published work, 1989's Britain's Royal Families, was a genealogical overview of the British royal family. She subsequently wrote biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Katherine Swynford, Elizabeth of York, and the Princes in the Tower. Other focuses have included Henry VIII of England and his wives and children, Mary Boleyn, Elizabeth I, and Mary, Queen of Scots. She has published historical overviews of the Wars of the Roses and royal weddings, as well as historical fiction novels on Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth I, and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Weir's writings have been described as being in the genre of popular history, an area that sometimes attracts criticism from academia; according to one source, popular history "seeks to inform and entertain a large general audience... Dramatic storytelling often prevails over analysis, style over substance, simplicity over complexity, and grand generalization over careful qualification." Weir herself admits writing popular history, but argues that "history is not the sole preserve of academics, although I have the utmost respect for those historians who undertake new research and contribute something new to our knowledge. History belongs to us all, and it can be accessed by us all. And if writing it in a way that is accessible and entertaining, as well as conscientiously researched, can be described as popular, then, yes, I am a popular historian, and am proud and happy to be one." Kathryn Hughes, writing in The Guardian, said of Weir's popular historian label, "To describe her as a popular historian would be to state a literal truth – her chunky explorations of Britain's early modern past sell in the kind of multiples that others can only dream of."
Reviews of Weir's works have been mixed. The Independent said of The Lady in the Tower that "it is testament to Weir's artfulness and elegance as a writer that The Lady in the Tower remains fresh and suspenseful, even though the reader knows what's coming." On the other hand, Diarmaid MacCulloch, in a review of Henry VIII: King and Court, called it "a great pudding of a book, which will do no harm to those who choose to read it. Detail is here in plenty, but Tudor England is more than royal wardrobe lists, palaces and sexual intrigue." The Globe and Mail, reviewing the novel, The Captive Queen, said that she had "skillfully imagined royal lives" in previous works, "but her style here is marred by less than subtle characterizations and some seriously cheesy writing", while The Washington Post said of the same book, "12th-century France could be the dark side of the moon for all we learn about it by the end of this book."