When I was growing up, I suppose most of the historicals I read tended to be historical novels with romantic elements, rather than straight historical romances. And in many of them the heroes and heroines were real characters from history: Nigel Tranter's Robert the Bruce trilogy, Jean Plaidy's novels, Margaret Irwin's historicals, especially The Stranger Prince (about Rupert of the Rhine, pictured left), and her Mary Queen of Scots story whose title I've forgtten :).
And I remember enjoying Georgette Heyer's The Spanish Bride, although now that I have kids of my own the idea of a fourteen year old bride isn't quite so appealing :)
Of course, many of these stories don't work out well for the main couple - it's real life rather than fantasy - but that made them all the more intense for me. I still enjoy the occasional novel featuring historical characters - eg Elizabeth Chadwick's William Marshall series - although they don't always have to be the main characters.
Anyway, my question for you today is, do you enjoy books with true characters from the past, and if so, which ones stand out for you?