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A Royal Passion: The Turbulent Marriage of Charles I and Henrietta Maria Paperback – 15 Sep 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (15 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753828030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753828038
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.3 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 749,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Whitaker makes the story fresh ... she has a wealth of material in the couple's letters to each other and uses it to dramatic effect (SUNDAY TIMES)

A well-reserached and well-written account that brings history to vivid life. (DAILY EXPRESS)

Whitaker's engaging style and the fast-paced narrative make for a highly entertaining read. Drawing upon a wealth of contemporary sources, the author creates a vivid, finely drawn portrait of her two protagonists and their court. (Tracy Borman BBC HISTORY)

Book Description

From quarrels, passion, treason to execution, discover one of the great overlooked love stories of history.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
According to King Charles I of England, Henrietta Maria of France was everything one would want in an English Queen and they had a passionate and fruitful marriage. She had nine children, though only six of them lived. The main reason for their troubles was the fact that she was a Catholic and throughout her life adherence to her faith cost her and her husband dear. This book gives up most of what is known of their relationship which appears to have been good. Almost certainly she was a faithful queen to her husband and he loved her in return, as much as these things can be guessed at hundreds of years later. But the fact remains that if they were compatible as lovers, the reign of Charles and Henrietta was exceedingly stormy, and ended in a civil war and the beheading of the King. Their story does not stray very far into the events of the war, or much beyond their reign. Henrietta was vociferous on her husband's behalf, but the Kingdom was a Protestant one. Time and again her enemies were able to smear her with the taint of Catholicism. It was claimed that she had too much influence over him again and again, and at various times they might have taken a different path, but the queen would not stray from her faith and she was determined never to consider it, even as a ploy to rebuff the anger of the House of Commons. Some of their arguments were petty, such as the fact of whether it was raining or not, and the most extraordinary disagreement grew up about it with neither of them being prepared to compromise.

Later, when the King languished in the north of England, having escaped from his virtual imprisonment and with Henrietta back in France, they sent each other letters. From her they were accusatory as Charles could never take the bold steps to eradicate his problems that she urged.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 15 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
King Charles I was executed in 1649 after the English Civil War saw his rule toppled; his widow Henrietta Maria, the daughter of the great King Henri IV of France outlived her husband by 20 years, dying in 1669 at the age of 60. It is their relationship which is the subject of this book. Although it is of course circumscribed by the political, military and religious troubles of their lives, the marriage was one which grew from political necessity to one of great love and devotion, and this shines through in this book.

Analysing the rule and reign of King Charles I would necessarily fill more than one book on its own, but I don’t think it’s out of line to offer the following quote from the book (unfortunately, unattributed, so I don’t know who said it originally) – as Charles changed his mind in his dealings with the Scots in 1639, it “was the first of many volte-faces that Charles would perform in the coming years; ‘the facility with which the King starts on an action and his lack of firmness in sustaining it’ would come to exasperate his followers.” That seems to sum up much of Charles’ actions, both personally and politically, and such indecisiveness ultimately led to his overthrow and death. Henrietta Maria, the French princess who became the English Queen, hated and reviled by many for her religion and her supposed influence on Charles, was Charles’ staunchest supporter, and struggled for years after his death to try and reclaim the throne for their son, restored in 1660 as King Charles II.

This is a wonderful book; very well written from sources that the author has rigorously tested, and written in a very accessible manner.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Milo di Thernan on 5 Sept. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gombrich memorably wrote that "dates are the hooks on which we hang the tapestry of history". Monarchs come a close second. European history gets horribly complicated in the 17th century, because you really have to get your head around the 150 years of relationship fluctuation between England, Scotland, Spain, Holland and France. (And that's just for starters.) Since it weaves together pretty much all five in a readable and enthusiastic history-verging-on-romance, this book is well worth the time spent. The author has made the right choices when emphasising people, places and conflicts, so that you finish the book with a strong sense of what to follow it with (in my case William and Mary, since I'm in a rush to reach the 1700s en route to the Seven Years War). So, apart from being accessible and occasionally touching, it is good, wholesome, historical fare.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 April 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a well researched and well written account of the marriage of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. It concentrates on their relationship rather than the politics going on in the background. What is revealed is the enormous gap of the knowledge of the royals as to how the rest of the country thinks and how life is for ordinary people. As an infant their eldest son, Charles, had thirty staff devoted to his needs. As a job creation scheme this is laudable - but what on earth did they all do each day?

After a shaky start to their marriage the couple appear to have grown close and strong bonds of loyalty emerged. But this loyalty did not always lead to wise decisions. Religion and politics were in a state of flux - but Henrietta refused to deviate from her devout Catholicism. At a time when Parliament was very hostile to the king Henrietta told the Dutch ambassador that the whole population supported Charles. Later when Charles considered leaving the country she insisted that he stayed. Neither of them realised that however many concessions Charles made to Parliament it would never be enough to satisfy certain factions. At that time no European monarch had been tried and executed so perhaps they could be forgiven for not anticipating his ultimate fate.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The family tree at the beginning was most useful and helped to clarify various relationships. There are some excellent illustrations of family portraits (mostly, I notice, from the Royal Collection) and a very comprehensive bibliography. I did not like the title - A Royal Passion may well be an accurate description but makes the book sound as if it could be from Mills and Boon.

A very readable and interesting account.
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