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AN ENTERTAINING BLEND OF HISTORY AND ROMANCE
on 14 July 2006
The seventeen-year romance-cum-friendship between London's most notable comedienne, the outsplken, salty commoner Nell Gywn and the bright, saturnine, often incomprehensible King Charles II, makes for a lively tale. There's a great deal about Restoration theatre and politics, most especially the politics of the court, as a bonus underpinning to the story of the two unlikely lovers.
But were they so unlikely a pair? Both were children of hardship: Nell, scrambling from poverty and probable illegitimacy to theatrical stardom, then upward to precarious glamour as the King's mistress, and Charles, for eleven years an imporverished, apparent loser scrambling to keep himself going, even to stay alive, in Europe while the Commonwealth ruled.
This is the first time I've gotten much of a feel for what Charles was like as a person, and one of Beauclerk's special skills appears to be character analysis. What an interesting comment on Cromwell's real values was his desire to be adorned in royal regalia after his death. This account of Nell's story is full of similar colorful insights and anecdotes.
I'm familiar with the hardcover edition, and thought those color plates extremely good. Impressively, they are also very well done for this handsome paperback.