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A Royal Passion: The Turbulent Marriage of King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France

Overview

A royal marriage, based on romantic passion and ferocious, unbridgeable religious differences, ends in tragedy—a history worthy of Shakespeare.

It was, from the start, a dangerous experiment. Charles I of England was a Protestant, the fifteen-year-old French princess a Catholic. The marriage was arranged for political purposes, and it seemed a mismatch of personalities. But against the odds, the reserved king and his naively vivacious bride ...

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Overview

A royal marriage, based on romantic passion and ferocious, unbridgeable religious differences, ends in tragedy—a history worthy of Shakespeare.

It was, from the start, a dangerous experiment. Charles I of England was a Protestant, the fifteen-year-old French princess a Catholic. The marriage was arranged for political purposes, and it seemed a mismatch of personalities. But against the odds, the reserved king and his naively vivacious bride fell passionately in love, and for ten years England enjoyed an era of peace and prosperity.

When Charles became involved in war with Puritan Scotland, popular hatred of Henrietta’s Catholicism roused Parliament to fury. As the opposition party embraced new values of liberty and republicanism—the blueprint for the American War of Independence and the French Revolution—Charles’s fears for his wife’s safety drove him into a civil war that would cost him his crown and his head.

Rejecting centuries of hostile historical tradition, prize-winning biographer Katie Whitaker uses a host of original sources—including many unpublished manuscripts and letters—to create an intimate portrait of a remarkable marriage.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
According to British historian Whitaker (Mad Madge), Charles I attempted a military coup against Parliament because the legislature was on the verge of charging his beloved Catholic wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, with high treason, and Charles was determined to save her whatever the cost. That effort ended with Charles's defeat and execution, and a nine-year bloody civil war that led to the birth of the first modern republic. For reasons of international diplomacy, Protestant Charles had wed the Catholic sister of France's Louis XIII. The early years of their marriage were tempestuous because of religious differences and the machinations of Charles's adviser, the Duke of Buckingham. But Charles clung to his wife after Buckingham's assassination, involving her in major political decisions. Parliament became alarmed that by seeking Catholic funding for Charles's war with rebel Scots, Henrietta was involved in a dangerous Catholic conspiracy to enable Charles to govern without Parliament. Making judicious use of wide-ranging primary sources, including the couple's letters, memoirs, and speeches, this persuasive and perceptive biography of a marriage gives Henrietta her due as Charles's shrewd, capable political ally. 16 pages of illus. (Aug.)
Library Journal
A royal couple known for their part in bringing about religious unease and the English Civil War, Charles I of England and his wife, Henrietta Maria of France, are reexamined in this revisionist study. Whitaker (Mad Madge: The Extraordinary Life of Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, the First Woman To Live by Her Pen) examines well-known and lesser-known works with fresh eyes and relies on primary sources to tell a more personal story of the Catholic Henrietta and the Protestant Charles. Quotations from their letters, speeches, reports, and other contemporary writings, in addition to Whitaker's extensive research into their personal lives, allow her to reach new conclusions about their personalities and relationships—with each other and others at court and beyond. Each of her book's three parts covers a period of their marriage, from the couple's first meeting, which occurred after their wedding, to Charles's death at the hands of his subjects. The accompanying illustrations add context to Whitaker's descriptions.Verdict Whitaker weaves primary sources seamlessly into her character-driven history, offering a window into life in 17th-century England. This will appeal to readers of historical romance as well as English history.—Elizabeth Nelson, UOP Lib., Des Plaines, IL
Christopher Schoppa
Whitaker's portrait of the king and queen is more intimate and sympathetic than past histories.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393060799
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/30/2010
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 831,269
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Katie Whitaker is the author of Mad Madge, winner of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography. She lives in North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two children.

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