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A Royal Passion: The Turbulent Marriage of King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France Hardcover – August 30, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Stories of royal romance ordinarily involve kings and their acknowledged and shown-off mistresses or queens and their kept-secret male lovers. But occasionally popular historians enjoy bringing to the fore one of those uncommon arranged royal marriages that blossom into true romance. Such is the case with this biographer and her subject: the marriage of the ill-fated Charles I of England (executed in 1649, upon the termination of a civil war between monarch and Parliament) and the wife who brought a much-needed national alliance, Henrietta Maria, a princess of the French royal house. Whitaker pursues a more nuanced understanding of the royal pair as she chronicles a marriage that, granted, got off to a rocky start but definitely evolved into a love affair. She sees Charles less as the cold, arrogant, passive-aggressive person of historical reputation and more as a man who never faltered from his mission to uphold the religious and political principles in which he truly believed. The queen here is not a husband-domineering shrew but a woman of courage and drive. For good readers of European history and biography. --Brad Hooper

About 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (August 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393060799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393060799
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David Zampino VINE VOICE on October 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
. . . of the relationship between King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France.

An English King, required by law to be a Protestant, but clearly sympathetic to the "High Church" party which wished to restore much of the "Catholicism" to the Church of England.

A French Princess, a devout Roman Catholic, who seeks freedom, or at least, a relief from persecution of England's Catholics.

A marriage, which begins with difficulty and tension, and grows into a genuine love-match.

An increasingly hostile Parliament, with a growing (and fanatical) Puritan membership.

One would expect conflict -- and conflict abounds.

This wonderful biography examines not only the complexities of the relationship between King Charles and Henrietta, but also explores, in some detail, this turbulent time in English history. The reasons behind the civil war which eventually cost the King his head are also explained in detail. I was already familiar with many of the details of the life of King Charles, but my horizon was greatly expanded with regard to his Queen.

I suspect that most Americans are unaware of the religious plottings and machinations which plunged England into civil war -- because this war was every be as religious, as well as political. I further suspect that most Americans also do not understand the tyranny England experienced under Cromwell, and how it far exceeded any failing of the King. Finally, I suspect that most Americans are unaware that the Church of England considers the King to be not only a saint, but martyr as well.

A highly recommended read for anyone interested in English history -- religious OR secular. Five stars.

(As an aside, the seminary I attended had a stained glass window dedicated to "Charles Stuart" and another to his Archbishop (also murdered by the Puritans) William Laud.)
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By M.M. on June 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I would not have been able to support the lavish lifestyle of these very famous individuals, it was so sweet to see the touching and loving letters they exchanged. I felt sure that if King Charles had made a few decisions a bit differently, we might be living in a totally different world today. I find history thrilling and see that God orchestrates the details to his liking and one day, we will get to know what all that was about. In the meantime, enjoy "A Royal Passion" - it's a good read for high school up to retirement age.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is the closest one can get to understanding the interior world of Charles I, whose reign and execution changed England forever. I am full of gratitude and admiration for Katie Whitaker, its author, for the huge amount of work she must have done to sift the truth out from the distance of three hundred years. An impressive and important achievement.
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Format: Hardcover
Katie Whitaker has written an impeccably researched, gripping account of a royal marriage that was a personal success but a political disaster. She accomplished the rare feat of keeping me glued to the pages even though I knew in advance how Charles and Henrietta Maria's stories would end.

I don't know if I've ever seen an author use their sources so well. Whitaker wove the words of the couple's contemporaries seamlessly into her text, making 400-year-old events seem vivid and immediate.

I retained my sympathy throughout for this tragic couple, despite wanting to reach into the book numerous times to slap them silly! Charles was hard-headed and obstinate at exactly the times he should have been conciliatory, and confused and indecisive when bold action was needed. Henrietta was naive to think she could flaunt her Catholicism at court without arousing the suspicions and resentments of the Protestant English, which were exploited so effectively by Parliament to weaken the monarchy. She also had a knack for meddling at exactly the times it would prove most politically damaging.

Whitaker masterfully led me through the events leading to the English Civil War. This was a complicated time in history, but I never felt lost or overwhelmed. I wish she had given such comprehensive coverage to the war itself. She chose to end the main part of her book with Henrietta's 1642 flight to France, six months before Charles raised his standard at Castle Hill. That seemed a bit arbitrary to me; Henrietta and Charles continued planning and scheming together through letters for the next five years. Henrietta was even able to return to England briefly in 1643-44, conceiving and bearing her youngest daughter.
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8 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kate Stout VINE VOICE on October 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
But, I couldn't finish it.

A decent look at the complex relationship between Charles I of England, and his wife, Henrietta Maria, sister of the King of France.

He, required by English Law to be Protestant, and she, allowed by the details of her marriage contract to practice the illegal Catholic religion in England, eventually create a complex political situation that leads to the English Civil War. Sometimes, it's not particularly the book that is the problem, it's the absolute foolishness of the historical figures, which, for me, is the case here.

Charles, over time, tends to be more and more sympathetic to the concerns of his wife's religion, while at the same time being completely unsympathetic to the issues of fairness and equity raised by his Parliaments. Henrietta, brought up in an absolutist state (of France), reinforces Charles' tendency to be unwilling to compromise with the English representatives.

A folie a deux that eventually becomes uninteresting.

As to the book itself, well researched, slightly repetitive, and occasionally debunking stereotypes that, since I wasn't particularly familiar with the details of the couple's relationship, I didn't need debunked.
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