White King review – Charles I as you’ve never seen him before


This post is by Alexander Larman from Books | The Guardian


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Leanda de Lisle’s beautifully written biography offers fresh perspectives on the English monarch and those who surrounded him

Leanda de Lisle’s engrossing biography of Charles I is both revisionist and traditional. Its revisionism comes in the refreshing form of placing the women in Charles’s life centre stage; his Catholic queen, Henrietta Maria, is thus transformed from a simpering appendage into a politically adept schemer. Likewise, Henrietta’s lady of the bedchamber and the “last Boleyn girl”, Lucy Carlisle – the likely model for Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers – is given an engaged psychological portrait that deals with her agency on both sides of the divided country. Yet many of the strengths of White King also lie in its traditional virtues of being an engaging, well-researched and beautifully written biography. Emphatically not another book about the civil wars – Cromwell doesn’t appear until halfway through – this instead offers a nuanced ...