I am madly in love with The King’s Touch
by Jude Morgan. It’s the best novel I’ve read in months. I am also fascinated because its protagonist is the Duke of Monmouth, and I’ve never read a book solely about him before. All I know about him are the very general facts: eldest illegitimate son of Charles II (and for all I know, the only one) who, after Charles died without any legitimate children and Charles’ brother James II ascended the throne, started a rebellion which was put down and the Duke was executed (must have made for an interesting family reunion that year). Of course, James himself was wildly unpopular and kicked out for William and Mary some time later. I do have to say that I’ve known about Monmouth a lot longer than I did about most English historical figures because his rebellion is the event that lands Peter Blood on the slave docks and later leads to piracy, and I read and adored Sabatini’s Captain Blood
, since I was 9 or so (and developed a quite irrational dislike of James II ever since), as Blood, even though he does not participate in the rebellion, gets dragged in as a rebel because as a physician he was helping a wounded man and tried under one of those huge sham trials James did after the rebellion.
Here is a portrait of the guy. According to wikipedia, rather gruesomely, following his execution, it was realised only too late that there was no official portrait of the Duke - for someone who had claimed the throne, albeit in vain, this was unheard of. So his body was exhumed, the head placed back on the body, and it was sat for its portrait to be painted.( Duke of Monmouth. Lookin' good for a dead guy )
Anyway, whatever the real Duke of Monmouth was, I am quite in a fictional crush state on his literary counterpart in the novel. And reading this book actually made me remember and locate another novel about a secondary figure in English history, The Stranger Prince
by Margaret Irwin, about Prince Rupert who really had one of those legendary crazy lives you wouldn’t believe happened if it wasn’t fact. I read the book ages ago and loved it, even if it deals only with a small portion of the guy’s life.
Anyway, here is a completely random historical digression about Prince Rupert. He was the nephew of Charles I (and the Uncle of Charles II) who was the son of one of the Electors and Charles’ sister and fought in the Eighty Years War (talk about a nasty conflict) and was captured and imprisoned. Then he came over to Charles I’s court and when the Revolution broke out he was the leader of the Cavalier cavalry.( Life that is too crazy to be fiction. And also, princes become pirates too )
ETA: Two portraits of Prince Rupert ( Behind the cut )