Author Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on: Kings
What a week that was. A new Prime Minister, then the death of a beloved Queen, and the graceful accession of her son. Now we are in a Carolean age; we will get used to God Save The King being the national anthem and soon enough new stamps and currency, but for now it feels strange.
And that is unsurprising, because one of the eye-popping statistics shared last week was that nine out of ten of the world’s population were born during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.
Years ago, when I spent some time working as a volunteer in a Brazilian orphanage, I remember being amused that the boys’ standard put-down to anyone getting airs was: ‘Who do you think you are, the Queen of England?’
British author Patricia Nicol has rounded up a selection of the best books on including Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Restoration by Rose Tremain
The Queen may have been the world’s most recognisable woman, but history has seen many more kings than queens. In fiction, too.
The protagonist of Hilary Mantel’s multi-award-winning historical fiction trilogy, which begins with Wolf Hall and continues with Bring Up The Bodies and The Mirror And The Light, is Thomas Cromwell. But the character who holds the greatest sway is always King Henry VIII; on his whims, fancies and fears, the world of this novel turns.
Cromwell, who has risen through the ranks to be Henry’s chief minister, knows how easily he could fall from favour: he has seen firsthand how it happened to Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More.
Patricia Nicol reveals that Charles II also features in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (as does Elizabeth I)
Charles II, the merry monarch, is depicted in several novels. In Rose Tremain’s Restoration, the fortunes of foppish doctor Robert Merivel are transformed after he cures one of the Stuart king’s ailing dogs. Merivel is married off to one of the King’s mistresses and given an estate in Norfolk.
Charles II also features in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (as does Elizabeth I). It is Charles II who appoints Orlando — a gender-bending aristocrat blessed with extraordinary longevity — as his ambassador to Turkey.
Charles II is remembered for his bawdy lifestyle, reopening the theatres and presiding over an age of scientific discovery. What might this next Carolean age bring?