A young French Princess Henrietta Maria steals the heart of the charming English King Charles l, but not that of the people of England. (1625 – 1669)
Loyal In Love by Jean Plaidy is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles l of England. If you aren’t familiar with Henrietta, you likely aren’t the only one, she is not well known nor a popular figure in historical fiction novels or movies and yet………. this seemingly harmless, somewhat over indulged French Princess inadvertently plays a notable part in the rise of Oliver Cromwell and his support to overthrow the English Monarchy.
Henrietta is a devoted French, Catholic Princess who at age fifteen finds herself married to Charles l of England and sent to live in a foreign country that she initially despises for its lack of adherence to the Catholic faith, it’s uncultured people, and substandard comforts. Charles l accommodates her faith as part of the marriage agreement but stands firmly with the Protestant majority, reliant on Oliver Cromwell and the growing Puritan parliament that holds the purse strings. Despite this, Henrietta feels duty bound to bring the King and the people back to the true faith.
When she first arrives, she finds herself competing for Charles attention with his most trusted companion and advisor Buckingham and it would not be until his sudden demise a few years later that Henrietta gains the full attention, adoration and the ear of her husband, the King. Not surprisingly, the King deferring to the counsel of his Catholic Queen was frowned upon and she becomes increasingly unpopular. The King, a generous and gracious man who finds himself in love with his beautiful wife does not heed the rising tide of resentment.
Love is a powerful influence and it appears that Charles and Henrietta adored each other and their eight children. Their devotion to each other fueled a political bonfire and makes the King appear influenced and weak and his excessive spending on her opulent demands were of grave concern to the parliament. It helped little when Henrietta’s mother arrives for an extended stay and costs them dearly with her lavish life style and entourage. With more than one misstep along the way including betrayal by those she thought she could trust; Henrietta continues to put fuel to the fire and It isn’t long before conflict with Charles and the Puritans’ erupts into a civil war leaving Henrietta no choice but to flee. From here we see the plotting and resilience of a desperate woman and displaced Queen separated from her family, plunged into poverty yet determined to save her husband the King and be reunited with her children.
Three Things I liked Most About This Novel
#1 I like that the book was written from Henrietta point of view looking back over her life and choices while reflecting on how her actions or inactions played a role in her life and the death of those she loved most. From this perspective you gain insight into her regrets and with that a vulnerability that makes her character relatable, you also see her strength, strategic prowess and determination.
#2 Jean Plaidy has done justice to encapsulating a story that spans a long life. I enjoyed the journey of Henrietta developing from a head strong somewhat pampered and demanding young wife into a more compassionate woman in terms of her relationship with Charles and her role as mother yet no less lavish in her spending. You get some sense of her naivety in the early years and her somewhat naturally controlling nature that remains a strong characteristic throughout her long life that both helps and hinders her relationship with those she loves most and with England.
#3 I always love a love story! I knew that Charles l and Henrietta Maria were said to have been deeply in love but I didn’t realize the depths of their devotion to one another or the ramification that would have. I can now better understand how that devotion might have inadvertently influenced the playboy behavior of their son and future King Charles ll, but that is another story and I’ll explore it more in my next book review of the Perfect Royal Mistress by Diane Haeger.
Like all of Jean Plaidy’s novels, you have to be patient. I’ve never found her writing to capture my interest in the initial chapters but I’m always rewarded for my perseverance because she is very skilled at taking the reader into the depths of her characters so you are left with a fuller appreciation of who they might have been and how they may have felt. She covers the civil unrest and conflicts without a lot of delving into the logistics and battles themselves which may be preferred by those readers who are less inclined to gory battle details. In addition, she writes a love story without including those long, often overly descriptive love making scenes, so for those readers who lean towards a more wholesome content, you will appreciate not having to skip over paragraphs or pages. Over-all, I finished the book feeling like I had a far greater insight into Henrietta and her circumstances as portrayed by Plaidy.
Note: With historical fiction you can read books written years and years ago and they can be as equally entertaining as a book published today. There is nothing better than discovering a new historical fiction author you like especially if they have multiple books or series already published – no more waiting for the next book to come out! This is one of those great examples, published in 1997. The research for this book, like all of Jean Plaidy’s novels is thorough and extensive and follows an accurate historic timeline but that isn’t always the case with every author or every historical fiction novel so it important to remember when you are reading historical fiction, that you are reading a representation of the possibilities viewed through the lens of the author.