Less than forty years after England's golden age under Elizabeth I, the country was at war with itself. Split between loyalty to the Crown and Parliament, war raged on English soil. The English Civil War would set family against family, friend against friend, and its casualties were immense—a greater proportion of the population than in World War I.
At the head of the disintegrating kingdom was the figure of the king: Charles I. In this vivid portrait—newly informed by previously unseen manuscripts, including royal correspondence between the king and his queen—Leanda de Lisle depicts a man who was principled and brave, but also fatally blinkered.
Charles held to an idealized vision of kingship yet never understood his own subjects and was surrounded by intrigue. At its heart were the cousins who befriended and betrayed him: His peacocking servant Henry Holland, whose brother, the New England colonialist, Robert Warwick, engineered the king's fall, and the magnetic 'last Boleyn girl', Lucy Carlisle, a faithless favourite to Charles' maligned and fearless queen.
Like the protagonist of a Greek tragedy, Charles fell not as a consequence of wickedness, but human flaws and misjudgments. It is a story for our times, of populist politicians and religious war, of fake news, and the reshaping of nations. For Charles it ended on the scaffold, condemned as a traitor and murderer, yet lauded also as a martryr: his reign destined to sow the seeds of democracy in Britain and the New World.
“Leanda de Lisle has approached one of the great icons of history with understanding and compassion. She takes her readers through the twists and turns of the English Civil war so that they understand the enormity of the regicide and the foolishness and courage of the king”
“Charles I has long eluded even the most scholarly of biographers; his personal contradictions, attractive qualities and blunders require a writer of rare talent to let us appreciate the long-hidden character of the king...well-researched and beautifully written”