Myth has an insidious way of working into way into history. Stories that ring true, that appeal to our prejudices, become ‘fact’. Sometimes they are rooted in contemporary propaganda, the old lies giving a veneer of respectability to the new. But they are also nurtured by attitudes hard-wired into us over centuries.
In my Tudor books I described how our patterns of thought have distorted the reputations of historical figures, particularly women. But in the case of my latest book, White King, a biography of Charles I, there was still more to do. The character of the king and the women around him have been so maligned that readers have turned away from one the most dramatic reigns in British history: a tale of court glamour and political populism, of misogyny and religious violence, that speaks to our time.
The title of this book – White King – is drawn from a sobriquet used by Charles’s contemporaries, and was inspired by the story that he was crowned in white. It is a sobriquet that is unfamiliar today. I hope it inspires curiosity and encourages readers to approach the biography of this damned monarch with an open mind.
Charles the Martyr, and Charles the Murderer, lauded by his friends, and condemned by his enemies, is now largely forgotten, but in popular memory something just as extreme remains. He is pinned to the pages of history as a failed king, executed at the hands of his own subjects, and now preserved like some exotic, but desiccated insect. In many accounts it seems that Charles was doomed almost from birth, his character immutable.
We like to believe we have turned our back on our old prejudices, but the way we remember him shows they lie just below the surface, still influencing the way we think.
Please read the rest there.