Thursday, November 18, 2010

"The Merry Monarch's Wife" by Jean Plaidy

Title: The Merry Monarch's Wife
Author: Jean Plaidy
Published: Three Rivers Press, 1991
Where I Got It:
First Line: "My life will end where it began, for in the year 1692 I left England where I had gone some thirty years before as a bride to the most romantic prince in Europe."

Guess what?! I have a new favourite Queen. Sorry Tudor queens, but Catherine of Braganza has taken your place. For being a rarely talked about person in English history, she sure was a fascinating person.  She may not have conducted scandalous affairs or had her head chopped off, but she is memorable in her own way.

Jean Plaidy’s book, The Merry Monarch’s Wife, is written in the form of Catherine's memoir (J.P. likes to do this a's not really my favourite writing technique). I knew very little about her life in Portugal as an Infanta, so that was really interesting to read about. Her Portuguese relatives were, eccentric. I think I want to learn more about her crazy brother Alfonso. Catherine comes to England as an old lady of 23 and marries Charles. As the years pass, she must deal with Charles's numerous mistresses and bastard children, and also threats against her for being Catholic. When Charles dies, we learn about how she deals with the disasters of the succession and the Monmouth rebellion, and also the mounting prejudice she faces when William and Mary came to the throne. Fed up with England, she spends her remaining years back in Portugal.

Charles's and Catherine's relationship is my favourite part of the story. Catherine never had any children, thus skewing the succession (in favour of the Catholic James II). Charles was pressed by his advisors to divorce Catherine; he refused this suggestion and kept her safe, even though it was at the risk of the country. Also, he always defended her against his mistresses, she would always take precedence in his eyes. How adorable is that? It's certainly different that what I've read about with other English monarchs (ahem, Henry VIII). 

Some interesting tidbits I found out about Catherine: she was the person who introduced the custom of drinking tea in England. The practice was virtually unheard of before she arrived. Can you imagine the country without its tea?! The English can also thank her for bringing the fork to tables. It is also speculated that Queens, the New York City borough, is named after her, though there is some debate about that.

This book just further reinforces the fact that I love Jean Plaidy! I recently bought The Loves of Charles II, which has another POV from Catherine (along with his mistresses, of whom you learn about in this book too). I'd even recommend this book to those who don't normal read historical fiction. It's a great book with plenty of action, culture, and a rather unconventional love story. 5 stars!

For those of you who have seen the Harry Potter films, remember Moaning Myrtle? Who can forget her whiny, simpering voice? Well, in The Last King, a British television series that chronicled Charles II’s life as King, Catherine of Braganza was played by the same actress who played Moaning Myrtle (I also saw her in Bridget Jones’s Diary....she sure has a wide range of characters). Surprisingly, she was AMAZING! Her portrayal of the queen is what truly made Catherine a favourite. (Speaking of Harry Potter nerdisms, Filch, Narcissa Malfoy, teenaged Tom Riddle and Oliver Wood are also in this series). Anyways, the entire mini-series about Charles II is wonderful, I highly recommend it.

I can't find a picture of her as Catherine of Braganza ANYWHERE, so Moaning Myrtle will have to do. :)


  1. I'm not sure why things are spelled in UK English....but it's kind of awesome.

  2. follower! I found you via GoodReads, we live in the same area I think. I'll be back to read more of your reviews!

  3. Ahh I didn't realize how close we live to each other! Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  4. Yep yep, from your general area to mine is probably about 30 mins or so. I love it when I find bloggers near me, the so-called book "blogosphere" can feel so vast sometimes, with bloggers all over the's nice when that world shrinks a little bit:)



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