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The Prince Who Would Be King
The Life and Death of Henry Stuart
Henry Stuart's life is the last great forgotten Jacobean tale. Shadowed by the gravity of the Thirty Years' War and the huge changes taking place across Europe in seventeenth-century society, economy, politics and empire, his life was visually and verbally gorgeous.
NOW THE SUBJECT OF BBC2 DOCUMENTARY The Best King We Never Had
Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales was once the hope of Britain. Eldest son to James VI of Scotland, James I of England, Henry was the epitome of heroic Renaissance princely virtue, his life set against a period about as rich and momentous as any.
Educated to rule, Henry was interested in everything. His court was awash with leading artists, musicians, writers and composers such as Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones. He founded a royal art collection of European breadth, amassed a vast collection of priceless books, led grand renovations of royal palaces and mounted operatic, highly politicised masques.
But his ambitions were even greater. He embraced cutting-edge science, funded telescopes and automata, was patron of the North West Passage Company and wanted to sail through the barriers of the known world to explore new continents. He reviewed and modernised Britain's naval and military capacity and in his advocacy for the colonisation of North America he helped to transform the world.
At his death aged only eighteen, and considering himself to be as much a European as British, he was preparing to stake his claim to be the next leader of Protestant Christendom in the struggle to resist a resurgent militant Catholicism.
In this rich and lively book, Sarah Fraser seeks to restore Henry to his place in history. Set against the bloody traumas of the Thirty Years' War, the writing of the King James Bible, the Gunpowder Plot and the dark tragedies pouring from Shakespeare's quill, Henry's life is the last great forgotten Jacobean tale: the story of a man who, had he lived, might have saved Britain from King Charles I, his spaniels and the Civil War with its appalling loss of life his misrule engendered.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
`A well-written account that reminds us, through vignettes of Thomas Coryate, Inigo Jones, and many others, how lively and promising the period was', Books of the Year, Theodore K Rabb, TLS
'Fraser paints a striking picture...[this] highly readable book has restored this lost prince to his rightful place in our national memory...It is to be hoped she has also contributed to the necessary task of weaning us off our national addiction to the Tudors. The seventeenth century is a crucial...period of our history' BBC History Magazine
'Fraser...has created an attractive picture of a young man in a hurry...With a strong narrative...Fraser's account of his investiture in June 1610 is one of the highlights of the story...It helps that Fraser is clearly not a little in love with her subject and why not? From all the available accounts Henry was the Prince Charming of his day, a young man who combined physical attributes, notably courage, with a ready wit and a capacity to wear his learning lightly' Glasgow Herald
'Among the larger than life characters of the Tudor and Stuart period, Henry Stuart is often relegated to a ... side player. Here, he gets a whole book dedicated to his story, and it's certainly a tale worth telling. Son of James VI and I, Henry was a key figure in his own right: he created a ... renaissance court of writers and thinkers, and worked to establish a permanent British presence in America ... What he packed into his brief life, and why it should be better remembered, are explored in this compelling, lively biography' History Revealed Magazine
`The person to whom the public looked for future deliverance was James's eldest son, Henry, the subject of this compelling and lyrical new biography. Fraser shows how Henry came first to embody the expectations of a nation and then shatter them by dying suddenly from typhoid in 1612, at the age of 18. She manages to distil from Henry's short life a thorough case study of a crown prince coming of age ... excellent book' Country Life