Review: Darling of Kings by P.J. Womack

The Darling of Kings is a brilliant historical novel which charts the meteoric rise and fall of one of the most legendary personages in British history. I was intrigued and excited when I was offered the chance to read this novel about George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham and his relationships, first with King James I and then King Charles I. The Duke of Buckingham has been a source of creative inspiration for many a writer – he featured memorably in Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, for example. After only reading a few paragraphs of The Darling of Kings, I knew this book was going to be wonderful.

King James VI/I. NPG, London.

As the story progressed, I certainly was not disappointed. In The Darling of Kings, Womack takes several historical figures who are either woefully neglected by mainstream historians and the public or only ever seen in a negative light and she takes us into their minds and their hearts. Indeed, my own perception of the Duke of Buckingham has been impacted so much from reading this novel, that I think I may have to re-evaluate how I view him. Womack brought such humanity to his character, that I can well understand why he was one of those rare figures that can command complete love and worship or hate and envy.

George Villiers (1592–1628), 1st Duke of Buckingham by Michiel Jansz. van Miereveld Cambridge University Library Oil on wood, 67 x 55 cm Collection: Cambridge University Library

The story is remarkably well-researched and full of adventure, romance, and politics and major historical events are skilfully woven in throughout. Womack’s elegant turn-of-phrase, the way she vividly brings history to life, her amazing capacity to make the historical figures into well-rounded, real, beings is nothing short of extraordinary. She writes in the exact style I admire: sophisticated, fluid, gorgeous prose that can hold its own alongside the classics of literature. This book took my breath away and I was left truly moved.

Read it, love it, and embrace the history of the 17th-century!

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