This is the first novel I’ve read by E.M. Vidal, although I’ve known her on social media for several years now. With ‘My Queen, My Love’, the first in her trilogy of Henrietta Maria, E.M. Vidal has brought Henrietta Maria’s passion and character to life with remarkable skill. I take my hat off to her for having the guts to write historical fiction about Henrietta Maria, who—for those who know of her at all (and I can’t say many people outside history circles do)—remains one of the most divisive figures during one of the most volatile periods in British history.
Those who do know about her tend to fall into one of two camps: those who loathe her and those who love her. I very rarely have come across people who have a nuanced opinion on this subject. Much of what we think about Henrietta Maria comes from the heavily biased accounts and propaganda from the civil wars. In short, she was one of the daughters of Henri IV of France and his second wife, Maria de’ Medici, and was born in 1609. A sister to King Louis XIII of France, Henrietta Maria wed Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1625 and she was a rather unpopular and controversial choice because she was both Roman Catholic and French. (As an aside, historian Leanda de Lisle is writing a much-needed biography about Henrietta Maria and, as she did with Charles I, I am sure it will be a fascinating and illuminating read).
As for Vidal’s novel, I found the peripheral characters are well-formed, I really enjoyed the developing love story between Charles & Henrietta Maria, and I particularly liked the characterisation of Anne Villiers. I don’t remember having previously read a historical fiction work which centres on Henrietta Maria herself, although she is found often enough as a secondary character in some books, so this was interesting as well in that light. Of course, this being the beginning of the ‘Henrietta of France’ trilogy, there is scope for much more character development and story to come and I do look forward to seeing what Vidal does with Henrietta Maria’s incredible story. I enjoyed this book.