I started thinking earlier about another Margaret Irwin book, The Bride which is a novel about Rupert of the Rhine’s sister Louise Marie and her doomed love affair with the Scottish military leader James Graham, Marquess of Montrose.
Irwin was a fabulous writer who, thankfully, seems to be having a bit of a resurgence at the moment with a republication of her books about the young Elizabeth I but her other books about Prince Rupert and Montrose seem to be ignored, which is a shame as they are great reads.
Louise is a particularly fascinating character and I loved the dynamic between her, her brothers, her sisters and their glamorous, amazing mother The Winter Queen, Elizabeth of Bohemia, the beloved and strong willed daughter of James I.
The really interesting thing about Louise is that she studied painting with the great Honthorst and had a great talent, which can be seen in her surviving works including this great portrait of her younger sister Sophia, who was to become mother to George I.
Sadly, the romance between Louise and Montrose came to nothing and he was executed in Edinburgh on 21st May 1650. Louise herself converted to Catholicism, much to the horror of her extremely Protestant family and she ran away to France where she was welcomed by Louis XIV, who helped her become Abbess of Maubisson.
Later, in 1670, she would be joined in France by her niece, Liselotte, who became second wife of Philippe, Duc d’Orléans.
I think the thing that I like best about the ‘Stuart’ novels of Margaret Irwin is the melancholy glamour and gaiety, the black sparkle if you like, that she captures in the personalities of Mary, Queen of Scots’ female descendants as they romp around the courts of Europe, making dramatic escapes, taking unsuitable lovers, marrying the wrong men, loving, losing and laughing all the time.