The White King

Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr


By Leanda de Lisle

Formats and Prices



This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 31, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

From the New York Times bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the tragic story of Charles I, his warrior queen, Britain’s civil wars and the trial for his life.

Less than forty years after England’s golden age under Elizabeth I, the country was at war with itself. Split between loyalty to the Crown or to Parliament, war raged on English soil. The English Civil War would set family against family, friend against friend, and its casualties were immense–a greater proportion of the population died than in World War I.

At the head of the disintegrating kingdom was King Charles I. In this vivid portrait — informed by previously unseen manuscripts, including royal correspondence between the king and his queen — Leanda de Lisle depicts a man who was principled and brave, but fatally blinkered.

Charles never understood his own subjects or court intrigue. At the heart of the drama were the Janus-faced cousins who befriended and betrayed him — Henry Holland, his peacocking servant whose brother, the New England colonialist Robert Warwick, engineered the king’s fall; and Lucy Carlisle, the magnetic ‘last Boleyn girl’ and faithless favorite of Charles’s maligned and fearless queen.

The tragedy of Charles I was that he fell not as a consequence of vice or wickedness, but of his human flaws and misjudgments. The White King is a story for our times, of populist politicians and religious war, of manipulative media and the reshaping of nations. For Charles it ended on the scaffold, condemned as a traitor and murderer, yet lauded also as a martyr, his reign destined to sow the seeds of democracy in Britain and the New World.



James I and VI, Paul van Somer, c. 1620 (Photo: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017)

Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, with Sir John Harington, in the Hunting Field, Robert Peake the Elder, 1603 © The Met Museum, New York / Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1944

Elizabeth Stuart, the ‘Winter Queen’ © Weiss Gallery

Philip IV, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, 1623–24 © Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas / Algur H. Meadows Collection

Cardinal Richelieu, Philippe de Champaigne, 1642 © Museum of Fine Arts, Strasbourg (Photo: Leemage / UIG via Getty Images)

George Villiers, Peter Paul Rubens, c. 17th century © Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy / Bridgeman Images

‘Triumphant Death chases Londoners from their city’, from A rod for run-awayes Gods tokens, artist unknown, c. 1625 (Photo: Science History Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Marie de Medici landing at Marseilles, Peter Paul Rubens, 1623 © Louvre

Charles I, Peter Oliver, c. 1625–32 (Photo: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017)

Henrietta Maria, John Hoskins, c. 1632 (Photo: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017)

Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick, Daniel Mytens the elder, 1633 © National Trust Images

Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland, studio of Daniel Mytens, c. 1632–33 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Henrietta Maria as St Catherine, Anthony Van Dyck, c. 1630s © Philip Mould & Company

Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle, Adriaen Hanneman, c. 1660–65 © Minneapolis Institute of Arts / Bridgeman Images

John Pym, by or after Edward Bower, c. 1640 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Louis XIII at the Siege of La Rochelle, French School, c. 17th century © La Sorbonne, Paris / Bridgeman Images

Charles I, Anthony Van Dyck, c. 1635 (Photo: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017)

Marie de Rohan, Duchesse de Chevreuse, as Diana the Huntress, attributed to Claure Deruet, 1627 © Castle Museum, Versailles (Photo by Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images)

Charles I, Henrietta Maria and Charles II when Prince of Wales dining in public, Gerrit Houckgeest, 1635 (Photo: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017)

An Allegory of Marriage, Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), 1576 (Photo © RMN-Grand Palais, Musée du Louvre / Stéphane Maréchalle)

The Five Eldest Children of Charles I, Anthony van Dyck, 1637 (Photo: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017)

Charles I, studio Anthony van Dyck, c. 1636 © Weiss Gallery

William II, Prince of Orange, and his Bride, Mary Stuart, Anthony van Dyck, 1641. Photo courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Atrocities in Ireland, from ‘The Teares of Ireland’ by James Cranford’, Wenceslaus Hollar, c. 1642–46. Photo © Courtesy of National Library of Ireland, Dublin [PD 2133 TX]

The Chair organ, Robert Dallam, Tewkesbury Abbey © Martin Goetze and Dominic Gwynn Ltd

The execution of Strafford, Wenceslaus Hollar, c. 1641–77. Photo © The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, Canada

The death of Boy at Marston Moor, 1644. Photo © Chronicle / Alamy Stock Photo

Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Gerrit Van Honthorst, c. 1630s–56 ©National Trust Images/John Gibbons

The fingernail of Thomas Holland © Courtesy of Tyburn Convent

The saddle used by the King at the Battle to Naseby, Private Collection. Photo courtesy of Graeme Rimer

The battlefield at Naseby, Robert Streeter, c. 1645

James II & VII, Princess Elizabeth and Henry, Duke of Gloucester, John Hoskins, c. 1640s © The Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge

Anne of Austria, queen consort of France, with Louis XIV as a child, French school, 17th century. Photo: Christophel Fine Art / UIG via Getty Images

Mary, Princess Royal, studio of Gerrit van Honthorst, c. 1655 © Philip Mould & Company

Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Cooper, c. 1653 © Philip Mould & Company

Thomas Fairfax, circle of Robert Walker, 17th century. Photo: Lebrecht Music and Arts Photo Library / Alamy Stock Photo

Charles I at the time of his trial, after Edward Bower, 17th century © Philip Mould & Company

Charles I, miniature portrait with mica overlays, artist unknown, c. 1650–1700 © Carisbrooke Castle Museum Trust

Pearl earring owned by King Charles I, removed from the King’s ear after his execution, 1600–10 © The Portland Collection, Harley Gallery, Welbeck Estate, Nottinghamshire / Bridgeman Images

Portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria as a Widow, artist unknown, c. 1650s. Courtesy of The Walters Art Museum (CC0 1.0)

St George’s chapel, Windsor Castle, Josep Renalias, 2008 © Josep Renalias (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Frontispiece of the Eikon Basilike, Wenceslaus Hollar, 1649. Photo © The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, Canada

Author’s Note

THE TITLE OF THIS BOOK–THE WHITE KING–IS DRAWN FROM A sobriquet used by Charles’s contemporaries. To supporters he was the saintly White King crowned in robes the colour of innocence. To opponents he was the White King of the prophecies of Merlin, a tyrant destined for a violent end. It is a sobriquet that is unfamiliar today. I hope it inspires curiosity: that people wonder what other unexpected things they might discover about the extraordinary Charles I.

This new portrait, informed by previously unseen royal correspondence, depicts a brave and principled king who inspired great loyalty but who was also a man of flesh and blood. Charles the Martyr and Charles the Murderer, lauded by friends and condemned by enemies, is largely forgotten, but in popular memory something just as extreme remains. Charles has been pinned to the pages of history as a failed king, executed at the hands of his own subjects, and now preserved like some exotic but desiccated insect. In many accounts it seems that Charles was doomed to fail almost from birth, his character immutable.

We like to believe we have turned our back on old prejudices but the way we remember Charles shows how they lie just below the surface, still influencing the way we think. In the past disabilities were seen as marks of man’s fallen nature. The twisted spine of Shakespeare’s Richard III was an outward sign of a twisted soul. It has been surprisingly common for Charles’s fate to be read back into the physical difficulties of his childhood, as if his weak legs were physical manifestations of weakness of character. The determination and resilience he showed in overcoming his disability, emerging as an athletic adult, is surely more interesting.

Meanwhile the misconceived traditional view of Charles achieves two things. The first is that it inspires indifference to one of the greatest stories and most significant reigns in royal history. Despite the wealth of exciting new scholarship, and the fascinating women who surrounded Charles, the well trodden ground of the Tudor queens continues to produce more books for the general reader. Publishers and authors shy away from a riskier subject. The second consequence is that in conveniently blaming Charles for the horrors of the civil wars, it covers the tracks of those others who shared responsibility for the conflicts–and popular memory of the parliamentary heroes of the past could also stand some revision.

The White King attempts not to restore Charles to the pedestal of the martyr many viewed him as after his execution, but to give him life, to show him grow and change, to place him properly in the context of his times and amongst his contemporaries. Where Charles’s story has in the past been given a very masculine focus, here, the leading female political figures of the age, so often forgotten or dismissed, take centre stage alongside the men, just as they did in his own time.

The lost royal letters, quoted for the first time, give a voice not only to Charles, but also to his maligned Catholic queen, Henrietta Maria. Her reputation remains lost in the eye of a storm of sexist tropes. Women have always been judged to be creatures of emotion, not of reason, and too often she has been depicted as an hysterical girl who, even as a mature woman, has all the wit and political grasp of a child. It is women who, in myth, also brought evil into the world, and Henrietta Maria (despite her supposed stupidity) is still depicted as a seductive Eve to Charles’s Adam, leading the king astray.

In The White King Henrietta Maria is revealed in a new light, as every inch the daughter of the great warrior king, Henri IV of France, and as remarkable a queen as any of the wives of Henry VIII.

The early chapters of The White King take us into Europe and its empires. This is the world of Charles’s sister, the Winter Queen of Bohemia, of Protestant churches in flames and the advance of the Counter-Reformation, of the France of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers and the Puritan colonies of New England, of a London buzzing with a fast-moving new media reporting on politics from Parliament.

Events are underpinned by ideas about power and faith that have a very modern resonance: one where populism meets religious justifications for violence, and where the theory of divine-right kingship is part of a royal war on terror.

Among the key figures is the court beauty Lucy, Countess of Carlisle, a descendant of Henry VIII’s mistress Mary Boleyn and the would-be lover of the king. This last Boleyn girl is a significant political player in her own right, but also important as one of the ‘Essex cousinage’.*

They are the heirs to a Tudor past: the son, nephews and nieces of Elizabeth I’s last favourite, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. They help carry and explain the story from the beginning of Charles’s reign to its end.

Lucy’s cousin Robert Rich, Earl of Warwick, is the greatest privateer of the age and deeply involved in the Puritan colonies. This ‘American’ connection is a significant one–it links Warwick to other totemic civil-war figures and to the radical opposition in London. Warwick’s younger brother Henry Rich, Earl of Holland, is, by contrast, close to Charles; he is the reputed lover of the subversive French courtier Marie de Chevreuse, and a favourite of Henrietta Maria. Like Lucy Carlisle, Henry Holland will prove both friend and enemy to the royal couple. Seemingly faithless, he and Lucy will turn and turn again, their fates linked to those of their master and mistress.

The trigger event in the early part of the book is Charles’s decision to take his kingdoms into the Thirty Years War, fighting for the dynastic interests of the Stuarts and the Protestant cause in Europe.

The title of this section, ‘His Father’s “Wife”’, refers to the royal favourite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. The shooting star of the Jacobean age, judged beautiful and damned, he damages the young king’s relationship with his parliaments and supports controversial religious reforms while his military failures heighten the sense of Counter-Reformation threat. One of the royal letters now revealed in The White King gives Henrietta Maria’s personal account of Buckingham’s assassination.

The second section, ‘His Wife’s Friend’, opens with Charles’s own Brexit as he takes his kingdoms out of the Thirty Years War. Charles’s court enjoys the ‘halcyon days’ of peace, with exquisitely beautiful court masques depicting an idealised world of deference and social harmony. This period at court is immortalised in the paintings of the artist Anthony Van Dyck, and his images of the king’s growing family in their sensual silks and lace. It ends in 1642 in a very different world, in the aftermath of an invasion from Scotland, rebellion in Ireland, mobs on the streets, and Charles and his family fleeing London. The royal favourites, Lucy Carlisle and Henry Holland, are now with the opposition, which they believe will be the winning side in the coming conflict between king and the English Parliament.

The third section, ‘His Turncoat Servant’, covers the English civil war, and its title refers to Henry Holland. An extravagant peacock, rather than a dour Puritan, Holland is a reminder of how close sections of the opposing sides are to each other–and how fluid they will become. The propaganda of Charles’s enemies, with its narrative of popish threat, and the trolling of Henrietta Maria, remains influential today, with a secular post-Protestant mistrust of Catholicism still lingering. The term ‘divine right of kings’ is remembered, but it bears the Catholic face of Henrietta Maria, rather than that of its author, the Calvinist King James, and many people believe that Charles was somehow ‘Catholic’ (encouraged by his seductress queen).

In fact this is to be a war of Protestant against Protestant over the nature of the Church of England, and where exactly the balance of power between king and Parliament lies. Many MPs will fight for the king’s cause. And many MPs who begin by fighting against him, end up fighting against their former comrades–Holland amongst them.

The tragedy ahead embraces not only Charles but also his subjects, the civil war reducing England to the misery of a failed state. The intense violence and scenes of battle are an important part of the narrative of The White King. Charles is an extraordinary survivor, but at the conclusion of this section he is in captivity. A new rebellion, this time against the iron rule of parliament, has begun and a new invasion is coming from Scotland.

The final Part of the book, ‘Nemesis’, introduces another little remembered woman to Charles’s biography: Jane Whorwood, a Royalist spy who Charles desires as his mistress. The real Charles was neither a saint nor his wife’s puppet, but a man of strengths and failings. He resembles the tragic heroes of classical Greek literature: a courageous king, of high ideals, whose flaws and misjudgements lead to his ruin. We feel horror and pity as the endgame approaches. For all the hate he engendered, he dies loved in a way his son, the cynical, merry Charles II would never be.

The final chapter of The White King opens with Charles’s burial. The belief that Charles was the only king ever to have been crowned in white, the basis for his sobriquet, turns out to be untrue, while the famous description of him being buried in a snowstorm also melts into myth. But the intensely moving drama of Charles’s life and reign remain. The tales of his vilified queen, of populist politicians and religious terror, of foreign engagements and civil wars, of the suffering of ordinary people, the hopes vested in a different future, and the shadow of a coming genocide, make this an epic story for our times.

* A term coined by the historian John Adamson.



MONSIEUR DE PREUX CONSIDERED THE REQUEST OF THE TWO Englishmen standing at the old eastern gate of the Louvre. It was Saturday 22 February 1623, and Paris was labouring under a third winter of exceptional cold. De Preux, a former tutor to the French king, was no longer young and perhaps his eyesight was not what it had been. In any event, he decided to overlook the Englishmen’s wigs and false beards. Nor did it seem to trouble him they appeared remarkably unalike for men whose names–John and Tom Smith–suggested they were related. One was still boyish, small and slight, his wig covering a high forehead; the taller man, well built and strikingly handsome. De Preux simply treated them as two gentlemen of fashion travelling Europe as part of their education. As such, he was happy to introduce them to the spectacle of the Bourbon court and, at its heart, his master, Louis XIII.

The men walked past the musketeer guards in their feathered hats and livery of blue and red to enter the palace. The buildings of the Louvre were strung along the Seine like a mismatched necklace, ancient medieval towers with arrow-slit windows alongside new light-filled Renaissance galleries. It seemed you never knew what you might find around the next corner. Yet little could have been as surprising as the true identities of the Louvre’s latest visitors. De Preux surely knew, however, or had heard rumours of the shocking truth. The older man was no less than the thirty-year-old George Villiers, Marquess of Buckingham, Lord High Admiral of England and royal favourite to King James of Britain. Still more extraordinary, however, was the presence of the second man: James’s heir, the twenty-two-year-old Charles Stuart, Prince of Wales.

Although by some measure the smaller of the two men, Charles was an attractive youth, his long hair swept back from a fine face and large eyes that turned down at the outer corners. His paternal grandmother, Mary, Queen of Scots, was well remembered here in Paris. She had inherited her Scottish throne as an infant, and been the child bride of a King of France, loved for her beauty and charm. Widowed when aged only eighteen, she had returned to Scotland from France, the Catholic queen of a newly Protestant Scotland. As the senior descendant of Henry VIII’s elder sister, Margaret Tudor, she had expected one day also to be queen of Protestant England. To help secure this inheritance she had married a junior Stuart who, like Mary herself, had English royal blood. But by the time Charles’s father, James, was born in 1566, Mary’s marriage had turned sour. Months later her husband was murdered. The Protestant lords and their allies in the Scottish ‘kirk’, or church, accused Mary and overthrew her. Her baby, James, was made king in her place and raised in the Protestant religion. Mary sought refuge with Elizabeth I in England but the Tudor queen instead imprisoned her Stuart cousin. Those who feared a Catholic heir to the English throne wanted Mary dead. Nearly twenty years later, in 1587, they got their way. After Mary’s desperate plots to escape she was tried for treason (although no subject of Elizabeth) and executed with a woodsman’s axe. There had been angry riots when the news reached Paris, but in London bonfires were lit in celebration.

Charles’s grandmother had not been the last monarch to fall victim to Europe’s religious divisions. The fault line in Western civilisation begun at the Reformation had sent seismic shocks across the Continent, triggering rebellions, civil wars and assassinations. Even now, the aftershocks continued. Beyond Paris’s Champs-Élysées, named after the heavenly Elysian Fields of Greek myth, the political and religious map of Europe was shifting, churches were in flames and thousands were dying.

The Reformation, launched in Germany in 1517, had been born in hell–or rather, in the question of how to avoid it. The Catholic Church taught that to gain salvation you needed to live a life of good works, such as giving to charity. Martin Luther, the great prophet of the Reformation, called for liberty from what he judged as spiritually burdensome rules, and railed against the corruption that had become part of them. The good work of giving to charity did not seem so good when you were being blackmailed with the prospect of hell, and the charities in question were the prestige projects and foundations of the mighty. Luther preached that God offered heaven to an elect few in return for faith alone, that nothing people did could gain them salvation. Scripture, furthermore, was the sole basis of religious truth: the ancient traditions of the Catholic Church and the teachings of its councils had no share in such a role.1

People had, however, soon begun to draw opposing truths from their reading of scripture. What became known as Protestantism split into faiths united only by their rejection of Catholicism. Lutheranism’s greatest rival within Protestantism were the so-called ‘Reform’ churches that had begun in Switzerland and came to be labelled ‘Calvinist’ after the theologian John Calvin.2 Reform Protestantism had swept away what Calvinists judged the obfuscations and half-measures of Lutheranism. They emphasised that God’s total power over salvation meant that while He had predestined an elect to heaven, He had also predestined everyone else to hell, whatever good deeds they did. The most significant departure from Luther’s teaching was, though, their rejection of any belief in the physical presence of Christ in consecrated bread and wine.* Rituals and altars were rendered superfluous and even judged idolatrous, while in place of a caste of priests they had ministers, who had no special status beyond academic credentials, reflected in their black gowns. The religious life of Calvinists centred on reading scripture, listening to sermons, spiritual self-examination and prayer.

This was the Protestantism of Britain.

The Scottish kirk was the purer Calvinist church of the Stuart kingdoms, for the Church of England remained only partially reformed, retaining its pre-Reformation structure of priests, deacons and bishops. English Protestants nevertheless saw themselves as leading members of the international Calvinist community. This embraced parts of eastern Europe, particularly Poland, the Electoral Palatinate in the Rhineland, the northern provinces of the Netherlands which formed the Calvinist Dutch Republic, and in Catholic France, where the sixteenth-century Wars of Religion had left a substantial minority of Calvinists known as the Huguenots who had been granted the right to practise their Protestant religion.3

There was no certainty of survival, however, for these Calvinist communities. Protestantism in Europe and in Britain had survived only when it had been imposed by rulers, or was permitted by them.4 To protect themselves British Protestants had, therefore, developed ‘resistance’ theories, which argued that rulers took their authority from the people who therefore had the right to overthrow, or kill, any monarch of the ‘wrong’ religion. These theories had justified the Scottish Protestant overthrow of Mary, Queen of Scots. But Catholics–especially those associated with the Jesuits–had also developed resistance theories. There had been several attempts to overthrow or kill their persecutor Elizabeth I. Indeed, she had only reluctantly permitted the execution of her fellow monarch, Mary, Queen of Scots, when she could no longer afford the risk of keeping her Catholic rival alive.

Resistance theories had thus cost James his mother but he believed they were also the source of much of the disorder of his early reign, and the sedition he had faced from fellow Calvinists in Scotland. James’s famous advocacy of the ‘divine right’ of kings was his answer to such theories, launched in a verbal war on religiously justified terror.5 His 1598 tract ‘The True Laws of Free Monarchy’ argued that kings drew their authority from God, not the people, and so had a ‘divine right’ to rule. A good king would choose to rule by the law, but in the last resort he was above the law–a ‘free’ monarch. Whether a king ruled tyrannically, or failed the ‘true’ religion, only God could punish him: there could be no religious justification for sedition or regicide. To the modern mind divine-right kingship appears like megalomania but its acceptance was intended to ensure stability, which was a basic function of monarchy.

By the time Elizabeth had died on 24 March 1603 James was ready to publish his religious and political works for an international audience. It was later said that her Privy Council had debated whether or not James should be invited to become King of England with conditions–in other words he would have to accept that his kingship was limited by English law and he would not be ‘free’ to do as he wished. This was voted down.6

With James’s ambition to inherit the English throne achieved, he had united the crowns of Britain for the first time, though not the kingdoms. To James’s frustration the English saw no advantage in a political union with their ‘old beggardly enemy’, the Scots.7 And even though many accepted James’s theories on divine right in principle, in practical terms England was a ‘mixed monarchy’. Sovereignty lay with the king, mixed with that of Parliament, which gave his actions the force of law. There could be no British union without Parliament’s agreement and English MPs would not agree to one. Consequently, while James had given himself the title King of Britain, there was no such political entity.

Charles was heir to the kingdom of England, together with its colony, Ireland (which had its own Parliament), and the entirely independent kingdom of Scotland (which retained its own system of law, its own Parliament and kirk). Nevertheless James’s achievement in 1603 had raised the Stuarts to the ranks of Europe’s greatest ruling dynasties. As the Stuart heir Charles should have been greeted in Paris with fanfare. He was, however, on a secret mission and wanted to pass through France undetected.

Charles was well rewarded by his visit to the Louvre, where he saw Louis XIII walking in a gallery among his courtiers: a young man, with black curly hair, a pursed mouth, and dark, guarded eyes.8 Aged twenty-one, Louis was Charles’s almost exact contemporary, but had become king of the most populous kingdom in Europe aged only eight.9 This had followed the assassination in Paris of his father, the great warrior Henri IV, at the hands of a Catholic fanatic: a reminder that kings, and the stability of their kingdoms, faced dangers even from zealots of their own religion.10


  • "Engaging.... Charles had many virtues, and Ms. de Lisle does justice to them.... Ms. de Lisle's account of the Revolution and the war is excellent-clear, fair, sympathetic and detailed.... she grants him the stature of a tragic hero."—AllanMassie, Wall Street Journal
  • "Leanda de Lisle has approached one of the great icons of history with understanding and compassion. She takes her readers through the twists and turns of the English Civil War so that they understand the enormity of the regicide and the foolishness and courage of the king."—Philippa Gregory, author of TheOther Boleyn Girl
  • "The reign of King Charles I of England is perhaps best known for its bloody end, when the monarch was beheaded on January 30, 1649.... The polarized nature of the debate concerning Charles's execution, however, has advanced a simplistic understanding of the Stuart king's legacy, one concerned chiefly with his abuses of power and attachment to the doctrine of divine right of kings. Leanda de Lisle's new biography of Charles, based on existing scholarship as well as newly discovered letters from the king's own hand, promises to challenge this legacy."—TheNew Criterion Critic's Notebook
  • "Charles I (1600-1649) has always received bad press....veteran British historian de Lisle delivers a more generous portrait.... De Lisle's parliamentarians are an irascible group, resembling not so much freedom fighters as the tea party; on the other hand, the author's Charles often seems the voice of reason. Recent elections in Britain and the United States have produced surprisingly dysfunctional governments. De Lisle's fine, revisionist view of Charles may arouse nostalgia for a time when national leaders, elected or not, looked out for the nonzealous majority."—KirkusReviews
  • "De Lisle paints a sympathetic portrait [and] skillfully places Charles's story within the context of religious, international, and domestic political rivalries.... Misogyny, religious prejudice, and prurient propaganda.... This fascinating look at a society in turmoil and the resilient, principled leader who tried to remain true to his religious and dynastic responsibilities will leave readers to determine for themselves the meaning of 'The White King,' .... An engrossing read."—Library Journal
  • "Charles I has long eluded even the most scholarly of biographers; his personal contradictions, attractive qualities and ludicrous blunders require a writer of rare talent to let us appreciate the long-hidden character of the king."—Andrew Roberts, visiting professor, King's College London, and authorof Napoleon: A Life
  • "Leanda de Lisle uses hitherto unknown manuscripts to offer a sympathetic interpretation of the character of Charles I that is more nuanced than previous treatments thanks partly to a highly original account of his much-maligned queen, Henrietta Maria. The White King interweaves personal, national and international events in a vividly written account of his downfall and eventual execution in 1649."—Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy, professor of history,University of Virginia, and author of The Men Who Lost America
  • "This new balanced biography of Charles I, Leanda de Lisle's The White King is so marvelous It blows away the partisan fog and presents such an immediately recognizable human that all previous tellings look like caricature.[The book]renders sufficiently broad strokes of macro history but is also microscopically filled with careful archival detail only the best historians can dig up and make come alive almost effortlessly.... incisive, razor-sharp writing...a polished biographical gem ....[de Lisle] carefully integrates reliable new source documentation - including lost letters from a previously closed private archive at Belvoir Castle - and capable critical analysis about Charles. It will be definitive for a long time."—Patrick Hunt, author of Hannibal, for ElectrumMagazine
  • "By the end of the book, I was sure that this was one of the best books on Charles I yet written. De Lisle certainly does know how to write strong, compelling narratives....Her best - and vital - talent, is perhaps her commendable ability to see the whole picture, the shades of grey."—Andrea Zuvich, authorof A Year in the Life of Stuart Britain for The Seventeenth Century Lady
  • "The White King paints a brilliantly balanced look at the tragic life and complicated reign of King Charles I. Vivid in detail, Leanda de Lisle's research is balanced and insightful.... Richly researched and engagingly written, you will gain excellent insight not only into the life of King Charles I and the lives of those closest to him, but also the religious and governmental strife that drove Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales into bitter religious and civil war."—Queen Anne
  • "De Lisle brings the figures surrounding Charles I to life with the strident confidence that accompanies the historian who fully understand their subject....A well-written and impeccably researched biography, The White King seeks not to revise the history of England's Civil Wars, but uncover the truth hidden beneath the grime of centuries of propaganda and myth."—Adrienne Dillard,author of the best-selling Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey
  • "The White King offers gripping reading. It rewards those who read it a better understanding of King Charles I, and a greater appreciation for the events which shaped his life."—Galveston Daily News
  • "De Lisle cuts a clear path through the complex politics surrounding the reign of Charles I and the Civil War. Highly recommended."—Tudor Times
  • "The author's research and presentation are skilled and highly readable . . . It is an illuminating book."—Historical Novel Society

On Sale
Oct 31, 2017
Page Count
464 pages

Leanda de Lisle

About the Author

Leanda de Lisle is the highly acclaimed author of The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, After Elizabeth, and Tudor. She has been a columnist on the Spectator, Country Life, the Guardian, the Sunday Telegraph, and the Daily Express, and writes for the Daily Mail, the New Statesman, and the Sunday Telegraph. She lives in Leicestershire, England.

Learn more about this author