THE KING'S ASSASSIN by Benjamin Woolley


The Secret Plot to Murder King James I
Email this review


A history of a regicide plot against James I (1566-1625).

Though the book may seem like just another history of an English king, Woolley (Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America, 2007, etc.) packs the narrative with the kind of interesting tidbits that textbooks often leave out. James I was England’s first Stuart king, succeeding his cousin Elizabeth I. His childhood in Scotland was poor and often threatened, so to suddenly become king was a pleasant shock. He always had a weakness for favorites, beginning in his youth with this cousin Esmé Stuart. Robert Carr enjoyed James’ favor until the king took notice of a young cupbearer, George Villiers. A group formed at Bayard’s Castle worked hard to find George a position for the king, little knowing they were giving up the devil they knew for one much worse. Mentored by Francis Bacon, George became the king’s emotional, political, and sexual friend. James gifted countless positions, lands, and titles to George. As James’ son, Charles, grew to adulthood, the rivalry between him and George looked like it was going to cause trouble, but the king ended up the loser in that relationship. It was George who accompanied Charles in his secret adventure to woo the Spanish princess. The match of Catholic Spain to strongly Protestant England was unpopular at best. The Spanish support for its allies' seizing the Palatinate from James’ son was sufficient enough to provoke war. The adventure was a complete failure, though, as Charles was discovered. The wedding never took place, but the ties between George and Charles were fixed. The author notes how the pair excluded the king, who ignored his duties and became resentful, paranoid, hostile, and awkward toward them. The king’s death from malaria was always thought to be natural, but Woolley has an entirely new, riveting tale to tell.

A perfect choice for readers who love English history, especially the Stuart period.

Pub Date: July 17th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-250-12503-3
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2018


FictionTHE WINTER QUEEN by Jane Stevenson
by Jane Stevenson
NonfictionTHE DEBATABLE LAND by Graham Robb
by Graham Robb
NonfictionREBELLION by Peter Ackroyd
by Peter Ackroyd