LION RAMPANT by Bernard Shrimsley


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Did Henry, Prince of Wales, son of James I of England, die in his robust prime of mere typhoid--or was he murdered? Shrimsley's venture into this relatively fresh territory is a witty, acute, persuasive reconstruction. The case revolves around Prince Henry's hot affair with Lady Frances Howard--whose family (the source of three Tudor queens) has been slipping under the Stuarts. . . and whose marriage to Robert Devereaux has never been consummated. (""Robert has no ink in his pen,"" says Frances' father in the ripe period-idiom here.) So Frances eagerly switches her interest to Henry; her marriage's nullification proceedings are underway. But King James--a shrewd coward who's suspicious of his army-loving son--is hostile to the new romance: while spies abound everywhere, James dickers with both Spain and France for a royal bride for Henry. Other parties are also keeping an eye on the Henry/Frances affair: that upstart, Rochester, James' ""favorite,"" is mockingly overjoyed when James suggests he marry Frances (""You can go to bed an earl--and get up a Countess. Eh? Eh? Eh?""); Sir Walter Ralegh, a Henry loyalist languishing in the Tower, hopes for James' death and war with Spain; the Queen hates her husband; the Countess of Suffolk broods on the fate of the Howards. And then one day Henry, who has dropped Frances, becomes violently ill, lingers on. . . and dies. Who done it? In an Afterword Shrimsley documents a convincing case against the murder of never-to-be Henry IX; and throughout he gives tense, delightfully cynical attention to his historical characters--with virtuoso talebearing, raunchy dialogue, and ribald bedroom doings. Lively entertainment for English-history devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1984
Publisher: Macmillan