This, unlike most of Margaret Irwin's books, is not an historical novel. It is a peep-show at recent times, so fantastically gay that this, our London, appears as the iridescent scene of a pantomime or holiday charade. What happened behind the door at which one had to knock four times?
This is not an historical novel in the ordinary sense. It is something new: the life of an actual royal family, whose story is so rich and varied that it falls naturally into the form of a modern novel. The heroine is Princess Henrietta of England, known to family as Minette. She is the Duchess of Orleans, and linked dramatically to the fate of her brother, Charles II, and that of her cousin, Louis XIV.
James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, the soldier-poet who fought so magnificently and so fruitlessly for his King, Charles I. A tale of seduction and witchcraft and a promise made to Charles I to "raise Scotland for the King." Margaret Irwin's novels of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries have been popular for decades. The author's particular hall-mark is the way she blends exciting adventure, romance and penetrating character-study with scrupulous historical accuracy.
The story moves between the 1920s and the 1770s, following two heroines: twentieth-century Jan Challard, a London girl, and eighteenth-century Juliana Clare, the youngest daughter of an aristocratic Berkshire family. Jan is independent and spirited but leads a humdrum life, working in an office, and walks out with a very suitable young man. Juliana, at 17 years of age, is getting the upbringing of a young lady in the enormous family mansion, Chidleigh, and her life is devoid of excitement and event.
July, 1553. Sibling rivalry has never been more turbulent and perilous than between the daughters of King Henry VIII. Queen Mary Tudor has just won possession of the throne, but her younger half-sister - the beautiful and vivacious Princess Elizabeth - holds the hearts of the people. Knowing this, Mary banishes her sibling to a country retreat, determined to keep her as far away from court life as possible. But Mary’s health is fading fast and her power beginning to crumble.
Growing up in the shadow of her mother, the infamous Anne Boleyn, young Princess Elizabeth has learnt to be continuously on the watch for the political games played out around her. It is never certain when one might rise in, or precariously fall out of, royal favour. But when her distant father, Henry VIII, dies, the future brightens for Elizabeth. She is able to set up a home with Henry’s last wife, Katherine Parr, who now has a new husband, Tom Seymour.
Philip, Prince of Spain, the unwilling bridegroom of Queen Mary, has been warned about the Queen's half sister, the young Elizabeth. According to all reports, she is a heretic, a rebel and a potential enemy and has 'a spirit full of enchantment'. An alluring description and one that immediately intrigues rather than deters the foreign prince. Accused of treachery by Mary and under threat of death, Elizabeth's life hangs in the balance.
The first five stories in this collection are stories from Ireland, exploring the dark history of the country and the dogged optimism of its people. The following four tales are of the uncanny - striking studies of witchcraft and black magic, evoking a strange haunting atmosphere illustrating the power of evil and its effect on the imagination.