Mon, 14 Dec 2015
Tea Time

Sir Peter Lely, Catherine of Braganza, 1665

In the early 1660's, King Charles II married Catherine of Braganza, daughter of the Portugese King. This is an episode covered in Peter Ackroyd's latest book in his History of England series, Civil War, a book I have almost finished. It's a good and straightforward read as usual.

As Ackroyd notes of the occasion, Charles and Catherine met in Portsmouth for the first time and it sounds like a delicate moment :

One of Catherine's first requests was for a cup of tea, then a novelty. Instead she was offered a glass of ale.

She was going to have to put up with a lot worse. Charles was a complete philanderer as Ackroyd further notes :

Pepys calculated that he had at least seventeen mistresses even before the restoration.

Such was the current nature of the aristocratic estate.

Blair Worden in The Spectator review of Ackroyd's Civil War book is less than impressed. He thinks it is all a bit predictable, with little or nothing new to say, and less analysis. Fair enough. It does tell the same stories many might know from previous histories, but Ackroyd can still engage. Fundamentally, the stories might not be fresh, and there might be little "analysis", but this is not the goal of his history here. Good stories bear re-telling.