The King’s Assassin: The Secret Plot to Murder King James I

Benjamin Woolley. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-12503-3
Woolley (The Herbalist) delves into the colorful life of the seductive 17th-century English duke George Villiers, favorite of King James I. Elegant and smooth talking, George Villiers rose above his impoverished family to become James’s confidante and lover, establishing a fortune and a litany of titles in a remarkably short time. Despite early missteps—including a breach in protocol that ordinarily resulted in the removal of a hand—Villiers earned the trust of both James and his more introverted heir, Charles. In fact, George and the prince managed a misguided undercover excursion into Catholic Spain in a failed attempt to clinch a betrothal between Charles and the Spanish infanta, which Woolley recounts humorously. He provides an evenhanded portrayal of the dramatic Villiers, balancing his tenderness toward the king with the haughty ambition that inspired him to kidnap marital prospects for his family members on at least two occasions. As for the discussion of why Villiers may have been the first of many Stuart regicides, Woolley draws on new evidence from noted toxicologist John Henry, who believes that someone probably murdered the king, which is interesting but not definitive. Woolley presents an engrossing portrait of an ambitious man trusted by two kings that both casual readers and Stuart history fans can enjoy. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/21/2018
Release date: 07/17/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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