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White King: Charles I – Traitor, Murderer, Martyr

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  188 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Less than forty years after the golden age of Elizabeth I, England was at war with itself. The bloody, devastating civil wars set family against family, friend against friend. At the head of this disintegrating kingdom was Charles I. His rule would change the face of the monarchy for ever.

Charles I’s reign is one of the most dramatic in history, yet Charles the man remains
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 10th 2019 by Vintage (first published October 31st 2017)
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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  188 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Adrienne Dillard
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017

As a Tudor historian, it is nearly impossible to review works set during the time period without seeing the content through the jaundiced lens of your own biases. More often than not, there is room for multiple interpretations of the documented evidence, but it can be hard to overcome the instinctual gut-reaction humans experience when faced with an opinion that differs from one they wholeheartedly embrace about historical figures they have come to cherish. That uncomfortableness is invaluable w
The reign of King Charles I in the sixteenth-century England is nothing less than a tragedy ridden with civil war, the dissolution of the monarchy, the ‘reign’ of Oliver Cromwell, and eventual regicide. What went wrong during this dramatic time? Was Charles a victim or antagonist? Leanda De Lisle attempts to answer these questions among others in, “The White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr.

Readers expecting a simple biography of Charles I or a portrait of the times will be sorely dis
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with Nicholas II, the last ruling Romanov, how we view Charles I is largely set by how his days ended. And as with Nicholas, we have been further conditioned by generations of propaganda pumped out by the winners and their ideological allies, claiming that it was Charles’s own bad philosophy, coupled with incompetence, rather than mostly bad luck and choices only wrong in retrospect, that led to his death. Leanda de Lisle’s "The White King" rejects the fake news and offers an even-handed view ...more
Andrea Zuvich
As I began the book, I was a little sceptical – was this going to be yet another biography of King Charles I, slamming him for his faults and never mentioning his qualities? Or would it be more gushing like a hagiography? Out of all the biographies of King Charles that I had read, the only one I thought well-balanced was the short biography by the late Mark Kishlansky. I wondered what de Lisle would bring to the sovereign’s story that hadn’t already been told many times.

By the end of the first c
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
The White King accomplishes much of what makes de Lisle a great historical writer: the historical figures come alive as characters under her pen, and the history is meticulously researched and presented in a wealth of detail.

Unfortunately, that last point is also what drags the book down. The supremely bloated middle section goes on for pages and pages about the civil war – every battle, with numbers of soldiers and horses and munitions; all the casualties; the movements of everyone around the c
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Before this book all I knew about Charles Ist was from a history of England that he was a tyrant and murderer and Oliver Cromwell together with Parliament had his head chopped off. From this quite large and detailed book I learned that he was not a tyrant beyond what the average king of England ruled as, and he was not a murderer beyond having his troops contest Cromwell's troops in the civil wars.
The book is only two stars for me because Charles was simply not an interesting ruler and the book
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much of this book is densely packed with historical facts. This can detract from its narrative quality, especially for a general reader (such as myself!) without any detailed historical knowledge of the period it covers. Nevertheless, persistence pays off. An in depth picture eventually emerges of Charles I as a courageous but very human leader. The book also delivers a thought-provoking portrayal of Charles' parliamentary opponents whose harsh puritan ideology has echoes in some of the more div ...more
Samantha Morris
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I clearly remember when I was studying my A-Levels, sitting in my history lesson and learning about Charles I and the Divine Right of Kings. I remember studying the causes of the English Civil War and thinking "this has to be the most boring part of English history I have ever had the misfortune of studying". Little did I know that when I moved on to University I would end up falling in love with the English Civil War and specialising in the battlefield archaeology of the Battle of Cheriton for ...more
Eddie Clarke
Hmmm - as someone who doesn’t know the history I was hoping for a lucid analysis of the causes of the English Civil War. This book does not deliver that, but does argue that the Puritans in Parliament were spoiling for a fight and Charles’ room for manoeuvre was limited. The author hits her stride when the war actually starts and then it becomes an exciting narrative of battles, treachery, desperate dashes and brilliant escapes all across the country. De Lisle makes quite a case for Henrietta Ma ...more
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Changed my school-learned preconceptions. Beats Brexit for the fanaticism, scheming and unscrupulousness that the poor man had to endure and eventually did for him.
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the definitive book about Charles I. It is beautifully written, well researched and referenced with thought provoking interpretations of the personality of the king. Absolutely brilliant. I am re-reading it straight away as it was so awesome. I would love Leanda de Lisle to now turn her historical talents to a book about Henrietta Maria. Fingers crossed??
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an enjoyable and captivating read of a man historians often depict incorrectly. While you'll get distracted by details the casual writing style make it a read that anyone can tackle.
A really challenging read that has taken me almost a month to read 300 pages, but I feel good about it.

I recommend this book to people who already know a little about the subject before they read it because it talks about complex religious climates in 17th Century England, Scotland, and Ireland.
Avis Black
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies, 4-stars
De Lisle is pro-Charles, though it's plain from the text that Charles made the mistake of shaking down the nobility and other wealthy men for a foreign war they didn't want to pay for, and he lost a lot of goodwill with this illegal maneuver. He also supported Archbishop Laud's efforts to have all the original Catholic church lands, lost in the Reformation, returned to the English Protestant church to strengthen it. This second proposal enraged the nobility, because those lands had ended up in t ...more
Daphne Sharpe
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be a brilliant blow by blow account of events leading up to the English Civil War. It is so well researched,with many details unknown to me,clearly written,with major characters and events explained in such depths. History is usually a procession of battle names and dates,with no clear connections between them, this book creates order from chaos and is a fascinating read.
Whilst on holiday in Scotland, I was amazed how far north the Civil War battles had been fought and that
Oct 13, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The style of writing is explanatory, and not engaging to me. Therefore, I’m not the right reviewer for this book. There are others who appreciate this style of writing and they will reveal veracious reviews.

@FB: Best Historical Fiction
Joshua Horn
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be an interested and rather balanced book on Charles I and the English Civil War. I thought the author did a good job of explaining Charles' philosophy and beliefs. It was a bit too pro-Charles for my taste (though not necessarily too anti-Roundhead.) My previous study on Charles have been through Reformed sources, and this gives more clarity that Charles would have seen his religious beliefs as different than Catholicism, and the changes he would make to religious worship, thoug ...more
Cain Gannon
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Without doubt, Leanda de Lisle is one of the top historians of our time. This book has absolutely proved that. The way that she engages with Charles, not just as a King, but as a man, husband and father, allow us to delve deep into the character of this famous monarch. What's even more amazing is, while keeping Charles the main subject, she is able to introduce us to the women of the time, and show their roles in the Civil War. With great success, De Lisle presents the possible thinking and rati ...more
Jud Barry
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read this book, one has to wonder what might have happened had Charles I's reign not happened in the heyday of internecine Christian war: without it, would the constitutional dimension pitting king against Parliament have aroused an adequate degree of antipathy to set the two parties at each other's throats? I personally doubt it. That the "roundheads" defeated the "cavaliers" seems to me evidence that their soldiers, as a group, were unified and motivated by a more visceral degree of rel ...more
Pogo Dragon
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have studied history up to post-graduate level but always bounced, hard, off the English Civil Wars. At 6th form it was the end of the A level syllabus and seemed to be taught in the form 'and then on this date they went here and had this battle'. Not inspiring.

The execution of Charles I is one of the (many!) grim anniversaries that I share a birthday with and as such I've always been irrationally drawn to him. But so much of what I've seen written has been of the form 'and then on this date
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not much of a biography person, but the perspective of this biography intrigued me. So few historical works give Charles I a fair analysis (and even fewer works of historical fiction), that I was happy to see something come out which actually treated him as a human being. And, happier still to see something which treated his wife fairly.

The book delivered on that promise. Charles is so human, and so deeply likable, and yet you can easily see where it all went wrong.

The best part of this bo
John Newton
Wonderful. Leanda de Lisle brings Charles I to life. You feel like you understand him, his weaknesses and strengths, by the time you finish this book. Her biography has the pacing of a good novel and I couldn't put it down, even knowing at least broadly how the story ends before I started it (I don't think it's a spoiler in this case to reveal it all ends badly). De Lisle also, and I especially appreciated this, tells the story of the various disputes between Parliament and the King clearly. I a ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The White King
Leanda de Lisle is one of my favorite authors. She tells a compelling story and portrays historical characters with understanding and empathy.
There are a few weaknesses with this book. The map could use more detail. Adding the sites of the battles would have been helpful. The French letters cited in the footnotes would have served a better purpose had they been translated. Also, for me, the title doesn't quite work. I was surprised that de Lisle didn't cite the works of Charles Spe
Rebekah Marriner
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a biography that will turn everything you know about Charles 1st on it's head ('scuse the pun).
Incredibly detailed yet easy to read, easy to follow, easy to enjoy and very hard to put down.
The book reveals the external influences that lead Charles to burden parliament for money and you almost feel that he was justified in doing so. Following him from James death to the friendship with the Duke of Buckingham, the guilt over the death of Lord Strafford and his ultimate execution yes, yo
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
De Lisle is an excellent researcher and writer. She clearly knows a lot about Charles and this time period. But (as another reviewer pointed out) that made the book drag in some parts. The middle section was difficult to get through, simply because it was a lot of detail about a topic I didn’t want a lot of detail about.

The beginning and the ending were great though! When De Lisle is discussing Charles and his family is really when the book shines. I also really enjoyed the more positive outloo
Jenn Gazdecki
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the book. This is a period of English history that I don’t know much about and this brought it alive for me. The author was good about not bogging down in inconsequential details and kept me wanting to know what happened next. It also filled in some gaps I had in my knowledge that helped me understand some of the characters in The Three Musketeers better. I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys history.
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book that focuses on one of the most principled kings ever to reign in Britain. Naturally, he was beheaded. This book charts the short and ultimately unhappy life of Charles I. This is actually one of the most well-written books to be published in a long time. The author presents this king’s story by also focusing on some of women in his life, Henrietta Maria and her lady in waiting Lady Carlisle, supposedly the inspiration for M’lady from The Three Musketeers.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Leander de Lisle turns Henrietta Maria from a trouble making dabbler into some one much more alarming. It's well researched and creates a strong sympathy for Charles the man rather than Charles the king. It reveals the complex nature of the man, his relationships and the difficulties he faced. Not to mention the disastrous consequences of his beliefs and decisions.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit to not knowing much about Charles I bar the known beheaded and Cromwell. I’ve come away with a better understanding of his reign and found the book to be detailed but not overwhelming.
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good mix of history and gossip. Charles comes across as a strong and stubborn man who is willing to give up his life to maintain the monarchy and the Bishops. But what come across most strongly is his love of his family.

3.5 stars.
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Leanda de Lisle is the author of bestselling Tudor and Stuart history praised for meticulous research as well as strong narratives. TUDOR, her biography of the Tudor family 1437-1603, was a top ten Sunday Times best seller, BBC History book of the year, Daily Telegraph book of the year, and History Today book of the year. THE SISTERS WHO WOULD BE QUEEN; THE TRAGEDY OF MARY, KATHERINE AND LADY JANE ...more