Palaces of Revolution

The story of the Stuart dynasty is a breathless soap opera played out in just a hundred years in an array of buildings that span Europe from Scotland, via Denmark, Holland and Spain to England.

Although the Tudors are the nation’s favourite royal dynasty, the story of the Stuarts is much more exciting. It’s the remarkable tale of James I, whose favourite son dies and is succeeded by his second son, Charles, an aesthete incapable of ruling. Charles I goes to war against his own people – he loses, and is executed. His son, also Charles, gets crowned king in Scotland but, exiled, holds court in Europe. England under Oliver Cromwell, meanwhile, is still a monarchy in all but name. When Cromwell dies nobody knows what to do. Short on options, Charles II is restored to the throne; but he has no legitimate children and, unlike Henry VIII, does not divorce his queen – the heir is his brother, a bigoted and narrow-minded Roman Catholic. When he comes to power he turns everyone against him and is driven out and replaced by his Protestant daughter, Mary, and her Dutch husband William of Orange. Mary tragically dies and William leaves no heir, the throne going to James II’s younger daughter Anne. She also fails to have issue and the Stuarts are extinguished as a royal line.

Simon Thurley shows us these places in graphic detail. It takes us from Royston and Newmarket, where James I appropriated most of the town centre as a sort of rough-and-ready royal housing estate, to the steamy Turkish baths at Whitehall where Charles II seduced his mistresses. The book is thus about the everyday life of the monarchy, presented chronologically, through the buildings in which they lived. It will present new stories and information about the period not only in the text but through maps and plans that bring life to the Stuart age.

Written and narrated by Simon Thurley.