For a change of pace, I picked up The Severed Crown by Jane Lane (Elaine Dakers), a historical novel about the last months of Charles I. Jane Lane was quite a prolific writer, though I’ve read only one other novel by her, A Secret Chronicle about Edward II (of course). My copy of The Severed Crown is a 1972 American edition; whether there was an earlier UK edition I don’t know.
When I finished The Severed Crown, one of my first thoughts was whether it could get published today. There’s not much action, and there’s no love interest–indeed, there are no major female characters in the novel, unless one counts Queen Henrietta Maria, who writes a couple of letters. The novel is told in the form of letters, extracts from memoirs, and recollections. What action there is consists of Charles I’s moves from place to place and discussions. So if you like action and/or romance, this isn’t the novel for you.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed it thoroughly, perhaps all the more so because some of my recent reads have been so dismal. The story of the king’s last days is told through the eyes of a variety of characters, all with different political and religious beliefs and each with a distinct voice and personality, though most are there more as reporters/observers than as actors. It’s not a neutral look at the action–Lane seems to be very much on the side of the king–but of course novelists are much more free to take sides than are historians or biographers.
One problem, especially for readers in the United States: Lane gives very little background information, so those who don’t know anything about the events leading up to the king’s execution will be at quite a loss, and those like me who knew very little about them will probably miss things in the novel that a more knowledgeable person would pick up.
As with any novel I’ve enjoyed, this one’s got me looking for more novels about the English Civil War, and more by Jane Lane as well.