The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain by Allan Massie - review by Adrian Tinniswood

Adrian Tinniswood

Cooking Things Up

The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain


Jonathan Cape 370pp £20

In the spring of 1889 a neo-Jacobite group, the Order of the White Rose, organised an ‘Exhibition of the Royal House of Stuart’ at the New Gallery on Regent Street. The exhibition’s patron was Queen Victoria (‘Stewart blood is in my veins, and I am now their representative’) and the English and Scottish aristocracy eagerly lent nearly 1,200 Stuart paintings, miniatures and relics. Along with the Holbeins and Van Dycks they included Bonnie Prince Charlie’s sporran, Mary Queen of Scots’ backgammon board and more locks of hair than you’d find on the floor of a barber’s shop. Most improbable of all was a pair of drawers that had, apparently, been worn by Charles I at his execution.

Allan Massie brings his entertaining history of the Stuarts to a close with the death in 1807 of Cardinal York, brother to the Young Pretender and the last in the direct male line. He thus avoids discussing the late Victorian neo-Jacobite movement which deified the Stuarts and treated

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