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Darling of Kings


Entered for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction

About this book:

  • ISBN: 978 1 910237 02 1

  • Published July 2014

  • Price £12.00 + postage

  • 276 pages


The book:

Who rules the kingdom? The King.
Who rules the King? The Duke.
Who rules the Duke? The devil.

Darling of Kings by P. J. Womack is published in the 400th anniversary year of the fateful first meeting of King James I and George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham, explores the complex relationships between the first two Stuart kings, their powerful favourite and the politics of the early 17th century.
From a minor gentry background and possessing little but good looks and charm, George Villiers is pushed forward at the decadent court of James I in the hope that he will catch the King’s eye and topple the current favourite, Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset. The King is immediately captivated by the handsome young man and lavishes wealth and titles upon him and his family, culminating in his being created Duke of Buckingham. Building an intricate network of patronage and influence, Buckingham’s power and domination of the King results in several attempts to depose him, as the Duke becomes the most hated man in England. Although initially the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, detests his father’s favourite, he too is soon in thrall to the charismatic and all-powerful Buckingham; an obsessive and consuming devotion which will ultimately lead to confrontation with Parliament, war, and tragedy.

The Author :
P. J. Womack has had a life-long passion for history, particularly the Stuart period, and has spent several years researching the life of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham. A qualified teacher, she lives with her son, her dog and hundreds of books in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

Other books by the same author: An Illustrated Introduction to the Stuarts, Amberley Publishing, September 2014; Buckingham: The Power Behind the Throne, Amberley Publishing, 2016; Black Dick of the North: The Life of Sir Richard Beaumont, Huddersfield Local History Society, 2016; Buckingham's Women: Power, Sex and Intrigue at the Stuart Court, The History Press, 2017.

Articles: The Marriage of George Villiers, First Duke of Buckingham and Lady Katherine Manners, Rutland Local History and Record Society, 2013

Author's website: www.thebuckinghamchronicles.com


George Villiers, later Duke of Buckingham, replaces Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, as favourite of King James I (VI of Scotland) but is hated by Charles, heir to the throne. Villiers is known as Steenie by the King, and in turn, he calls the King ‘Dad.’ However, Charles knows that to keep his father’s good will, he needs to befriend ‘Steenie’. This he does, to the extent that Steenie becomes the most important person in his life. Buckingham has it made. He has a marriage of convenience to the daughter of the Duke of Rutland but remains the centre of the court. Neither James nor Charles make a move without Steenie.
Accompanying Charles to Spain for marriage negotiations with the Infanta, Buckingham behaves so badly that the agreement collapses. In the end Charles marries Henrietta Maria of France, but the marriage starts off badly as Henrietta is aware of Buckingham’s hold on Charles. In 1625, James dies but Buckingham retains his position at court. Parliament tries to impeach Buckingham on two occasions because of his incompetency, but Charles has Parliament dissolved each time to save him. On a visit to Portsmouth in August 1628, Buckingham is assassinated and Charles is left desolate.
George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham is probably best known as a ‘baddy’ in Dumas’ The Three Musketeers and both of the early Stuart Kings, James I and Charles I (except in relation to the English Civil War) have been overlooked in favour of Charles II in literature, so it is good to have a book that introduces the characters to a wider audience.
What I really liked about Darling of Kings is that it is incredibly well researched and that the author, P. J. Womack, really knows her subject and the period. Her elegant phrasing brings her characters and the period to life.
Historical Novel Society, February 2015

The Power of Rich Narrative
I was lucky enough to receive this book as a gift over Christmas. By the end of the first chapter its powerful and richly evocative narrative had me gripped in the way the writing brings the history of the Stuarts to life in ways that remain entirely pertinent to our contemporary social world. I simply couldn’t put the book down!
As an historical novel charting the spectacular rise and fall of one of British history’s legendary characters, George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, the book immediately intrigued me in the way the politics of discursive practices concerned with historical events has largely served to maintain a number of pivotal historical figures at the time of the Stuarts in an almost permanent state of exclusion, as if they really had little part to play in shaping the history of the 17th century. In this sense from the start I loved the way the novel gave me some sense of moving towards some form of justice for such neglected characters. Womack’s crafting of her writing brings these characters to life!
What I particularly admired in her writing is the way she draws upon and gives expression to language from the 17th century without over-facing the reader and in so doing she makes the history of the Stuarts entirely relevant to contemporary readers. I particularly enjoyed the many different references to archival records taken from the period.  In reading the narrative I became conscious of the wonderful education I have received from this book.  It opens the reader in my view to the best form of education – one that is based upon obviously well researched foundational knowledge that here in this narrative opens space for the reader for many new questions.  In my view this book will be of great interest to specialists within a number of professional practices – not least historians, anthropologists, etymologists and others with an interest in language, as well as sociologists and others interested in the sexual politics of the early modern period and others who simply enjoy a great story.
Womack’s art in creating her powerful narrative continually opened for me questions concerning the hegemonic powers at work in our contemporary society that in practice are cultivated and harvested continually each and everyday in our 21st century world by the monarchy, the lords, the land owning aristocracy. It encouraged me to begin thinking and engaging in my own research concerning the extent to which such powers so on that were seeded and structured in this period of history now identified in terms of the Stuarts.
Given contemporary interest within practices of social and educational research concerning the narrative, Womack’s chronicle now provides researchers with a wonderfully rich resource that could be employed as the basis for a number of possible studies that are entirely pertinent to life in our contemporary world.
Reader in Educational Philosophy, UK university, December 2014

This historical novel is full of adventure, romance and politics as it charts the rise and fall of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, intimate friend of both James I and his son Charles I. As a boy, Villiers' family had lived at Brooksby in Leicestershire.
Villiers married Katherine Manners, whose father, the Earl of Rutland, was against the match, knowing as he did, of the Duke's reputation as a seducer of women and of royalty. Pamela Womack brings many historical figures to life, including the charismatic Duke, who was both loved and hated by his contemporaries.
Leicestershire and Rutland Life, December 2014

Darling of Kings is a brilliant historical novel charting the meteoric rise and fall of one of the legendary characters of British history. I was intrigued and excited when I was offered the chance to read this novel about George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, and his relationships, first with King James I and then King Charles I. The Duke of Buckingham has been a source of creative inspiration for many a writer – he featured memorably in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, for example. After only reading a few paragraphs of Darling of Kings, I knew this book was going to be wonderful.
As the story progressed, I certainly was not disappointed. In Darling of Kings, Womack takes several historical figures who are either woefully neglected by mainstream historians and the public or only ever seen in a negative light and she takes us into their minds and their hearts. Indeed, my own perception of the Duke of Buckingham has been impacted so much from reading this novel, that I think I may have to re-evaluate how I view him. Womack brought such humanity to his character, that I can well understand why he was one of those rare figures who can command complete love and worship, or hate and envy.
The story is remarkably well-researched and full of adventure, romance, and politics while major historical events are skilfully woven in throughout. Womack's elegant turn-of-phrase, the way she vividly brings history to life, her amazing capacity to make historical figures into well-rounded, real, beings is nothing short of extraordinary. She writes in the exact style I admire: sophisticated, fluid, gorgeous prose that can hold its own alongside the classics of literature. This book took my breath away and I was left truly moved. Read it, love it, and embrace the history of the 17th century.

Andrea Elizabeth Zuvich, 17th Century Historian and Historical Fiction Writer

This debut novel has been nominated for two presitigious literary awards... It is an historical epic... featuring a notorious royal schemer. It details the real-life links between two kings and the controversial courtier who sparked the English Civil War... The duke's plotting eventually exploded 14 years after his death in 1628 to the English Civil War... The author has two other Stuart-ear books in the pipeline and also writes articles for local history groups. David Miller, The Press, North Kirklees, October 2014


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