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Quirk of history

The original royal tell-all

Anthony van Dyck’s portrait of Charles I

Prince Harry isn’t the first royal to release a tell-all memoir, says Ethan Croft in The Times. Back in 1649, Britons rushed out to buy Charles I’s bombshell autobiography, the snappily titled Eikon Basilike, or The Portraiture of His Sacred Majesty in his Solitudes and Sufferings. Also written by a ghostwriter, the book was published when Charles was at his nadir: he had lost “his crown, his army, his reputation, his church and his family” – not to mention his head, which had been lopped off 10 days before publication day.

In the book, Charles rails against the “meane and rude people” who opposed him. He talks of fleeing to the “safety of loyal Oxford”, where he “escaped the glare of his enemies and made plans for war against them”. In all this he was “heartily encouraged” by his French wife, Henrietta Maria, a foreigner who “neither liked nor understood the strange hodgepodge of British monarchy and parliamentary politics”. Charles couldn’t understand why the masses didn’t share his love for the queen, but insisted he would stick by her: “I am content to be tossed, weather-beaten, and shipwrackt, so as she may be in safe Harbour.” He was, in short, “a man who refused to accept his circumstances”, and who constantly “whinged about his persecution”. Remind you of anyone?