Royal Reprints: Margaret Irwin
~ Elisa Babel, MLS
England 1642. King Charles I and Parliament clash on the battlefield. The king’s nephew Prince Rupert of the Rhine, son of his sister Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, arrives to fight in the English royal army. This is his story in The Stranger Prince by Margaret Irwin.
I came across The Stranger Prince during a weeding project last year. Margaret Irwin’s name was familiar–I had read her novels about young Elizabeth I in high school. This one was new to me. It was a lengthy read, but I enjoyed it. I didn’t know much about Rupert prior to reading this so this novel introduced me to him.
When Irwin’s Elizabeth trilogy was reissued, I was delighted to see it again. Much has been written about her as Queen of England, but not as much about her formative years. There are predictions for the future in the novels of how people and events will be viewed. Popular songs of the day are incorporated as part of the story. If you read an older edition of Elizabeth, Captive Princess, one of the paintings of Elizabeth mentioned in the story may have been included as a plate.
I haven’t read all of Irwin’s historical novels, but I enjoy her writing style. She does a wonderful job bringing the period to life. I was absorbed into Elizabeth and Rupert’s worlds and meeting the people of their day. Irwin appears to have done her research well for her novels. I was amused with her introduction for The Stranger Prince about compiling a bibliography.
Margaret Irwin (1889-1969) was a well-known English novelist. I was unable to find much biographical information about her besides a Wikipedia entry. Irwin had a long writing career–her first novel Still She Wished for Company appeared in 1924. In the 1930s and ’40s, she wrote several novels on the early Stuarts. Her trilogy about young Elizabeth I prior to her ascension to the throne was published between 1944-53 and is her best known. The novels were adapted for the 1953 movie “Young Bess” starring the late Jean Simmons in the title role. (I came across the original review of the movie) Irwin’s bibliography also includes short story collections and one non-fiction.
Since Irwin’s trilogy on Elizabeth I has been reissued, I hope her other novels will follow. Whether you read Margaret Irwin years ago or a new reader, her novels are worthwhile reads.
This is the second installment about my favorite historical novelists. Finale: Eleanor Hibbert, a prolific author who used various pseudonyms over her long career.
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