Court Lady and Country Wife

Written by Lita-Rose Betcherman
Review by Juliet Waldron

Two noble sisters, Lucy and Dorothy Percy, grow up in an aristocratic household odd in one respect – it lacks a father. Henry, Lord Percy, is imprisoned in the Tower, where he has been sent by King James for a never-proven complicity in the Gunpowder Plot. This absence, and their mother’s proud temper, shapes the girls into headstrong, outspoken women, unusual for their class and time. Dorothy becomes the less well off “country wife,” and is the counterpoint to Lucy, who moves to the center of power by marrying a court favorite. During the reign of Charles I, the beautiful, witty Lucy’s star rises as she becomes confidante to Queen Henrietta Maria, lover of the Duke of Buckingham and friend to the Earl of Strafford. Lucy, who was devoted to politics, played a pivotal role in the Civil War, switching from King to Parliament. As a habitual intrigante, she certainly did not own the capacity to understand the true intent of the revolutionary genie she and her moderate allies let out of the bottle, and she would spend several years in the Tower herself after falling afoul of Cromwell.

With an exhaustive bibliography and copious notes, the book takes an intimate look at the behind the scenes influence wielded by these aristocratic members of the “weaker sex.”