that she was a Catholic, with most of England now Protestant, had much to do with it.
Henrietta Maria provided her husband with no fewer than three sons destined to live to adulthood. The ‘hotter’ sort of Protestant (dismissively known as ‘puritans’) viewed this, however, with dismay, fearing that her children would be contaminated by her religious beliefs. Such fears were only exacerbated when early quarrels in the royal marriage were patched up, and the couple fell in love. Charles’s attitude to the Catholics he had earlier persecuted softened under his wife’s influence, and fears grew that the king, with his love of church music, art and ceremony, was himself a closet Roman. Alongside this were concerns about Charles’s authoritarianism.
Puritans, ironically enough, looked to pre-Reformation political theory for arguments to support their case that the king’s power should be limited, while Charles followed in the footsteps of the absolutist Henry VIII and his archbishop, Thomas Cranmer. The cleric who had granted Henry the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon had rewritten the coronation oath so that Henry’s son Edward VI, instead of swearing to accept laws presented to him in parliament, swore that the people were to accept his laws. Charles swore this same oath (although many preferred to believe it was a dastardly Stuart innovation) and took his promise to the extreme of dispensing with parliament altogether.
The royal marriage did not ameliorate the growing anger towards the king among the political nation. Charles was a stubborn and blinkered man. It did not help that his wife was also tactless and bull-headed. But Whitaker, who is a fine writer as well as an excellent historian, manages to paint a sympathetic portrait of a queen whose courage and warmth endear her to the reader, even while she helps pave the way to civil war. We are given fresh insights into Henrietta Maria’s relationship with Charles’s favourite the Duke of Buckingham, and dramatic scenes are vividly evoked. In one such, Whitaker describes in cinematic detail the queen smashing the windows of her room to call out her farewells to the French servants Charles had expelled from the palace following their early quarrels. The later idyll of the 1630s is also beautifully rendered, with memories of an ‘enchanted island’ untouched by the ravages of war, filled with the scent of ‘a field of beans when newly blown or … a meadow being lately mown’.
Tension increases as war approaches, but the narrative halts rather abruptly when battle begins. We are propelled suddenly to January 1647, with the Scots handing Charles I over to parliament, and then rapidly onwards to the denouement of his trial and execution. I would have enjoyed two or three extra chapters. Charles was to be buried in the same vault as Henry VIII, and they still lie together today, Charles without his head, and Henry with his third wife, Jane Seymour, who gave him a son, destined to die aged fifteen: a lesson in hubris. To order these books, see LR Bookshop on page 22
GOING DEUTSCH THE GERMAN GENIUS: EUROPE’S THIRD RENAISSANCE, THE SECOND SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION, AND THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
By Peter Watson (Simon & Schuster 964pp £30)
READERS OF LITERARY REVIEW, it can be assumed with confidence, will have heard of Kant, Mozart, Beethoven, Hegel, Goethe, Schiller, Wagner, Marx, Freud and Einstein. Most will also know something about Friedrich, Fichte, Clausewitz, Heine, Bruckner, the Webers (Carl Maria and Max), the Manns (Thomas and Heinrich), Schoenberg and Heidegger. But how about Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749–1817), Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855), August Kekulé (1829–1896), Robert Koch (1843–1910), Paul Ehrlich (1854–1915), or any of the other hundreds of names that appear in Peter Watson’s review of German intellectual achievement since the eighteenth century? I gave up counting the names appearing in the index when the score went into three figures – and I was still only on the letter ‘B’.
This is much more than a compendium, however. Watson has a clear thesis which he lays out at the start: between 1764, when Winckelmann published his History of the Art of Antiquity, and 1933, when (among other things) Erwin Schrödinger received the Nobel Prize in Physics, the Germans ‘went from being the poor relation among Western countries, intellectually speaking, to the dominant force’, leaving the British, French, Italians and even Americans in their wake. He might even have pushed the start date back a bit if he had included Buxtehude, Leibniz, Wolff, Telemann, Handel and Bach. If it be objected that Buxtehude was (probably) born in Denmark, it should be noted that Watson employs a definition of ‘Germany’ which generously includes Austria, German-speaking Switzerland, parts of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland, and at times Denmark, the Netherlands and the Baltic states – in other words, something approaching the frontiers mapped out by Hoffmann von Fallersleben in Das Deutschlandlied.
The case is well made because it is based on a truly formidable amount of reading. The Germans like to write very long books but Watson seems to have read all of them. The result is a very long book of his own – close to 1,000 pages of smallish print. He puts his case so authoritatively that, long before they have reached the end, most readers may feel inclined to throw up their arms and cry ‘Kamerad!’. But they should persevere, for the German achievement was cumulative, spreading out from the
LITERARY REVIEW November 2010