Katherine Manners was a girl when she fell under the spell of the magnetic George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. But George, a favourite of King James, scarcely noticed her.
The attention lavished on George by the King scandalized many. They watched in horrified fascination as James kissed and fondled the dashing young man. George, a legendary womanizer, had no qualms about using the King’s desire to his advantage.
Kate’s family disaproved of her passion for Buckingham, but George’s mother aided Kate in forcing the marriage by kidnapping her. As his wife, she coped with Buckingham’s numerous dalliances, his missions to Europe, his huge debts, and his growing unpopularity. His bloody assassination left her devastated.
For seven years Kate spurned her numerous suitors. At age 32 she married Randal, Earl of Antrim, an Irish nobleman six years her junior. With Buckingham, Kate used her influence for good works, but with Antrim she had political influence. In the growing storm of deadly tensions between Catholics and Protestants, Kate was suspected of influencing Antrim to join the rebel side against the King.
Through the lens of Kate’s life we get a vivid view of the times, the great political battles and alliances, and the unseen role of women in this rich pageant that spans the first half of the 17th century.
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