Goudge’s novel is a romanticized version of the life of Lucy Walter, long-time mistress to Charles Stuart (or was she his wife?), before he ascended the throne of England as well as mother to the Duke of Monmouth. Raised at Roche Castle in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Lucy is a bit of a tomboy who loves the sea, but her parents eventually become estranged and she must leave her beloved home and start a new life with her mother in London. As a child, Lucy meets Charles by chance and a friendship of sort is born and when they meet again at sixteen love blossoms and they marry in secret – although they only have a couple of days of bliss at Roche castle before Charles must return to his family and their struggles with the Parliamentarians.
Charles eventually flees to Europe and a heartsick Lucy follows him, although Charles is now a poor refugee living on the charity of his royal relatives and Lucy can only be acknowledged as his mistress – never his wife. Charles soon finds Lucy entirely inappropriate as a wife in his new role as King of England, and needing a wealthy heiress to fund his efforts to oust Cromwell unknown forces conspire to discredit Lucy and the marriage and to take her child from her.
And that’s as far as I go. If you know Lucy’s history you know what happens, and if you don’t you won’t want me to spoil it for you. Taking a person of whom very little is known about gives Goudge a lot of creative license to craft a lovely tale of what may have happened and the consequences of youthful indiscretion. My only quibbles are that this novel, originally published in1970, could easily lose 200-300 pages and lose none of its potency, and because of that I suspect many of today’s younger readers might give up too soon. Skim the first parts if you must, it’s worth it at the end. Too much time is spent on Lucy’s childhood relationships and descriptions of the Welsh countryside but other than that her writing was lovely – and ohhhhhh that ending. Tissue worthy.