Anne of Austria. By Meriel Buchanan. (Hutchinson. 18s.)
Reviewed by J. .1. DWYER
Approaching Anne of Austria in a highly sympathetic spirit, Miss Buchanan has written a " romantic biography" of that misunderstood and misjudged princess. This vie romaneee deals only with the first half of Anne's life when she was called, in contradistinction to the Queen-Mother Mary de Medicis, "the Infanta Queen," and the story ends with her triumph in 1638 when, having produced an infant of her own, the future Grand Monarque, she is secure from all attacks.
Beguiled, no doubt, by that superb Courtier, Rubens-two of his splendid portraits are reproduced-the author insists on her heroine's loveliness, exactly as if the book were a novel. When we find Anne con tinually thinking all sorts of things as she lay in the perfumed darkness of her bedroom, or smiling through a mist of tears, or thrilled by the pressure of someone's lips on her hand, we are not surprised to hear that the behaviour of everybody else was incomprehensible or malignant. Possibly there will be in due course a sequel relating the life of Anne as Queen-Mother and Regent, with Mazarin by her side; it will then be interesting to see what Miss Buchanan makes of Retz's famous " character " of Anne, especially his conclusion that she had a genius for concealing from those Who did not know her the fact that she was a fool.
Of course it was not all her fault. Almost every foreign Queen before and after Anne of Austria has found unhappiness on the throne of France; Louis XIII was a miserable creature and Richelieu must have been exceedingly formidable and unpleasant to a woman of mediocre intelligence who had no influence over his husband.
The author disclaims any intention of throwing any light on the characters or events of the period and no analysis of her narrative is needed. There is, however, a careless phrase on page 103 which is at first sight surprising. "On April 14, 1618, the King made a confession which Piye Amour hastened to pass on to the Papal Nuncio, who in turn confided it to Monteleone"; for "confession" we should presumably read : "avowal" or "disclosure."
The book is handsomely produced, and is illustrated with a number of portraits; those by Pourbus make an interesting contrast, in their realism, with the sumptuous flattery of Rubens. Much more care, however, should have been used in the text, where a number of well-known French names, and even some ordinary words, are mis-spelt. Such things as " the Knights of St. Esprit," de Luynes and de Chevreuse used invariably for Luynes or Chevreuse, and Marrilac for Marillac do not inspire confidence, while the howler, "Armand de Plessis de Richelieu" is thrice repeated on one page and appears also in the index.