A Want of Kindness

by Joanne Limburg

Reviewed by Margaret Tomlinson

A Want of Kindness is about Princess Anne, the daughter of King James II of England. James succeeded to the throne on the death of his brother, Charles II, in 1685, but was unpopular with his Protestant subjects because he had converted to Catholicism. Anne, shy and not particularly intelligent, was hardly a dynamic personality, but she played a significant role in deposing her father in 1688-89 in favor of her sister, Mary, and Mary's husband, William of Orange. Both Anne and Mary had remained Protestant and been symbolically crucial in England's acceptance of James.

Limburg succeeds in making the story of diffident Anne amusing and engaging. Child and adult, Anne did suffer a want of kindness from her relations―and perhaps consequently was not always as kind to them as she might have been. The use of many of Anne's actual letters and diaries opens a window into the thought processes of a woman both neurotically pious and, in her own passive-aggressive way, rebellious. Perhaps one of the reasons it's easy to like and root for Anne is the way the author pokes gentle fun at her while showing how hard she tries to make the best of a lonely and difficult life - and occasionally loses the iron control demanded of her and impulsively kicks over the traces.

The periods of James II and William and Mary have perhaps been neglected in historical fiction because neither of their courts were the hotbeds of licentious scandal that Charles II's was, and the Revolution of 1688 was short and not very bloody. They were interesting times for other reasons, though, and shaped the England that was to come. Readers who enjoy following the stories of the English monarchs through historical fiction can hardly do better than to choose A Want of Kindness for this period - though it ends before Anne becomes queen. Perhaps a sequel is planned? (2016, 448 pages including an Acknowledgments section discussing sources)

More about A Want of Kindness at Powell's Books or Amazon.com

Other novels about James II or William and Mary

The Countess and the King by Susan Holloway Scott (2010), about Katherine Sedley, the mistress of James II. More info

The Queen's Husband by Samuel Edwards, More info (1960), about William of Orange and his wife Mary.

The Three Crowns by Jean Plaidy (1965), about King James II and King William and Queen Mary, #1 in the Stuart Saga. More info

Nonfiction about Queen Anne, James II, and William and Mary:

Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset (2012). More info

James II by W.A. Speck (2002). More info

William and Mary: Heroes of the Glorious Revolution by John van der Kiste (2003). More info


Queen Anne at the British Royal Family History website.

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