Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on The Queen's Dwarf.
It is often the case in historical fiction that the courtiers and servants lead far more fascinating lives than their monarchs. That seems to be the case with Jeffrey Hudson, the dwarf who served Queen Henrietta Maria during the Stuart dynasty. He is the unlikely hero in Ella March Chase’s compelling novel, The Queen's Dwarf.
Despite Jeffrey’s size, Chase makes him appear larger than life (and indeed, his Wikipedia page indicates that his life was even more interesting than what the author portrays). A gift presented to the Queen by King Charles’s closest friend, the Duke of Buckingham, Jeffrey is meant to spy on Henrietta Maria.
Charmed by the dwarf she nicknamed “Lord Minimus,” Henrietta Maria adds him to her “Royal Menagerie of Freaks and Curiosities of Nature” to serve as a fool. He soon finds himself drawn into their world, performing for the Queen and her court while trying to hide his true reason for being there. He struggles with his conscience as he becomes closer to the Queen, eventually becoming her confidante and dearest friend.
Jeffrey’s personal turmoil fits into the tumultuous world of the Stuart court, where the King must face the possibility of Civil War. His people not only hate his favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, but they despise his Queen for being both French and a Catholic. Isolated from her own ladies and unsure of her ability to produce an heir, Henrietta Maria feels vulnerable—offering the perfect opportunity for the Duke of Buckingham and his pint-sized spy to take advantage.
Jeffrey is the ideal protagonist, as he can sometimes slip into scenes unnoticed and watch the drama unfold firsthand. The others in the Queen’s menagerie, which includes two other dwarves, a giant, and a rope dancer, are all enthralling characters that live in a world of their own. They don’t fit in anywhere except among each other.
The Queen's Dwarf is a thoroughly enjoyable read filled with vibrant and colorful characters that are as true to history as Chase could make them. This novel deserves a spot on the bookshelf of every historical fiction lover.