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Rafael Sabatini’s “The Romantic Prince”





March 7, 2018

It’s now time for our 75th book selection, and a good time to revisit another his book penned by one of my favorite historical romance writers. We first introduced him four years ago, on February 26 of 2014: Sabatini’s famed historical romance set during the French Revolution—Scaramouche. For some time now, as I weigh in on books that fight for inclusion in this series, Sabatini keeps surfacing in my mind. Perhaps because he wrote far more than romantic swashbucklers. He was, at heart, a moralist who tried to make sense of the historical past against the moralistic background of Christianity.

His novels were the result of prodigious research into the archival accounts housed in European nations of his time. A complete list of his 36 novels can be found in that 2014 blog. Of them all, I have found Scaramouche and The Romantic Prince to be his two most unforgettable novels (never sinking below the surface of my mind).

But, even though I’d read the book before, I re-read it before concluding it had to be included in our series. It features a theme Sabatini touched upon in Scaramouche: mankind’s tendency to play God—rather than waiting for God to punish evil-doers for their sins, in His own time—, they bull-headedly usurp God’s justice by stepping in ahead of God.

The Bible includes plenty of examples of passion and its results, perhaps most famously having to do with King David’s murdering Uriah the Hittite (the husband of the beautiful Bathsheba) in order to gain possession of her.

In this particular novel, Sabatini digs deep into human nature as he creates a marvelous cast of characters (some known to history and others created in the author’s fertile imagination).

The typical writer of historical fiction tends to glamorize and romanticize the past, especially royalty and nobility, but not so Sabatini. He writes relatively unvarnished history, confirming that, down through history, men and women married—or were forced to marry—for dynastic reasons. If they wanted romantic love, they got that illicitly, outside of marriage. As late as Prince Charles’ ill-fated marriage to Diana, we can see that template still being played out in our time.

In the book, County Anthony d’Egmont, heir to the dukedom of Guelph, ruefully discovers that there is no way for him to marry the love of his life, the beautiful Johanna, daughter of a Flemish merchant. Not if he wanted to inherit the ducal throne of Guelph. It is one whale of a book, intersticed with many quotable lines and insights into life.

Rafael Sabatini’s life (1875-1950) was almost as eventful as his action-packed novels. He was born in the then small town of Jesi, near the Italian seaport of Ancoma. His parents were well-known opera singers who traveled the world. His mother was English, hence his dual heritage.

This is yet another book I strongly feel you’ll find unforgettable and thought-provoking. You can secure copies on the web both in hardback (Houghton Mifflin, and Grosset & Dunlap) and in trade paper.


2 thoughts on “Rafael Sabatini’s “The Romantic Prince”

  1. Thanks

  2. Very interesting. We see many politicians these days carrying on illicit relationships outside the circle of marriage. I suppose they feel their power gives them the right to touch women inappropriately.

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