You’re planning a pilgrimage route. Which part of the world would you like to walk in?
I’d really like to cycle – rather than walk – and to go on a long route. Starting in Paris, then on to France, Holland and then back to Yorkshire, following the life of Queen Henrietta Maria. I am spending almost every day with her currently, writing her biography, and she seems a suitable companion for a pilgrimage: she was a devout Catholic and a remarkable and underestimated Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Any special stops?
I’d start with the Louvre in Paris. They house some wonderful Rubens pictures called the Medici Cycle, commissioned by Henrietta Maria’s mother, Marie de Medici. In the cycle there is a portrait of Marie de Medici on horseback carrying a marshal’s baton, like a warrior queen, and Henrietta Maria herself would later become a warrior queen, during the civil war in England. I’d also like to stop at Bridlington Bay in Yorkshire, which is where Henrietta Maria was shelled by the parliamentarian navy. She had to hide in a ditch from shellfire – an unusual position for a queen to find herself in!
Your travelling companions?
My dogs, Buzz the Sussex spaniel and Millie, an illegitimate cross between a Maltese terrier and a Shih Tzu. I work from a daybed with my laptop, like Barbara Cartland, who apparently lay on a sofa dictating her novels. Sadly I don’t dictate my books, I have to type them myself, but the dogs are here with me all day, every day. Picking up their poo would be my penance! I would also take my husband Peter; like a lot of husbands, he has his unexpected uses.
Your favourite bar or restaurant can be transplanted onto your route. Which one?
I’d take a little restaurant in Pimlico called Lorne which does delicious English food – this might sound like a contradiction in terms, but it’s true! It’s small with no outside space so it’s going to struggle in the post-Covid era. If I put it on my pilgrimage route, lots of people could stop and eat there.
Camp under the stars or sleep in a church hall?
I would camp but it would have to be “glamping”. I glamped once when we were in Tanzania and it was comfortable and exciting. There were hippos, which I don’t think we’d find outside the Louvre.
Which books would you take?
I would take the kind of reading that inspired Henrietta Maria, such as Introduction to the Devout Life by St Francis de Sales. Also Bonaventure’s On the Perfection of Life, written for the sister of King Louis IX of France; Henrietta Maria was also the sister of a king, so I think she would have read it. Finally, I’d take Bossuet’s beautiful eulogy that was read at Henrietta Maria’s funeral.
Which Bible passage would you reflect on as you walked?
I’d read passages relating to the Virgin Mary. Mary was a great inspiration to Henrietta Maria, who believed that Mary’s role as the Mother of God justified female power on earth, and the right for women to express their own opinions.
What’s your go-to prayer?
I’d say the rosary: the room that Henrietta Maria was born in (1609 in Paris) was used to hand-make Seraphic rosaries, which are dedicated to the seven joys in the life of Mary.
It’s your turn to cook…
I would cook something Peruvian because my husband was born in Peru. I’d make a ceviche followed by a Peruvian tossed steak, lomo saltado, with a pisco sour on the side. On our honeymoon to Peru I bought a cookbook which looks disgusting – all the photos make the food look like piles of sick – but the recipes are delicious.
Your one luxury?
If I’m doing all that cycling I will feel very stiff, so I will take Epsom salts.
What would you miss most about ordinary life?
My friends. I’m very lucky that my youngest son, Dominic, and his wife, Daisy, have been living with us in lockdown but all of us are missing our friends. One of my sons, Christian, is a Catholic priest in London and he had coronavirus quite nastily. It was very sad that I couldn’t be there for him, and he was all on his own.
What would you miss least?
Lockdown – I will be free!
Leanda de Lisle’s latest book is White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr
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