The Child From the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge (1970)

The Child From the Sea is an historical novel written by Elizabeth Goudge which she based on the life of Lucy Walter (c. 1630–1658), a woman descended from Welsh royalty known to history as Charles II’s first mistress and thought by some to have married him before he became king.

History has not been kind to Lucy Walter but Elizabeth Goudge has written a very sympathetic account of her life in which Lucy and Charles meet in their early teens before his father’s execution and marry in secret a few years later. They had a son, James, known later as the Duke of Monmouth, (and called James Crofts as a young boy) whom Charles acknowledged as his own while disputing the marriage to the boy’s mother.

Samuel Pepy’s Diary entry noted this in 1662:

He told me what great faction there is at Court; and above all, what is whispered, that young Crofts is lawful son to the King, the King being married to his mother. How true this is, God knows; but I believe the Duke of York will not be fooled in this of three crowns.

The Child From the Sea is a chunky book of about 600 pages. I really appreciated the historical setting and the beginning which covered Lucy’s upbringing. Her parents, William and Elizabeth, had a difficult relationship exacerbated by her mother’s unforgiveness towards her husband. Their ultimate separation greatly affected Lucy and her siblings and disrupted their family life and living situation. 

‘…the dilatory reluctance of the law had as yet brought no settlement between William and Elizabeth, only increasing bitterness that shamed their children, but Lucy was learning to live both with the longing and the shame, to love her father as her firstborn and her mother as much as she could, and to pay no attention to what they said about each other. She was like a mother with two quarrelling children confined in different rooms, and went from one to the other with tolerant tenderness.’

Some parts of the story tended to ramble as the author followed Lucy’s thoughts and misgivings and her comings and goings, which were many. Lucy was portrayed as a wronged woman, which may well have been the case, but the problem I had was that I’d read a bit about her before I started this book and what I read was generally very negative. It reminded me of reading Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time and discovering a very different Richard III from that which is generally presented.

That…was the dreadful thing about wrong notions. They had a power of insidious growth that seemed denied to good and proper ways of thought.’

As usual, Elizabeth Goudge explores the inner workings of her characters which certainly added to the depth but also the length of this story. 

‘She was not a woman who would ever waste her time longing for the impossible perfections when the imperfections of this life could be so unbelievably lovely.’

A more detailed outline/review of The Child From the Sea (with spoilers) is on this Elizabeth Goudge website.

9 thoughts on “The Child From the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge (1970)

  1. Nice!
    When I was 18, I devoured an insane number of Goudge’s novels. I haven’t retried recently, I think I’m afraid I’m no longer going to love them, because of the romance elements. A thing that I apparetly used to love!!

    Liked by 1 person

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