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My flight back to England loomed as my parents and I headed to Lisbon on the train. We left the house early as I really wanted to visit the tomb of Catherine of Braganza (wife of Charles II of England) before I went home, and caught the train to Lisbon. Once off the train we headed towards the Monastery, through the winding streets of the city. And let me tell you…I fell in love with the place.

When we found the Monastery we went inside the Church for a quick look, thinking that the entrance to the museum would be in there. Whilst there was no entrance, the church was gorgeous.

Unsure of where the entrance was, we went for a little wander around the streets of Lisbon. Normally in big cities, it’s so easy to feel unsafe. But Lisbon just felt different. The winding back streets made me feel as if I’d stepped back in time – they were quiet and peaceful and honestly? I could have stayed there forever. The best part though had to be seeing a tram with the face of Spongebob.

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It turned out that the entrance to the museum was at the side of the church. Heading inside, we immediately found ourselves in a wonderful monastic house that just seemed to seep history. Just like everywhere I’d been whilst in Portugal, it was so easy to just stop and feel the history, to imagine what it would have been like.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded in 1147 by King Alfonso Henriques and quickly became one of the most important religious houses in Portugal. Dedicated to the patron Saint of Lisbon, Saint Vincent of Saragossa, the monastery houses relics of the Saint. The buildings that you see today though are from a rebuilding project ordered by King Phillip II of Spain in 1580 – the Church was built between 1582 and 1629.

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The main reason for my wanting to visit was to the see the tomb of Catherine of Braganza. The Stuart dynasty has long been an interest of mine – even before I fell in love with the Borgias – and I’ve always had a soft spot for poor Queen Catherine. She certainly didn’t have an easy time of it as Queen Consort of England, putting up with her husband begetting a number of illegitimate children whilst she herself remained unable to have children. Her tomb is housed within the Royal Pantheon of the Braganza Dynasty in the old rectory – it is chock full of tombs, many of which are incredibly plain, just boxes of marble with the names of the deceased on the side. I must admit, I had expected Queen Catherine to have something a little more ornate, and the moment I stepped into the room I thought she would be in one of the tombs in the middle of the room. However, she has a simple grey tomb with her name etched on the side. I was slightly disappointed to see this and really do feel like she deserves more – I felt exactly the same when I saw Charles II’s burial place in Westminster Abbey. He doesn’t even have a proper tomb, simply a worn stone plaque on the floor of the abbey.

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The rest of the monastery was simply stunning. It houses the largest collection of tile work in Portugal (perhaps even the world) and the roof also offers some of the most stunning views of Lisbon. Dad and I climbed up to the roof whilst mum stayed below, not wanting to climb all the way up there. The steps are a little steep but it’s certainly worth doing!

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I would highly recommend a visit to this monastery, a gem tucked away in the back streets of Lisbon. Not only is it exceptionally peaceful and beautiful, but the staff are really really nice as well. 10/10 will visit again.

Once we had finished looking around, there was just enough time for a quick beer and cake stop before catching the train back to the airport. And that was that, my visit to Portugal was done with. I really did have an amazing few days there and cannot wait to get back – next time I’ll certainly be visiting more Templar places, particularly relating to one Templar in particular.

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Innovator. Tyrant. Consummate showman. Passionate lover of women.

After the death of King Louis XIII in 1643, the French crown went to his first-born son and heir, four-year old Louis XIV. In the extraordinary seventy-two years that followed, Louis le Grand – France’s self-styled ‘Sun King’ – ruled France and its people, leaving his unique and permanent mark on history and shaping fashion, art, culture and architecture like none other before. This frank and concise book gives the reader a personal glimpse into the Sun King’s life and times as we follow his rise in power and influence: from a miraculous royal birth no one ever expected to the rise of king as absolute monarch, through the evolution of the glittering Château de Versailles, scandals and poison, four wars and many more mistresses… right up to his final days.

Absolute monarch. Appointed by God.

This is Louis XIV, the man. We will uncover his glorious and not-so-glorious obsessions. His debilitating health issues. His drive and passions. And we will dispel some myths, plus reveal the people in his intimate circle working behind the scenes on the Louis propaganda machine to ensure his legacy stayed in the history books forever.

This easy-to-read narrative is accompanied by a plethora of little-known artworks, so if you’re a Louis XIV fan or student, or just eager to know more about France’s most famous king, we invite you to delve into court life of 17th century French aristocracy, the period known as Le Grand Siècle– “The Grand Century”.

Louis XIV: The Real Sun King is a short little book stuffed full of facts about the life of Le Roi Soleil. It’s concise, it’s to the point, and it’s the perfect book to read if you want to dip your toe into the history of this fascinating monarch.

When I picked this book up, I knew the very basics about Louis – and most of what I’d come across about him was either in my reading about Charles II, or thanks to the Canal + series “Versailles” starring George Blagden. By the time I finished this little book – and it didn’t take me long – I had a much better footing in the basics of the Sun King, his court and France at the time. It certainly is a fascinating era and this provides an excellent foot in the door if you want a nice little starter guide to an incredibly complex history.

As always Pen & Sword have put together a beautiful book. It’s beautifully edited and the photographs within the text really work. As well as that, the cover is absolutely STUNNING.

Von Goeth and Harper have done really well with this piece of work, proving to be writers who are able to grip their audience and pull them in with incredibly engaging prose. I certainly look forward to reading more of their work – hurry up and write your next one, guys.

Thank you to Pen & Sword for providing me with a review copy of this book. Louis XIV: The Real Sun King is available here.