BOOK REVIEW - C. V. WEDGEWOOD - THE KING'S PEACE, THE KING'S WAR & THE TRIAL OF CHARLES THE FIRST 1964 Penguin Books.
A trilogy of book, available as independent volumes, but best acquired as a trilogy. Wedgewood is a dry scholarly historian, but she takes a wander through the English Civil war events on a near day by day and blow by blow basis. Her attention to minute detail is astonishing. The King’s Peace deals with the last few years of peace before the outbreak of hostilities, but the title is misleading. There is actually quite a lot of fighting even in this volume, with the Bishop’s Wars of 1639 and 1640 being covered in some depth, as well as the 1641 beginnings of the brutal Irish Rebellion.
Charles is often depicted as a fool surrounded by deception and manipulation from his advisers, with laud and Strafford seen as the villains behind the throne, but Wedgewood shows that these men were often also finding it difficult to get the obstinate headstrong King to hear reason.
With the second volume, The King’s War, the whole English Civil war of 142 to 1648 comes vividly to life. Though primarily interested in Charles 1st, Wedgewood does not neglect the role of soldiers and officers away from the King’s immediate circle. The campaigns of Montrose in Scotland also receive detailed extremely well researched attention.
With volume three, there is a change in emphasis and style, as Wedgewood examines the trial and execution of the King. We seethe minds off the regicides at work, and follow the events right up to the beheading.
If the books have a flaw, it is the lack of a fourth volume to take on the events of the Third Civil war when the King’s son, Charles 2cd moved to centre stage, and his long painful struggle towards a restoration that wouldn’t come until eleven years after the point at which Wedgewood stops writing.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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