King and the Gentleman

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The Palace of St. James', 1649. Night. Armed soldiers guard a coffin resting in a dimly lit room. In it lies the shattered corpse of Charles I, King of England, head crudely reattached to torso. Past the guttering torches glides a human shadow, wide-brimmed hat pulled down over the eyes, a cloak drawn around the lower part of the face. The visitor--Oliver Cromwell, soon to be named Lord Protector of England--gazes for several moments at the dead king's features. "Cruel necessity," he mutters, then retires to the ...
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Overview

The Palace of St. James', 1649. Night. Armed soldiers guard a coffin resting in a dimly lit room. In it lies the shattered corpse of Charles I, King of England, head crudely reattached to torso. Past the guttering torches glides a human shadow, wide-brimmed hat pulled down over the eyes, a cloak drawn around the lower part of the face. The visitor--Oliver Cromwell, soon to be named Lord Protector of England--gazes for several moments at the dead king's features. "Cruel necessity," he mutters, then retires to the darkness as stealthily as he came.

This scene--with all the trappings of Victorian melodrama--is possibly apocryphal. Nevertheless, any chronicle of seventeenth- century England is, in a very real sense, an account of the conflict between Charles Stuart and Oliver Cromwell and the beliefs that impelled them. Almost exact contemporaries (nineteen months separated their birth dates), King and subject were both possessed of a deep sense of divine mission; both were profoundly religious and immovably stubborn. Their ideals sent them on a course that would culminate in one of the most dramatic events in British history: the execution of a reigning sovereign on Tuesday, January 30, 1649.

In The King and the Gentleman, historian Derek Wilson details the parallel lives of a foreign-born aesthete-prince and a down-to-earth country squire. The passions the aroused and the conflict they unleashed would forever change the face of a nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This dual biography of two men whose face-to-face meetings were few and unremarked but whose lives intersected in inevitable and tragic ways is popular history at its best. Wilson, the author of previous biographies of the Rothschilds, Astors, and Hans Holbein, devotes a great deal of space to his subjects' forebears and childhoods, trying to discern how they became the adults they did. He also traces the development of their religious views (interestingly, Cromwell did not come from purely Puritan stock and was quite tolerant of other shades of belief), which were eventually the main point of contention between them. The writing is felicitous, emphasizing the personal rather than the political, and some knowledge of the period is helpful but not essential. Because it considers Charles I and Cromwell together, and because of its emphasis on their religious evolutions, this book is recommended for most public and academic libraries.--Jean E.S. Storrs, formerly with Enoch Pratt Free Lib., Catonsville, MD Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312244057
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Edition description: 1st U.S. Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.58 (d)

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