In 2013 I read Tudors the 2nd volume of Peter Ackroyd’s The History of England and I found it fascinating. So when I saw the 3rd volume Rebellion subtitled The History of England from James I to the Glorious Revolution I had to give it a go. In this post I will refer to this book as Rebellion which is the US title because that is the title my copy came with however the UK title is Civil War.
Rebellion chronicles the Stuart monarchs. On the death of Elizabeth I the throne went to James I; previously James VI of Scotland. We probably only know James for the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ so it was interesting to find out more about him. The throne then went to his second son Charles I. Sadly Charles is very well known for the Civil War which he lost and subsequently he also lost his head. Here there is a gap in the Stuart line where Oliver Cromwell rules over England as Lord Protector; a hard-line Puritan reign. No wonder on Cromwell’s death the Stuart heir Charles II was welcomed back. Unfortunately he was a disappointment and his brother James I was even worse. James is a Catholic so is replaced by his daughter Mary II and her husband William of Orange without any bloodshed.
Before reading this I always thought my sympathies lay with the Royalist cause. Mainly because the Puritan reign sounds hellish without any theatre, festivals or fun! On reading more about James I and Charles I though I can totally sympathise why you would want to get rid of them. They spent well beyond their means, and totally disregarded parliament and English common law. However when Oliver Cromwell and the army took power they didn’t come across as any better either. I think really the people were stuck between a stone and a hard place for the entirety of this time period.
This is the second book I have read by Peter Ackroyd and I would like to read more. Ackroyd is a prolific writer so I have plenty to read as well as looking forward to the release of the 4th volume of The History of England. I thought Rebellion was well written using enough academic language and detail without going off over my head. It has been well researched and I enjoyed the extra references to literature, theatre, art and science of the time period. The structure was a little of a disappointment for me though as a huge chunk of the book is given way to the Civil War which of course was long, complicated and important but that did seem to leave little space to then discuss Charles II and James I. They felt a bit squeezed in at the end.
I thought Rebellion was a detailed and fascinating look into the Stuart monarchs, their downfalls, and the Civil War. I recommend to those interested in English history. Good read.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Or anything else by Ackroyd?