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Mad Dogs and Englishmen: An Expedition Round My Family [Paperback]

Ranulph Fiennes
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 May 2010

Discover Sir Ranulph Twistelton-Wykham-Fiennes's personal expedition to trace his extraordinary family through history. From Charlemagne - himself a direct ancestor of the author - to the count who very nearly persuaded William the Conqueror to retreat at Hastings, many members of this unique clan have lived close to the nerve centre of the ruler of their day.

They number in their ranks a murderer, a wife poisoner, a poacher, England's greatest female traveller of the 17th century, and an extortionist Lord High Treasurer, teen cousins who eloped, a noble lord hanged for manslaughter, another hanged for adultery with the King's wife, and many who, as admirals or major-generals, won famous battles. The Fiennes' behind Cromwell provided the castle in which the Parliamentarians made their first secret moves, the same building in which twenty-one successive generations of the family have lived for 600 unbroken years . . . And that is just a taster.

Ranulph Fiennes tells the story of his unconventional, exceptional family, and reveals the ingredients for the man described by the Guinness Book of Records as 'the world's greatest living explorer'.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (27 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340925043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340925041
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 108,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both poles (by surface travel) and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. In the 1960s he was removed from the SAS Regiment for misuse of explosives but, joining the army of the Sultan of Oman, received that country's Bravery Medal. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic regions. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth. In 1993 Fiennes was awarded the OBE because, on the way to breaking records, he has raised over £10 million for charity. In 2009 Sir Ranulph Fiennes became the oldest Briton to climb Everest. He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 Great Britons Awards.

Product Description


A whirlwind romp through the annals of time, peopled with the good, the bad and downright mad among the Fiennes clan. (Sunday Telegraph) is some family tree (Adrian Chiles, The One Show)


'If you ever struggle to drag yourself out of bed on a winter's morning, pick up a copy of Ranulph Fiennes' autobiography. It's an inspiration.' (Mail on Sunday)

'Rip-roaringly readable' (Guardian)

'Even readers with a broadly low tolerance for macho heroism will find themselves gripped . . . compelling' (Time Out)

'This is the memoir of a supreme sportsman, an uber-earthling who could show the Martians a thing or two about what the best of us can achieve' (Financial Times Magazine)

'"Ran' epitomises British phlegm, and he puts all other glory-seekers to shame. His dry wit, self deprecation and steely determination never to feel a scrap of self-pity are in the very best tradition of British travel writing. Long may he continue tomake us glad that we are not him, while we stand in awe.' (Country Life)

'It's exhausting just reading about his exploits, so it is a perfect bedtime book. It's delightful to plump up one's duck-down pillows while vicariously enduring Fiennes's successive plunges into the deadly waters of the Artcic, and his festering crotch-rot.' (Helena Drysdale, New Statesman Books of the Year)

'It is lively and vivid, and often exciting as we anticipate each plunge into deadly Arctic waters. There are some wonderful throwaway lines . . . So, not an alien species after all but - as they say - a national treasure.' (Spectator)

A very funny, moving and inspiriting look back at the family history of one of the greatest explorers ever to live. We all love Sir Ranulph Fiennes, he never disappoints. And this book is no exception. (Bear Grylls)

Book Description

Explorer and bestselling author Sir Ranulph Fiennes takes a journey around his vast and eccentric family tree, and reveals an amazing family history.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book 16 Jun 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
To be honest i had no idea what to expect when i downloaded this title, I really don't normally touch this sort of book, But i Like Fiennes, i have read his fiction novels so i know he can write, and the man himself is an enigma.

So why read this? Well a book that shows a view of a single family history going back to the Norman invasion, and how that family intertwines with the history of this great nation and played at times a pivotal role in its evolution, it was too much to pass up. I'm sure there is an element of 6 degree of separation going on at times given the incestuous nature of the aristo's in times of yore, but even that does not account for just how many great people or important events were touched by this family, or how interesting it all is seeing it tied together.

It could put you off doing your own family history, or it could kindle a need to know who you are where you came from, what role did your family have? I very much doubt many will have this outcome, but even the odd shining star is fun and even without, its amazing finding out.

I recommend this to any reader, Ranulph has a very humorous wit that pervades the book and is not averse to poking fun at himself or his family or the royalty of Great Britain, i really enjoyed this read, something very different from what i normally read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What to say...he's done it again 22 Aug 2014
By holls
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I consider him a fine author, his subject matter is never dull, whether we're talking SAS jaunts, secret societies, desert explorations or fitness manuals, you really get the impression that he's done his research and often has firsthand experience. So. The Family is old, has its roots in the Dark Ages when Britain was a different beast altogether, its people always close to the heart of the nation as it grew, and the whole thing is a lovely if somewhat fast ride through British history; it's hard to keep up! In fact, I don't know how he managed to keep his cool while writing it -there's almost too much here, but he handles the characters, and historical framework, with his customary aplomb and dry sense of humour.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much of a history lesson. 8 Nov 2009
A big challenge to wrap up one thousand years of family history with the history of England whilst producing something readable and entertaining for the lay reader. The result is too dry and lacking in personal anecdote to be a success. Often the relevance of the Fiennes family is little more than a footnote.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mad Dods ans Englishmen 21 Nov 2009
This was without doubt the best book I have ever read gripping, exciting, full of facinating facts. What a family.
You can pick the book up, and put it down at anytime without losing the thread of things. Sorry Iv come to the end of it.

I can not recommend this enough.
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4.0 out of 5 stars More than expected and less than expected. 5 Aug 2014
By migigen
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A cracking read! Fiennes makes genealogy an interesting subject - but who wouldn't be interested if you had such a weird pack of relatives and a bloodline like his? However, I was surprised to discover that this eBook lacks the family tree diagrams that were my overriding reason for buying it all, and so I ended up also having to buy the book proper just to get the diagrams. While I can accept the fact that the book's photos are not reproduced in the eBook version, had I known it would also lack the printed diagrams, I would have saved my money and bought the softback version alone.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FABULOUS FIENNES 17 Nov 2009
Being a family tree obsessive (I have traced mine back to 1500s) this book is a brilliant read. I would highly recommend it to history lovers as well.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! 10 Jan 2010
I bought this book for my partner who never usually picks up a book. Thought to myself this will end up in the charity shop! Not so! My partner has been glued to this book since boxing day and regularly updates me on it. Really interesting view of british history as the Fiennes family goes back such a long way. Lots of interesting facts about historical events that you wouldn't find in a standard history book. Highly reoommended!!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars riveting 12 Jan 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I looked at some of the previous reviews and agree with them all to some extent. It was difficult to get started, but I took the trouble to look at the family tree before I began reading, so knew what I was in for.

It's a valid point that there is an awful lot jammed into this book, but I don't agree that it was dry. Try reading A J P Taylor's The Hapsburg Monarchy and see the difference - like a diet of dry toast. I think Fiennes took a lot of trouble to research the background of each era.

In very succint language he draws pictures of his ancestors and their place in European history. A very detailed weaving together of family and the building of Britain in an honest, plain-speaking assessment of the players involved. He pulls no punches, e g talking about British domination of the colonies: "In those days German tourists did not put their towels on British sunbeds." This is typical of his plain-speaking style.

The fighting spirit of this complex family structure has obviously not been diluted, evidenced by Eustave's madcap antics in the Boer War and the tender, but proud telling of the part his father played in the 2nd World War and his mention of Churchill's part in bringing about an end to it. Having just read "Churchill" by Roy Jenkins, the two tie in as to his inspiring, though also often egocentric leadership in the great tradition of English history.

A great read, which I shall come back to, no doubt, in order to fix some of the multitude of facts better in my mind.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great historical book
Published 13 days ago by Dean Milner-Bell
1.0 out of 5 stars No. Just no.
Oh dear. He clearly had some sort of word target to achieve. Well, he made the target but it doesn't make for good reading. Stick to the exploring, Fiennes old chap!
Published 5 months ago by full fathom five
1.0 out of 5 stars Someone else's Family tree? History lesson? No thanks.
I rarely write reviews, but feel compelled to try help other readers in their decision to purchase this book, as perhaps the reviews on here a little biased. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars Ranulph Fiennes book
What a fantastic read and Ranulph is one fabulous man. I enjoyed book from first to the very last page.
Published 18 months ago by June Munday
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
At first I got a bit confused as to who was who but you can work it out from the family tree. A very funny book in parts and you can understand why he is such an adventurer
Published 20 months ago by Nana B
5.0 out of 5 stars The man's a legend
If i'm still going as strong as this man when i'm his age i'll be a happy chap, infact if i'm even still alive at his age i'll be a happy man ! Read more
Published 21 months ago by JollyGreenGiant
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and easy to read
This book is a great read, I take years to read any book usually, but might get this finished in six months! Believe me that's good going for me! Read more
Published 21 months ago by Andrew
5.0 out of 5 stars My hubbies book
Well he has just finished it he enjoyed it I think .....found parts interesting ....and saw a different side to the author
Published 22 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
An excellent book and a great birthday gift for the man who has everything !! Add it to your Christmas gift list
Published on 22 Jun 2012 by Trina Elizabeth Anne Duncan
5.0 out of 5 stars Mad Dogs & Englishmen: An Expedition Round My Family
A remarkable work, most readable, covering almost a thousand years of british history. Personally I enjoyed very much the "Founder's Kin" chapter, dedicated to his ancestor Bp. Read more
Published on 12 May 2012 by ANDRES F. CAVIGLIA
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