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4.4 out of 5 stars45
4.4 out of 5 stars
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If you did not know this was a factual history book, it would be easy to believe it was a historical novel - so full of espionage, plots, assassinations and excitement, it is almost hard to credit that it happened. Yet, it did. This book tells the fate of the men who dared to sit in judgement upon King Charles I, known simply as the regicides. After the death of his father, his eldest son, later Charles II, vowed vengeance on those he blamed for the execution of Charles I. When he was invited, in 1660, to return and take up his throne, he unleashed an unrelenting manhunt for all who had signed the death warrant, and even some who were involved in lesser ways.

This interesting and well written read begins with the capture of Charles I, his trial and execution. It is fair to say that even while the country was in the throes of Civil War and rebellion, many of those called to take part in the trial had decided that it was unwise to be involved and either refused to participate or made excuses why they could not attend. They were the lucky ones. For those either involved out of choice, or forced to participate, the manhunt which followed was relentless. While Cromwell was still in power he faced plots, dissent and hastily arranged assassination attempts. These included one in which an assassin had organised a fast horse for a quick getaway, only to find himself beckoned over by Cromwell, who was impressed by his mount. Too stunned to shoot, the nonplussed assassin made polite conversation, his nerves broken down by the encounter.

When Cromwell died in 1658, fifteen of the sixty nine judges responsible for the fate of Charles I were already dead. After his death, London was plunged into chaos and, when the monarchy was restored, everyone was eager to prove their loyalty to the new King. The first man who had sat in judgement of Charles I was arrested as early as April 1660 and there was a frightening time ahead for the men associated with the execution of the former king. Their properties were seized and, at first seven of the judges were selected for execution. The list should have stopped there, the amount agreed by Parliament to bear the guilt of the king's death. It didn't... First there were four more chosen for the fateful list, then twenty more and the list grew to include men who had been involved with the trial, but who had not sat in judgement on the king. Those on the list scattered abroad, went into hiding or were arrested and given show trials. The first series of trials and executions lasted only ten days and left ten men executed and thirty two indicted.

This then is another side to the story of a king best known for his many mistresses and carefree life. Charles II was relentless in his pursuit and his thirst for revenge. He unleashed his bloodhounds across the country, throughout Europe and even as far as the United States. It is a tale of early espionage, entrapment, bribery, assassination attempts and kidnapping. It is about men, such as Sir George Downing, a former Roundhead who turned traitor and wormed his way back into royal favour by arresting former comrades; and also of immense bravery, as men died for what they believed in. Later, revenge against republicans seemed to have nothing to do with the trial of the King, such as when three judges were dragged through the streets on the anniversary of the day the death sentence was passed on Charles I, none of whom had signed the death warrant or been present at the sentencing. Overall, this is a really readable account of this turbulent and exciting time. The authors complete the book with details of what happened to all the regicides and their fate and, also, it applauds what those men achieved. Yes, they were responsible for the death of a king, but they also brought about reform and provided a blueprint of today's political system. Lastly, I read the kindle version of this book and it contained illustrations at the end of the book.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 August 2014
Being a huge fan of the civil war I was looking forward to this non-fiction book on the fate of the regicides. The authors would have you believe that the parliamentary cause was all good and the royalist one bad; that all the crimes committed during the war were the fault of the King, rupert and his side; and that Charles II's hunt for the regicides was just vindictive. Eh? If my father had been captured and put through a mock trial and then beheaded, I'd want to get hold of those responsible! Charles II HAD to show that treason and regicide could not just be condoned or swept under the carpet. I am not a Royalist - far from it. My sympathies lie with the Levellers. I hate the hypocracy of Cromwell and his ilk who appear to be for the "common man" until they want the right to vote and equality, when Cromwell's cronies put them down at the point of a sword.

The angle from those who went to North America was interesting and I enjoyed that aspect of it.
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on 1 November 2012
I enjoyed reading this book but I felt the title was a little misleading. A large part of the story is taken up with the events leading up to the civil war, the republican period and the Restoration - almost the first half of the book if I remember right, rather than the tracking down of regicides. I think this is because there perhaps isn't actually all that much detailed information available on the actual manhunts themselves. There are times when this reads like a thriller as other reviewers have said, but much of the time it is a standard history book. But it is a good, readable history book, not at all dry or stuffy, and although I was slightly disappointed with the 'manhunt' aspect I'd still recommend it. I've knocked one star off because few books are that special and this is good but not that good, and another because it wasn't quite the thrilling subject matter I was hoping for.
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on 6 August 2015
This book starts off with a bang, suspicious people hanging around outside doorways, wanted people escaping from temporary lodgings etc. However, the story quickly rewinds back to Charles I and tells of his war, trial and execution, followed by Monck and the return of Charles II. Only then do we really get back to what the point of the book's title indicates. Unfortunately, half the book is gone by that point, which is my principle disappointment, but it's to be assumed there is little factual remaining evidence to cast a longer story. However, overlooking this, it's a fascinating account with good portrayals of the main players.
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on 30 October 2012
The attitude of the writers is summed up in the title: 'revenge'. Why not 'The King's Justice' ?
They portray Charles as wild,vengeful, lazy and autocratic which is a vast over simplification - see the much better book 'A Gambling Man' for a more measured picture of his talents and abilities.
Their sources seem to very old fashioned - they even quote Edmund Burke as an 'historian'.
They treat General Monck with no synmpathy never taking seriously the most obvious reasond for his actions: he knew that the people wanted a King again and that the stability of the country could only be secured by bringing Charles back.
They never deal with
a) the utter intolerance of the Cromwellian reign: 'tolerance' excluded Anglicans and Catholics who were after all the majority of the population
b) the reality of what Cromwell had done in killing the King against the wishes of the vast majority of the people
c) the very real threat that the Puritans and their allies continued to be to the stability of the constitution: they would have done the same to Charles as they had done to his father if they had the chance

Its all a bit breathless in style
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on 12 August 2015
It's shameful how this book portrays Charles and even more of a shame that people believe this! It paints him as a vengeful King. His father was beheaded without a proper and fair trial. Those responsible and involved in his father's death were all given fair trial and when found guilty, executed. Fair. Much fairer than I would have been had my father been murdered in this manner!
The book gives us barely a page on Charles' role in the great fire of London and the plague, therefore drawing more false negativity against Charles. Who was also the king of science.
Charles REALLY WAS the merry monarch. Unlike Cromwell the miserable tyrant, who banned all festivities, holidays, feasts, Christmas, theatre art. FUN. Yet, in private he enjoyed all of the above himself!
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on 19 November 2015
interesting read, but authors rather one sided in their approach. They were definitely rooting for cromwellians.
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on 30 November 2015
Very informative but also rather repetitive, reading it shows the hypo racy of both sides, always was a royalist, but Charles certainly pushed his lunch a time or two too many, only three stars because of the repetition, but worthwhile history lesson.
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on 2 November 2014
A detailed tale on the revenge taken, by Charles ll, on the Parliamentarians who were involved in the revolution which resulted in the beheading of his father King Charles l.
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on 31 December 2013
Good read and well researched. Some ommissions that worried me, really wshy were facts changed? Take the first one I came accross as example, i.e. The Scotch didn't just 'hand him over to the English Parliament' p29 Abacus. They sold Charles, for a lot more than the proverbial thirty pieces of silver, but the point is made. Then having got the money for Charles, they still wanted to have him support and back their Presbyterianism on England. Certainly a win win for the Scotch! However, am I being picky? I suppose I may, but a very good book and a sobering thought of the personality of Charles the Second. Charles always the scheming politician and habitual liar, was in his element as King, he played the easy going monarch, whilst whoring amongst the ladies of the court and stage. Yet have the perspicacious wit along with the viciosness to betray his friends and lovers, whilst keeping those he needed on board throughout his rotten reign. What chance did his enemies have? The men who had fought with conviction and courage against his father were condemned, those that signed the deah warrent were hunted down for brutal execution by the vicious unforgiving monarch. This is very well exempled in the book, giving a dignity to the hunted, such as Harrison and to their plight. Yes a good read I would say go and buy it but read it carefully!
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