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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Montrose: Given less gloss than some, less critical than many
All of those that got the Sir Walter Scott treatment have been heavily critcised by modern historians because of some of the poor attention to detail that has stained all his work to modern readers. Montrose is no acception.

Williams' book has been invaluable to me in understanding Montrose and the period. The book is tough to begin with and I was soon lost...
Published on 22 Sept. 2006 by Eddie Douglas

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Montrose - a brilliant strategist!
Written very well, clear and comprehensive forging of words giving hours of entertaining heart-in-mouth adventures! I recommend starting the book from the first battle, because the beginning is rather tedious being full of dreary political stuff which can be seen in a better light and understanding after having read about the consequences. The kind of book that could be...
Published on 8 Sept. 2006 by Emerald Fox


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Montrose: Given less gloss than some, less critical than many, 22 Sept. 2006
This review is from: Montrose: Cavalier in Mourning (Paperback)
All of those that got the Sir Walter Scott treatment have been heavily critcised by modern historians because of some of the poor attention to detail that has stained all his work to modern readers. Montrose is no acception.

Williams' book has been invaluable to me in understanding Montrose and the period. The book is tough to begin with and I was soon lost amongst the brother-in-laws, sons, sisters and early political life and turned off by the book. I went forward to the initial battles and his path from then on, but went back later to help cement the full story in my mind. The author does acknowledge some of the new views and figures on the battles and the less flattering view point on Montrose, but he is more in the mould of the old school and royalist minded historians. (More of a romantic John Buchan or Mowbray Morris than a critical Stuart Reid or John Barratt.) I've read many different books on the period and the facts and figures seem to be hugely different from book to book, but Williams quotes his sources and explains his stand on contentious periods of Montrose's life well. If you're looking for a detailed understanding of the man and the decisions and events that made him famous, this is a great book. If you're looking for easy reading and are brand new to the man and this period, start on something broader and then buy and enjoy this book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt, 27 July 2010
By 
Clanranald (Highlands, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Montrose: Cavalier in Mourning (Paperback)
'Montrose: Cavalier in Mourning' by Ronald Williams is the most comprehensive book to date detailing the eventful and ultimately tragic life of James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose, Captain General of King Charles I's forces in Scotland during the great 'civil wars' of the seventeenth century. Williams has drawn on a vast array of resources- much of it first hand material- to produce a fine study of the man who has gone down in history as one of Scotland's finest military commanders. The author's interest appears to stem from Montrose's relative moderation in an age of violent bigotry and religious division, for "...it is the moderates who exercise the greater fascination- the men whose loyalty belongs to neither extreme..."

In mid-seventeenth century Scotland, these divisions manifested themselves in a desperate struggle between those who supported the Royalists and the new Covenant movement which emerged in opposition to Charles's somewhat heavy-handed meddling in religious matters. Montrose of course came in time to lead the Scottish Royalist movement in the civil war and it is therefore inevitable that much of the book's focus details the Graham's life during this time. However, Williams provides us with a detailed account of the complex, intricate web of Scottish politics of the period, what caused the formation of the opposing factions and Montrose's motivations for switching from early support for the covenant to vehement opposition.

Williams does not strive to conceal his admiration for the Captain General, warming the reader to the Graham by portraying Montrose as a man of great integrity, intelligence and loyalty married with his more martial attributes of bravery, cunning and physical hardihood. The author dedicates a chapter to each of Montrose's great victories, conveying the violence of battle vividly to the reader through graphic descriptions of the action. At Tippermuir, the first of the Royalist victories, Williams describes the Highland charge thus, "Elcho's musketeers, who had been moving forward to meet the charge, had barely time to fire a single volley when the Gaels ran at them out of the smoke, stooped under the bullets with heads down and targes high, and, hurling rocks, clubs and other missiles, burst into the Covenant files to grapple and hamstring individual opponents in a savage melee of knives and teeth."
There is however more than a hint of Williams overrating the Graham's ability as a captain, falling into the trap of `hero-worshipping' often associated with Montrose whilst downgrading the importance of Alasdair MacDonald, his second in command.
For a revised version of the two Royalist commanders, read David Stevenson's excellent biography `Highland Warrior' which details the life of MacDonald, or `Colkitto', as he became known where the author highlights the flaws of Montrose as well as shedding more favourable light on Alasdair.

It is interesting to note the moderate beliefs of Montrose- so profoundly respected by the author- which closely resemble those of his later kinsman, John Graham, who famously fell leading Stuart forces at the Battle of Killiecrankie. Highly effective, loyal and moderate servants of the House of Stuart such as Montrose, Dundee and countless Jacobite officers follow the trend of being betrayed or let down by the Stuarts- by Charles II in the case of Montrose. The book as a whole, but particularly as the demise of Montrose approaches, is very emotive, partly due to the outstanding ability of the author to tell an interesting story, but perhaps due to the emotional connection the author has with the Graham's personality and convictions.

Williams has conducted meticulous research in producing this text, the most comprehensive and informative to date detailing the life of James Graham. Whilst it is not perfect, the book has soul, and the author's understanding of seventeenth century Scotland, both politically and militarily, is particularly sound.
This was a profoundly important period in Scottish history, often (unfortunately) overshadowed by the great struggle between King and Cromwell south of the border in England. To understand the development of Scotland- religiously, economically and politically- this is an invaluable book which deserves to take its place at the forefront of writings on the country's history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PUBLISHERS SYNOPSIS [From The Dust Jacket Front Flap]., 11 Feb. 2009
By 
R. A. Hylton "liverpoolbooqshop" (Liverpool, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
"For pure heroism and nobility it would be difficult to match James Graham, the 'Great Marquis' of Montrose, in all British History. He seems rather to belong with the knights of epic chivalry whom he so admired. He inspired his countrymen Sir Walter Scott and John Buchan to some of of their first writing; and now Miss Wedgwood, a historian as distinguished for the restrained quality of her prose as for the careful discipline of her scholarship, catches the same fire, and recounts Montrose's story in a tale so moving that it would be unbearable were it not so beautiful. Without elaboration, merely relying upon the facts, she shoes her hero against the cultured background of his youth; carries him through those wonderful and terrible marches across the Highlands, and on to the fearful end at Edinburgh, which he met, like all his trials, with the fortitude of a Bayard or a Roland. Loyalty and Magnanimity, no less than extraordinary ability, marked his career as a statesman and, even more, as a soldier; and it seems right that this great fighting man should have left behind him poetry as enduring as the memory of his actions."
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Montrose - a brilliant strategist!, 8 Sept. 2006
This review is from: Montrose: Cavalier in Mourning (Paperback)
Written very well, clear and comprehensive forging of words giving hours of entertaining heart-in-mouth adventures! I recommend starting the book from the first battle, because the beginning is rather tedious being full of dreary political stuff which can be seen in a better light and understanding after having read about the consequences. The kind of book that could be read again with equal enjoyment after putting it away 10 years, a Classic in fact. Montrose & Argyll, his arch enemy, slogging it out amongst the heather and snowy-peaked mountains. Gripping action! Shows how corrupt kings are, just looking after themselves whilst putting others in peril!
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Montrose: Cavalier in Mourning
Montrose: Cavalier in Mourning by Ronald Williams (Paperback - 14 Dec. 2001)
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