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on 24 September 2012
As someone used to reading more highbrow history books I read this on holiday expecting a light read and this was exactly what I got. Do not expect anything too serious and demanding. However, even though the author writes in an engaging manner the sheer volume of inaccuracies is simply not acceptable. For example in the section on the execution of Anthony Babington and his fellow conspirators we have the following:
'Although hanging, drawing and quartering had been in use for centuries, because this was the first time in Elizabeth's long reign that it had been used, it is unlikely that the Queen actually understood how barbaric it was. On hearing the details of the executions and the public's horrified reaction, she ordered that the remaining eight conspirators should simply be hanged. There would never be another public dismemberment in the realm of England.'
Unfortunately, the queen knew only too well how horrific this form of public butchery was and she gave explicit orders that the traitors should be made to suffer terribly. It certainly was not the first time that it had been used in her reign as it was standard practice to execute catholic priests in this manner from 1578 onwards and this was the fate that befell the Jesuit Edmund Campion in December 1581 among many others. Again the author is wrong when he states 'that the remaining eight conspirators should simply be hanged'. There were 14 convicted traitors in this plot and the first seven were executed on the 20th September 1586 leaving the remaining SEVEN to be hung on the second day. Finally, the author is wrong again when he states that there was never 'another public dismemberment in the realm of England' after this as unfortunately traitors continued to be hung, drawn and quartered well into the 18th century. Good examples being the Gunpowder plotters of 1605 and the regicides who signed the death warrant of Charles I in the mid 17th century.
Unfortunately, for this reason it is not possible to take this book seriously and I find it staggering that someone could actually write a book on a subject which he obviously knows so little about!