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Michael Bully (Brighton)

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James, Duke of Monmouth
James, Duke of Monmouth
by Bryan Bevan
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A thorough no-nonsense biography, 21 Oct. 2017
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At times biographers have tried to act as some sort of advocate for James Duke of Monmouth , ( 1649-1685),the illegitimate son of Charles II, most known for leading a doomed rebellion against his uncle James II in 1685, and for being used as 'The Protestant Duke' in the disruptive faction fighting of Charles II reign: Anna Keay's 'The Last Royal Rebel' (2016) reads too much like an impassioned novel whilst 'Captain-General and Rebel Cheif-The Life of James Duke of Monmouth' by J.N.P Watson ( 1979) was spoilt by the author's attempts to show that Monmouth was really the legitimate heir to the throne. On the other hand , this book is a no-nonsense assessment of Monmouth's character, his benevolent nature, ability to show courage whilst fighting at the siege of Maastricht in 1672, and in Bothwell Bridge, Scotland in 1679, his care for his men's welfare and to oppose Judge Jeffrey like retribution for defeated foes all come over well. The early death of his mother, Lucy Walter ,sometimes known as Lucy Barlow, shortly after he was abducted from her at the age of five, must have been traumatic.
The author is critical of Charles II for showering Monmouth with honours after the Restoration, treating him like a prince, too easily forgiving his involvement in rebellious enterprises such as the Rye House Plot, ultimately indulging him far beyond his status as an illegitimate son. It was easy to see how he could start believing that perhaps his parents were really married after all.
Monmouth , with some justification, as being used by other people's agendas.. The Whig faction who opposed the succession of the Catholic James Duke of York, led by such luminaries as Lord Shaftesbury and Lord Russell, used Monmouth shamelessly as a figurehead to unite anti Catholic feeling.Monmouth began visits to the West Country, to Sussex, to North West England in the early 1680's, allowing himself to be fully aligned with strident Protestantism.
Even in 1685 , Monmouth is shown leading a hopeless rebellion, believing horoscopes and carrying lucky charms, unsure whether he was going to establish a republic or let himself be made king. His proclamation on landing at Lyme Regis cited some ludicrous claims including an accusation that James Duke of York had murdered his brother Charles II in order to become James II. Shadowy figures such as Ford Lord Grey seemed to be pulling Monmouth's strings.
Thorough and interesting reading Bryan Bevan's account of the battle of Sedgemoor is short and fair. . The writer debunks the notion that James II s wife Mary of Modena was present at Monmouth's grovelling interview with James. He doesn't dwell on the Bloody Assizes but acknowledges that Monmouth for all his faults could inspire the 'ordinary' people to risk so much in order to protect the Protestant faith .

The Crabchurch Conspiracy 1645: The true story of Dorset's bloodiest secret
The Crabchurch Conspiracy 1645: The true story of Dorset's bloodiest secret
Price: £7.54

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb account of a lesser known but important incident from the English Civil War, 20 Oct. 2017
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A major achievement. The author highlights a lesser known episode in the English Civil War and presents it well.Namely in 1645, when Royalists within Weymouth and Melcombe schemed to take the towns from the Parliamentarians. A local commander, William Sydenham , loyal to Parliament defeated the Royalists who outnumbered his garrison, displaying incredible initiative and daring in the process,
He clearly is a specialist in his field but Mark Vine displays his knowledge at such a level that one doesn't have to be a Civil War buff to gain a great deal from reading this book. Neither does one have to be too familiar with Dorset. Some local history texts fall into the trap of being quite exclusive, but this author invites a much wider readership without compromising his work.
Mark Vine pays tribute to valour and courage when it is deserved, but avoids romanticising war. The misery of communities torn apart by conflict rises to the surface.
There is so much to favour 'The Crabchurch Conspiracy' , the superb illustrations, the author's extensive local knowledge, and the way he cites and reproduces his source material as an appendix to the main core of the book .
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 22, 2017 1:11 AM BST

Song of the Nightingale
Song of the Nightingale
Price: £3.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Felt quite humbled from reading this book .An amazing tale of the faith of a Christian from Eritrea., 15 Oct. 2017
Very simply told account of Helen' Berhane's life being brought up in Eritrea as a Christian, and her arranged marriage, and the cultural shame incurred when she was divorced ( not by her choosing).
Set against the background of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia at the start of this century, Helen Berhane as a gospel preacher and singer, who spoke up against the war, was bound to incur the wrath of the authorities as a far reaching crackdown against the Christian faith began.
Once Helen Berhane was jailed, she carried on singing and preaching. The prison regimes victimise her. A number of chapters depict the systematic and deliberate torture that Helen Berhane experienced in jail. Helen is not afraid to talk about her own fears during this time, and she also mentions how a group of Christian prisoners she got together started bickering amongst themselves. Her faith is incredible and there' something humbling about her lack of bitterness, and her widespread compassion for both her fellow prisoners and guards.
Now living in Denmark with her daughter, Helen Berhane has become a voice in exile for Christians persecuted in Eritrea.

Traitor to the Crown: The Untold Story of the Popish Plot and the Consipiracy Against Samuel Pepys
Traitor to the Crown: The Untold Story of the Popish Plot and the Consipiracy Against Samuel Pepys
by James D Long
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible tale well told, crucial for anyone with an interest in the late 17th century., 11 Oct. 2017
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Most impressed . Pepys's diaries have been such a major historical source that his life after their life span get overlooked. A major 'life event' occurred on 20th May 1679 when one Colonel John Scott accused Pepys and a fellow MP Sir Anthony Deane-at the bar of the House of Commons- of being spies for Louis XIV and Roman Catholic traitors.
Scott claimed, whilst in France, to have been present in 1675 at the house of the French Treasurer , and seen papers with crucial details of British naval ships, the fighting instructions of the navy, along with several maps of the English coastline, and a letter signed 'Samuel Pepys' . As Pepys was Secretary of the Admiralty he would of course have access to such crucial information, and had in fact visited France in 1675. Pepys was also accused by another witness of piracy, a former servant also accused Pepys of having a Portuguese Roman Catholic man staying with him, who was also a potential assassin.
Essentially a group of Whig Protestants were trying to do all they could to get Pepys convicted of Treason. And the book sets against the charges he faced against the background of the notorious 'Popish Plot' . A loyal clerk who served Pepys, Samuel Atkins, had already been tried, and found not guilty of 'Murder' of Edmund Berry Godfrey, whose death had let to the discovery of the 'Popish Plot'.
The book shows how at the time of anti-Catholic hostility, a Protestant who served under the Catholic James Duke of York, could generate enough hostility to face some quite frightful charges.
The life of John Scott is unravelled, the fantasies, obsessions, delusions. and forgeries. The focus of the book takes in the american colonies, West Indies, France, and Holland , as well as the complex power politics of the English Court and seething religious sectarianism of the time.
I thought that this book was excellent, But not for a casual read....it is a complicated tale indeed.

Captain, General and Rebel Chief: Life of James, Duke of Monmouth
Captain, General and Rebel Chief: Life of James, Duke of Monmouth
by J.N.P. Watson
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Helpful to have Monmouth re-appraised as a military commander, but the author seems too determined to be his advocate, 8 Oct. 2017
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Fascinating read. Most notable for the author's contention that James Duke of Monmouth was in fact the legitimate heir to the throne: An appendix is devoted to the albeit circumstantial evidence that Charles II ( whilst still a prince in exile) had in fact married Lucy Barlow, (sometimes known as Lucy Walter), and therefore James as their son would be the heir to the throne.
This book also stresses Monmouth's abilities as a military commander, which this author feels have been neglected by previous biographers:
...."The germ of which he showed in the naval battle of Lowestoft, when he was sixteen, and which blossomed as a commander in five campaigns.."
The most notable of these were the Siege of Maastrich (1673), the Battle of St. Denis (1978) and the Battle of Bothwell Bridge ( in Scotland 1679.)
This biography is in endorsed by Monmouth's descendant , the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury.
Monmouth is portrayed as brave.courageous, with a genuine loathing for punishing defeated enemies with bloodshed, particularly shown by his actions in the Scottish campaign of 1679. Monmouth's popularity is highlighted by the book's account of his progress through various English regions, including the West Country , in 1680.
Monmouth involvement in the Whig plot amounting to an attempted 1682 coup d'etat was considered to be naive- Monmouth is shown as being horrified by thought that his father Charles II and uncle James Duke of York, might come to any serious harm, thinking that they could be forced to come to some power sharing agreement with parliament.
Even in February 1685, Monmouth who was in Holland, is shown as not immediately wanting to seize the throne, but being made to realise that if he was maintaining that he really was the legitimate heir to the throne, then he had to act promptly before James IIs rule became too entrenched.
Whilst taking the 1685 invasion was underway, the author portrays Monmouth as always caring for the welfare of the men that he was leading, and finally, once condemned, he behaved in an honourable fashion, and plays down the claim that Monmouth wept and wailed in front of King James, pleading for his life.
It's helpful to have Monmouth re-appraised as a military commander, but the author seems too determined to be his advocate. Those people who remained unconvinced that Monmouth really was an illegitimate heir and that he played the hectic politics the late 1670's/early 1680's badly and let himself be used by unscrupulous politicians are unlikely to be won over by this book. And it has to be asked, if Monmouth was such a skillful military commander, why was the 1685 invasion, culminating in a humiliating defeat ad Sedgemoor, such a hopeless venture?
James II is quoted in the book as saying " Poor Monmouth, he was always easy to imposed upon." indeed.

Traitor's Knot
Traitor's Knot
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly enjoyable historical novel, 7 Oct. 2017
This review is from: Traitor's Knot (Kindle Edition)
Found out about this novel via a Facebook Stuart History group that I am a member of. Was not sure if I would take to it but was won over. So much contemporary fiction seems gloomy and nihilistic and felt that it was great to have in James Hart a good old fashioned hero, who is passionate, brave , believes in a cause, risks so much for his idealism. Whilst the women characters are sensitive but tough and daring. Thought that the tragedy of the 'English' Civil War with neighbours and even families on opposing sides was conveyed well - Diane Purkiss' excellent 'The English Civil War- a People's History' supplies examples of such scenarios. It was also a great literary device to have a villain also after the leading lady, just like 'Scarpia' in the opera 'Tosca' . There was genuine tension in the plot as well. I was also delighted to see an acknowledgement to the work of Dorset historian Mark Vine in researching the 'Crabchurch Conspiracy' as regards Weymouth during the Civil War. It was also great to have the whole range of both Royalist and Parliamentarian views expressed via different characters.
I will give it five stars but a couple of aspects grated on me. Firstly the villain is very religious, just seems in the 21st century writers can not accept that anyone would have a genuine religious devotion. Anyone who expresses an affinity to organised religion has to have a hidden agenda or to be an outright hypocrite, usually both. Secondly the sex scene is awful. But so what, I am glad to have read this book .

The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth
The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Depicts the crucial role that Monmouth played at the royal court and in the political life of Charles II, 20 Sept. 2017
James Duke of Monmouth is most known for leading the doomed West Country rebellion against James II ascending the throne in February 1685, an illegitimate son of King Charles II, who as the Protestant Duke , became a possible rival to the throne for those who could not accept a Roman Catholic king. Of course it was all to go terribly wrong for Monmouth, defeated at Sedgemoor , near Bridgewater, he was captured and beheaded at Tower Hill.
This biography says little about 1685 . The writer seems on a mission to stress Monmouth's role in the royal court and the turbulent, often sectarian, politics of the day. Born in exile in 1649 to Charles mistress' Lucy Walter then abducted as agents working for Charles in Brussels in 1657, the writer creates a stunning picture of the Duke. Showing how Charles II gave him all the wealth and honours of a son, apart from the right to succeed him. Monmouth is portrayed as a brave soldier when fighting at the siege of Maastricht in 1673, keen to avoid bloodshed and harsh retribution whilst helping to put down a rebellion in Scotland in 1679 . But unable to resist being caught in the political plots and conspiracy of the day, Monmouth became associated with the Whig factions led by the likes of Lord Shaftesbury and more strident Protestantism. This led to two spells in exile ,the second ensured that he was abroad when Charles II died.
Anna Keay describes Monmouth as a 'reluctant rebel' in 1685. Grieving for his father Charles II death and manipulated by cunning Whig politicians to believe that Charles was in fact murdered and that it was duty to take the throne. Monmouth is shown as being able to inspire the ordinary men and women of the West Country in 1685, and shown as caring for his supporters. His pathetic pleading for his life at the end is depicted as that of a man who could not bear the thought that he would never see his mistress again.
To me the whole book reads like a novel. A well written one at that. And an enjoyable read. But at times misses the point. Charles II's skill was that he could ride and survive the political intrigues of the day. Monmouth let himself be used by politicians . For someone who wanted to seize the throne, Monmouth seemed to have a lack of vision as a commander in 1685, listening to rumours about reinforcements that never came rather than taking initiative. Not grasping the fact that the more he dallied, the less appealing he became. There is little explanation why the artisans of the cloth making towns followed Monmouth and the gentry largely didn't, the writer is good at showing why 4-5,000 men followed him, but unable to explain why the majority of people avoided taking his side.
Anna Keay gives us absolutely no hint of what sort of regime Monmouth was going to construct if successful apart from calling regular parliaments. She feels that history hasn't been kind to Monmouth but doesn't offer evidence that he really had any success in 1685. The population outside of the West Country seemed justified in being unconvinced by him.
The strength of the book is that it shows Monmouth played a very crucial part in the politics of Charles IIs reign . The weakness is that the writer is too much on a quest to boost Monmouth's reputation that more awkward issues are not raised.

Sedgemoor 1685 : Marlborough's First Victory: Marlborough's First Command
Sedgemoor 1685 : Marlborough's First Victory: Marlborough's First Command
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A good thorough analyses of the battle-well worth reading., 4 Sept. 2017
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An online buddy suggested I read this book as knew little about Sedgemoor. Thought that it was a good introduction and has stimulated my interest, but will probably read it again to make sure that I have grasped all the points that the writer has raised.

Was impressed by the use of first hand accounts of the battle, the writer's knowledge of military history, also seemed to be keen to stress the role of the ordinary participants. John Tincey also seems keen to challenge the notion of the 'Pitchfork Rebellion', stressing the support that Monmouth received within the skilled workers, particularly amongst the cloth industry. His view seems to have been that Monmouth made the most of the options that were opened to him and that other courses of action such as retreating into Devon or trying to get his cavalry to seize Bristol were unlikely to have worked, speculating that if he had died at Sedgemoor History's judgement on him could have been different. He also points out that Judge Jeffreys, for all his perceived vindictiveness was capable of permitting acquittals and or allowing cases to be dropped due to lack of evidence....and so on. Assumptions are routinely questioned. There is some interesting material about 'friendly fire' losses.
As the title suggests the book is centred around the battle, the landscape and participants. There is little about the power-politics of the day or attempts to draw in diary writers and Restoration literary figures. John Tincey also suggests that the cloth makers of the West Country didn't flock to join William of Orange in 1688 by any means and would have been good to have this theme expanded on.

John Dryden and His World
John Dryden and His World
by Ja Winn
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A massive achievement and a crucial work for anyone studying the life and work of John Dryden, 3 Sept. 2017
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Excellent biography. Very intense read with multiple quotations from Dryden's work, appendices and many end notes. Even then there are times when had to reach for my anthology of Dryden's work or start looking for texts of his plays and poems online. It is quite an undertaking to read and demands a commitment from the reader.
The author shows how Dryden needed to be writing plays, masques, embark on musical collaborations, to survive as a poet. The patronage system in Stuart England was complex, and the infighting between different political cliques could be ferocious. Dryden seemed to enjoy a certain amount of literary feuding, particularly with Thomas Shadwell. Though John Dryden wrote a poem in honour of Cromwell, he managed to flourish in the Restoration, praising Charles II and became Poet Laureate , but converted to the Roman Catholic faith and was very much in favour of James II. He didn't survive the regime change of 1689 and the author shows how Dryden had to rely on translating classical works such as The Aeneid in order to keep afloat financially. Dryden tried to insert a pro-Jacobite subtext where possible.
John Dryden was so prolific a writer and certain complex works such as 'Hind and the Panther' , depicting English religious tensions since the Reformation, could warrant a whole study of their own. But this writer manages to identify Dryden's major works and analyse their literary content and historical context admirably.
My only criticism is that I'd like to read more of the writer's opinions concerning the wider relevance of Dryden's work to the overall cannon of English literature. Particularly to war poetry. Dryden's 'Annus Mirabilis' concerning the events of 1666 right through to his play 'King Arthur' from the 1690's shows the poet using literature to comment on current warfare. Dryden was not the first poet to do so but perhaps the most famous of the Stuart era . And Dryden's work became more questioning of contemporary wars such as the Nine Years War. But this book is both a major biography and in depth study of Dryden's work and is a massive achievement.

The Marlboroughs: John and Sarah Churchill, 1650-1744
The Marlboroughs: John and Sarah Churchill, 1650-1744
Price: £2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable enough but lacking in wider analysis, 29 Aug. 2017
Christopher Hibbert was excellent at drawing out the lives of prominent individuals of the past and writing enjoyable accounts of their lives. 'The Marlboroughs' is a great and entertaining read. His use of source material in this book is superb, and endnotes detailing his research can not be faulted at all. He doesn't try to advocate for the Marlboroughs nor does he try to do some sought of hatchet job, Christopher was using his skills to bring them to life from the Past. For that the book deserves between 4 and 5 stars.
But the lack of any sort of background analysis lets the book down. The book was published in 2001, and it's like social history, economic history, anti-colonial history, women's history never existed. History just seems to happen due to the thoughts and impulses of key individuals.

For example the War of Spanish Succession is not set in the context of European colonialism. This could have been raised without detracting from the Churchills' story but in Christopher Hibbert's world John Churchill just marches off to war to curb Louis XIV attempt to dominate Europe. There is no attempt to even acknowledge any impersonal economic forces or interests. Churchill as Duke of Marlborough's military skills is not compared with other commanders such as Cromwell, Wellington, or even Hague. How did Marlborough's ability to fight and win land battles in Europe change Britain's relationship with Europe and influence subsequent foreign policy ? Should Sarah's life,possibly Queen Anne's abilities be looked at again with the growing interest in Women's history? So much more could have been added . I am not even such what 'Whig' or 'Tory' meant during this era compared with say early 19th century.

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