on 24 January 2015
There is need for a first class biography of Charles I, but this is not it. While fairly comprehensive,some major aspects of the reign are passed over rather quickly, most obviously in the cursory treatment accorded the Petition of Right.
The main problem is style. The prose is leaden, and as a result the book is dull, extraordinary for so interesting a subject. No cliche is avoided, and some of the language is bizarre: to 'sweep[s] away ... middle ground' (p.144) seems an impossible task. It is also unnecessary to mention in the text the names of historians who take opposing views or who are the source of a particular opinion. These should have been consigned to the footnotes.
Irritations abound. The author repeatedly uses the phrase 'reversionary interest' for no apparent reason and without explaining what he means. Topics such as 'tonnage and poundage' are mentioned without explanation. The indexing is inadequate.There are several references to the Articles of Perth without ever explaining what they were and they do not occur in the index. Similarly, St Saviour's Case is mentioned on p.275 with no details of what it was and again without it being in the index. The Act of Revocation is first mentioned on page 212 but the explanation of what this is waits until the following page. In the index Alexander Leslie, the Scottish commander, seems to appear but once on pp.246f, yet he appears in the text on p.263 beating the forces of Charles I at the crucial battle of Newburn.Star Chamber is indexed as appearing on p.121, but it does not. This is sloppy writing and very poor editing.
The inclusion of a bibliography and a chronology is what one would expect in a book of this sort, but one looks in vain. These criticisms may seem mere quibbles but they have a cumulative effect. Narrative history should be a pleasure to read, and this alas is not. Try instead Christopher Hibbert's excellent biography for a well written, well indexed and gripping account of the reign of this wretched monarch's pitiful rule.
on 5 July 2006
In 'Charles I: A Political Life', Richard Cust has produced a comprehensive account of Charles' political career. While covering much old ground (this book is partly a synthesis of modern hisoriography), Cust offers a fresh look at Charles' political influences and motives. In particular, the section on Charles as Prince of Wales is partciularly insightful.
Although there is not much competition, this is the finest academic biography of Charles I around.