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It is easiest to think of this book as containing two parts. The first part, an overview of the English Civil War, covers the period from just before the start of the First English Civil War through the Restoration of Charles II and, of necessity, mentions some Royalist and some Parliamentarian victories, the capture, incarceration and trial of the King, the seizure of power by the Army, the formation of the Rump Parliament, the Commonwealth and the Restoration of Charles II after the death of Cromwell. All of this is necessary so as to set the stage for the real tale of this book - the fate of those who most involved with the trial and death of Charles I and especially those whose names were on the King’s Death Warrant and those directly involved with his beheading. Thus this book becomes very personal in regards to what happened to the people referred to as the “Regicides”.
All Civil Wars are full of tragedies but in this book we see those tragedies through the fates of those most heavily involved in the events, both Royalist and Parliamentarian as well as by those scrambling to save their lives by betraying their friends, colleagues and acquaintances. As an American I was not familiar with most of the names of those involved and worried that I would lose track of who was who, who did what and who fought for which side but Mr Spencer was always prepared to let the reader know who each person was whenever it was necessary. While the book is wonderfully written and filled in a large blank space in my knowledge of English history, some parts of it were difficult to listen to. Many of those involved were Hung, Drawn and Quartered and Mr Spencer is, at times I believe, a bit too complete in his descriptions.
Some things shine clearly in this book. One was the perfidy of some of the Parliamentarians who backed the war against the King and, when the Commonwealth became unpopular, not only agitated for the Restoration of Charles II, but sat in judgement of those who did their bidding during the war. Another was the willingness of the Army to decide for itself who should and who should not sit in Parliament. And still others were the thirst for revenge by Charles II and the Royalists upon those who they said “murdered” the King, even to the point of tracking them down both in Europe and in the Colonies, the willingness of those in power to violate the law and their promised word concerning amnesty as well as to browbeat those who sat in the Juries judging the defendants and, of course, the shameful tale of Cromwell’s corpse. In the end what sticks in my mind are the small victories of some of the “Regicides” who managed, in the end, to escape the hunters and assassins and those in Switzerland and the American Colonies who ignored the large promised rewards and helped to protect the fugitives, many of whom were, after all, only guilty of following Parliament’s orders. If you are a fan of Oliver Cromwell this book may not be to your liking.
Mr Spencer has written a very good book which will stick with me for a long time and my view of the entire English Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration has changed due to the excellent writing and splendid narration of Tim Bruce. If you are interested in British history this book is a welcome addition to that subject.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
I thought this might be more about Charles I, but it Mentone little about him and goes straight for the men involved. If you're wanting a book about Charles I, keep looking. If you're interested in the behind the scenes look of his demise, this is the book for you.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of Killers of the King to be better than the print version?
This book owes much to contemporary sources, memoirs and diaries as well as historical documents. Tim Bruce brings all above to life, changing his voice and accent in so many ways that you can really hear historical figures speaking. It makes already fascinating story even more compelling and engaging. Together with brilliant storytelling of Spencer, Bruce's narration make this but a must.
What did you like best about this story?
Charles I was, and still is, a controversial figure. So are the men who condemned him to death. This book is not so much about history, dates and political facts, as it is about people, their believes, principles and convictions. It is fascinating to learn about people who made the history, ordinary people with their troubles and joys. This book is not about Oliver Cromwell nor is it about the war or Charles I. It is about a group of peple that most of us never heard of, about the crow behind the events. And it's a bloody brilliant book and bloody good story!
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Lady Fairfax, wife of the prominent parliamentary general and close friend of Oliver Cromwell, heckling the prosecutors during King Charles's trial. Fantastic. And I will forever cringe when hearing the word 'Downing', as in Downing Street, for he betrayed former friends all over Europe and delivered them to the Restoration's retribution for his former enemy's, Charles I death. Bastard.
Any additional comments?
I took my player to the bathroom in order not to interrupt listening. If that's not a proof of how engaging and interesting this story is, I don't know what is.
21 of 21 people found this review helpful
This history is dark and gruesome and the politics are complex, but what shines through is the lengths people will go to, to do what they think is right. It is incredible to think the acts of insane torture were carried out a stone's throw away from the seat of British Government and the street where our Prime Minister lives is named after one of the most odious men in history. The section of the book set in America is particularly riveting and it is humbling to read about the brave souls who risked their own lives to protect the fugitives when they could easily have protected themselves by handing them over to the Royalist forces. The sadness of men forced to live the rest of their days away from families who clearly loved them, was incredibly moving.
This has been a great audio experience even though I did struggle with keeping track of the vast array of characters. To remedy this I am going to buy the book in print.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful