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Ratings and Book Reviews (1 6 star ratings
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    This is a diligent and competent work

    ‘To Catch a King’ the story of King Charles II by best-selling author, Charles Spencer. The book is beautifully presented with a selection of paintings reproduced and interspersed in the text. It is divided into four parts and the chapters are of fairly equal length; each beginning with an epigraph to give an indication of what to expect. The book is written in narrative style rather than as a dramatisation. The content is fairly easy to read with the occasional short contemporary extract from a publication or diary entry written by one of the Charles II’s associates or indeed Charles himself. Inevitably when trying to piece together a timeline, memories will differ and so it is with this account. Many of those involved have conflicting recollections but these instances are dealt with in a balanced way by the author. There is a reasonable amount of background information leading up to the beheading of Charles I before we get to the Battle of Worcester, which led to Charles II needing to make good his escape to France. For any readers unfamiliar with this period of English history, it will undoubtedly be useful, providing they don’t get bogged down with names. Some characters shine through as particularly strong, not least Charles’ mother, Henrietta Maria of France, Jane Lane who was instrumental in helping Charles evade capture and career soldier and MP, Lord Wilmot. We are also given potted histories of some other people involved along the way; which I found helpful. As a volunteer at Petworth House in Sussex, the references to the Wyndham family and 10th Earl of Northumberland were particularly relevant. The synopsis suggests this is ‘a gripping action-packed true adventure story’ and some readers may view it as such. Whilst the escape from England is undoubtedly the epitome of Charles’ story, I think it would be more accurate to portray this work as a biography of his entire adult life. I particularly enjoyed the scenes when Charles was in hiding and noted the loyalty he inspired in those of both noble and lowly birth. Disguising a man of over six feet tall, when the average male height was no more than five feet six inches, was no mean feat. Upon the restoration, Charles proved himself to be a worthy patron to those who had protected him at his time of greatest need. This is a diligent and competent work, if a little stodgy in places and not totally captivating. It is clear that a huge amount of research went into its production but whether it brings anything new to an already fairly well-known part of the Stuart reign, is arguable. Nonetheless, Charles Spencer has given an interesting and fairly sympathetic account of life of this monarch and I award a commendable four stars.

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