Reviewer Janet Walker: Janet is the author of Colour To Die For, first of the Fee Weston Mystery Series. Janet lives in Australia and when she is not writing about P.I. Fee Weston's fight for truth, justice and a livable cash flow, she writes articles for magazines and fund raises for Australia's wildlife carers - heroes of the bush. For more about Janet and Fee visit Janet's WEBSITE
Author: Charles Spencer
Publisher: Bloomsbury Press
I had a wonderful primary school teacher; loved by my classmates and myself, we were entranced by history lessons he turned into exciting stories. The plots, peopled by heroes and villains, who had the power to determine the fate of others, the events that unfolded were thrilling and sometimes terrifying.
King Charles I (1600-1649) of England, came under my teacher’s scrutiny and got a bad press. The facts presented were of a tyrant who because of financial extravagance and tyrannical behaviour got what he deserved – removed by Parliament as England, Scotland and Ireland’s leader, he was tried for his role in the suffering and slaughter of his subjects and beheaded.
But was he really so bad or simply a man who from birth had been brainwashed into believing in his divine right to govern and was unable to accept that the times they were a changing?
Charles Spencer in his well researched new book, Killers of the King, The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I, presents a sympathetic and well rounded portrayal of Charles and the historical events that lead to his downfall.
A man of strong religious faith and a loving husband and father, Charles was bedevilled by money problems; keeping his household and estates financially viable was difficult. The Parliament of the time, loud voiced and unruly, saw no reason to fund what they saw as the King’s excesses and were determined to wrest power from his grasp.
Charles’ answer to their demands was to try and divorce himself and his finances from parliamentary control. When this didn’t work, he invoked his divine right to rule and raised an army with a view to dissolving Parliament.
What he didn’t reckon on was the size of the Parliamentary army and the puritanical zeal that had spread through England in the seventeenth century. People wanted a return to a simple religious life which included food, shelter and employment for all and they were prepared to die to get it.
The savage civil wars that ensued, bloody, with terrible losses on both sides, many did die.
Charles lost the first round of the war. Not one to accept defeat gracefully, he raised another army and fought on, hoping for victory and the return of his kingly power.
Charles Spencer writes well – history comes alive as he narrates the factual events surrounding a dark chilling time in the history of the British people.
Captured by Parliamentary forces, Charles escaped to Scotland only to be re-captured by the Scots who sold him to Parliament.
Charged with being the instigator of the civil wars which caused terrible suffering to his people, Charles was denied legal counsel and defended himself. During the course of the trial he often invoked the divine right of kings to rule and did not reply to the Parliamentary prosecutor.
Before and during the trial he was offered deals by Parliament, which could have ensured his head stayed firmly on his shoulders but he would not compromise.
It is not surprising that Parliament, fighting to keep control of a large powerful army who wanted Charles to pay for his actions, found him guilty as charged and ordered his execution.
The re-telling of Charles I trial and his beheading is written with poignancy and beautiful clarity. It invoked in me feelings of sadness for a man, who, right or wrong, went to his death bravely with great dignity.
Before the trial began it was difficult to find anyone who would either act as part of the Parliamentary prosecution team or serve as a jury member. There were two reasons for this: firstly, many parliamentary supporters thought the King should be punished but not executed. Secondly, there was a real fear of retribution from royalist supporters and sympathisers. Prevalent in all corners of England and Europe an attack by royalist death squads, hell bent on exterminating the killers of their king, was a risk many did not wish to take.
Parliament put in place a slash and burn policy to weed out royalist sympathizers. The slashing and burning horrifying, it was only equalled by the terrible price that all those involved in Charles I’s execution suffered, after his son, Charles II, who had escaped to France, was restored to the British throne in 1660.
The narration then centres on the return of Charles II and the hunt for the killers of his father.
Detail, realistically vivid, Killers of the King, is not just for history buffs, it’s a suspenseful exciting read.