Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Killers Of The King by Charles Spencer

Killers Of The King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer

First published in the UK by Bloomsbury in September 2014. Audiobook edition narrated by Tim Bruce published by Audible Studios in November 2014.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Kobo
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Bought the audio download from Audible

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

January, 1649. After seven years of fighting in the bloodiest war in Britain's history, Parliament had overpowered King Charles I and now faced a problem: what to do with a defeated king, a king who refused to surrender?Parliamentarians resolved to do the unthinkable, to disregard the Divine Right of Kings and hold Charles I to account for the appalling suffering and slaughter endured by his people. A tribunal of 135 men was hastily gathered in London, and although Charles refused to acknowledge the power of his subjects to try him, the death sentence was unanimously passed. On an icy winter's day on a scaffold outside Whitehall, in an event unique in English history, the King of England was executed.When the dead king's son, Charles II, was restored to the throne, he set about enacting a deadly wave of retribution against all those - the lawyers, the judges, the officers on the scaffold - responsible for his father's death. Some of the 'regicides' - the killers of the king - pleaded for mercy, while others stoically awaited their sentence. Many went into hiding in England, or fled to Europe or America. Those who were caught and condemned suffered agonising and degrading ends, while others saw out their days in hellish captivity.

Best-selling historian Charles Spencer explores this violent clash of ideals through the individuals whose fates were determined by that one, momentous decision. A powerful tale of revenge from the dark heart of royal history and a fascinating insight into the dangers of political and religious allegiance in Stuart England, these are the shocking stories of the men who dared to kill a king.

I had this audiobook awaiting listening for several years before I actually steeled myself to get all the way through it. The problem for me is that Spencer initially rushes through a great long list of names and battles, most of which were unknown to me, in order to give an overview of the lead-up to the execution of Charles I, the act itself and the following Commonwealth Republic years until the demise of Oliver Cromwell. I struggled to kind my mind from wandering during the first third of Killers Of The King, eventually having to restart the narration three times over in my determination to hear the whole book! Other reviewers had said it got more engaging later on and I wanted to find out for myself that this is indeed the case.

Once Spencer begins to talk about the individual names as real people, Killers Of The King became a much interesting listen, albeit a frequently gruesome one! He investigates the lives and deaths of as many of the sixty-odd men who had signed Charles I's death warrant as he could find, describing them in fascinating detail. Over a period of two to three decades England swung from one political extreme to another and back again with, it seemed, practically every man of note absolutely determined that whatever cause he had chosen to support was also that chosen by God. The degree of religious fanaticism shown by most of these men is terrifying, especially as their violent actions in the name of God are rooted in Old Testament vengeance. Only those with the foresight to keep switching sides seem to have maintained or accumulated any degree of wealth (and kept their heads) including one George Downing, called a 'perfidious rogue' by Samuel Pepys, whose rewards from Charles II enabled him to buy up swathes of London - including the street that now bears his name!

Tim Bruce is an excellent narrator, admirably portraying a range of accents from across Europe and as far afield as the New England colonies. I would listen to more of his audiobooks although I am not sure I would attempt another Charles Spencer history volume.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Charles Spencer / History / Books from England

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