A right royal (17th century) car crash
Newsletter: January 2017
Dear Web friends
And it’s a well-known story which nobody knows. A story which culminated in the unbelievable decision to kill the king…for, in so doing, were they not also killing God?
God, of course, was on both sides in post-civil war England when absolute certainty and absolute distrust were the order of the day.
Rather like the UK, since the Brexit vote, really…
Charles was not a traditional king: a tiny little intellectual, whose ‘better’, more inspiring older brother had died aged nineteen. Charles, for his part, liked reading romances… and ruining the public finances buying clothes for his wife and expensive art work for his palaces.
Cromwell, on the other hand, his nemesis, was a soldier’s soldier, inspirational and earthy – he often had blood on his collar, where he cut himself shaving.
You would want to die for Cromwell on the battlefield. You might not wish to die for Charles.
The civil war had been about governance, about authority. Who was to rule – and with what power? Again, echoes of our present day debates.
For the parliamentarians, it was a war inspired by God – a Jihad, in modern parlance. Cromwell saw the face of God in victory.
But my story is mainly about the king’s last eighteen months on earth, spent in captivity…though it was hardly normal prison life. He had a mistress, played bowls, ate very well and enjoyed a household at his beck and call.
(And he becked and called a lot.)
He also kept trying to escape, helped by Jane Whorwood.
Jane Whorwood was a most diligent spy and the king’s lover, who showed unerring commitment to the monarch’s every need. She had her own troubles; and hers is a remarkable story.
England, however, was changing around Charles – it was a literate, politicised and brutalised nation. One hundred thousand civilians and soldiers had died in the un-civil war, which set family against family, friend against friend. This is a proportionately higher percentage of the population than died in the Great War of 1914-18.
The king, however, was so absorbed in the story he was telling himself, he didn’t notice the trauma around him.
His finest moment was undoubtedly on the cold scaffold in Whitehall. But while he blamed others for this outcome, he had really put himself there.
He simply didn’t think anyone else existed; or not in the way that he existed. And while royalty have got away with this attitude at times, in the ferment that was 17th century England, it didn’t play well.
And, as you may have guessed, this is the territory of my soon-to-appear historical debut, The Soldier, the Gaoler, the Spy and her Lover. If you’d like to hear me talking (briefly) about it, click here for the video
The book launch is in Salisbury, at Sarum bookshop, on February 20th. It starts at 6.30pm, with a talk from me and then Q&R. (Questions and Responses. I’m not sure answers are the order of the day.)
If you’d like to be there, or have any questions about the event, email the excellent Jenny Monds.
It would be lovely to see you… and a large group of friends, if you must. And Jenny does tell me there will be wine…
Retreats – Some other house business for a moment: My March Enneagram retreat at Glastonbury is full, but I believe there are still places for my May Enneagram retreat at Launde Abbey. (Interestingly, Charles and Cromwell shared the same Enneagram number, but lived it in different ways.)
I close, though, with an early review of the book, by Simon Jenkins, founder and editor of Ship of Fools.
‘An extraordinary story has found an extraordinary storyteller. The truth of Charles I and his mistress-spy Jane Whorwood was hushed up and overlooked for centuries, but Simon Parke opens up the story so vividly that you are not only in the room, but in the heads and hearts of the characters. A wonderful, compelling read.’
I’m aware this newsletter will be read all over the world; we are a global community and your weather is not necessarily mine. But as I finish, it’s strange, but I do feel as though I’m in the same room as you.
With very best wishes as your 2017 unfolds,