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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 19 January 2020

"The Prince who would be King" by Sarah Fraser

This is the biography of Prince Henry (1594 - 1612), eldest son of King James I (of England) and VI (of Scotland) who died as Crown Prince and Prince of Wales at the age of 17 before fulfilling any of the promise he showed (though "he could be bumptious and immature at times"; C 20). His death led to the succession of his younger brother Charles as King Charles I.

As with many biographies, it is of most interest because of the other people who were around at the time. Prince Henry's coterie included:

  • Thomas Coryat: a traveller and travel writer who introduced the fork to England and the word umbrella; he died in India and is memorialised by Robin Lloyd-Jones in the unjustly forgotten novel Lord of the Dance), 
  • Sir Thomas Chaloner: who was friends with alchemist and magician John Dee and discovered alum on his Yorkshire estate and exploited it
  • Thomas Harriot, Henry's tutor, who as scientist and mathematician advanced navigation, created a phonetic alphabet for the Algonquin tribes he encountered in North Carolina while visiting Sir Walter Raleigh's ill-fated Roanoke colony , discovered Snell's Law before Snell, developed algebraic symbols, and used a telescope to observe sunspots
  • George Chapman who dedicated his translation of the Iliad to Prince Henry
  • Cornelius Drebbel who later went on to test the world's first submarine in the Thames
  • Ben Jonson who wrote a number of masques for Henry and also wrote plays such as the Catiline which criticised the "giants of the earth" who "asset-strip the whole earth for their personal gain" (C 24)

Memorable moments:

  • Quoting James I & VI: "The highest bench is the sliddriest to sit upon" (C 4)
  • "Extreme Calvinism and the idea of a contractual, not absolute, monarchy often went hand in hand." (C 5)
  • "Tacitus ... concluded that men in positions of power must exercise Stoical self-control ... [but] what Stoics thought of as their own moral constancy might lead to a high-minded fanaticism and an even worse tyranny" (C 16)
  • "How could the people enjoy their liberties when they were left too poor to act?" (C 24)
  • "Yearning to soar above the grey compromises necessary to everyday life, he was a glory-hunting young man. He risked developing the affliction of visionaries and heroes, who can become inhuman in the pursuit of their vision." (C 29)

This was a well-written history whose short chapters kept the pace up. It cast light upon an era about which I was unfamiliar but which is just as interesting as any other time and deserves my further study.

January 2020; 266 pages

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