Crown and Country by David Starkey
Crown and Country by David Starkey is a history of the Kings and Queens of England. I’ve enjoyed this book a lot, hence giving it 5 stars. Each monarch is presented in a few pages, as one can imagine. Presenting over 1000 years of history in 500 pages is quite hard to do.
The book reads like a novel, with sarcastic remarks sometimes. I would think someone that is not very keen in history would still enjoy this book. I’ve learned a lot of fascinating facts from the book, and I’m going to share them below, instead of a traditional review.
Princess Judith, great-granddaughter of Charlemagne married Æthelwulf in 856. That was the first record of a coronation of an English Queen. It might be that it was also the first time a crown was used, instead of the royal helmet, that would have been used at that time.
English King Æthelred signed an agreement called the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the 1010s. That was a precursor of the Magna Carta.
The Exchequer has its origins before 1110. Its name comes from a calculating device used at that time. It was a table, 5 feet by 10 feet, covered with black cloth. It was replaced each Easter (I find that funny, considering that the financial year for companies today start in April). This table was divided into squares, like a chess board. (chess is sacci in Latin and esches in Old French). The squares represented a denomination, pennies, shillings, and so on. Counters would be placed to show the debts and the money paid in. I find that fascinating.
Henry IV was anointed in 1399, very conveniently, with oil given to Thomas Becket (died in 1170) by the Virgin Mary (died in about 40). Considering his cousin, King Richard II, was still alive (was killed soon after), it made sense to have an even better holy oil for the coronation.
James I (and VI) wrote a book, The Trew Law of Free Monarchies, asked for a new bible to be translated, made the flag we all know today as Union Jack, he restyled the coat of arms to incorporate the lion and the unicorn. I only knew about the translation and the flag, not the other two. He did leave a lasting legacy.
King Charles I, before his execution, handed his necklace to the bishop to give to his son with the word: “Remember”.
Oliver Cromwell was even more destructive than I was aware before reading the book. He was basically a dictator. To maintain the support of the army he appointed 11 generals as military governors of English regions. Of course, the Puritans have high moral values and tried to abolish swearing, drunkenness, female fashion, fornication, horse racing, theaters, casinos, brothels, and, of course, pubs. Also, they asked for taxes without the consent of the Parliament, something the King wouldn’t have been able to do. I’m sure a lot were regretting Charles I at that time. Cromwell also managed to destroy the crown too.
Cromwell had an “inauguration” using the Edward I’s Coronation chair, having a purple velvet lined with ermine, gold sword and sceptre. Hmmm… it looks exactly like a coronation, but without the “God Save the King”, that was replaced with “God Save the Lord Protector.” Obviously, it was a huge difference.
Upon his death, he nominated his son as his heir. Was buried like a king.
In a few months, Cromwell’s son was out. Charles II wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons from exile, offering his help. It was gladly accepted. The new court was better, women could express themselves and this is why we are now able to read stories by Margaret Cavendish and poetry by Aphra Behn.
In 1673, Charles II passed the Test Act, that banned from public office anybody who would not swear the Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy. That meant that if someone was not part of Church of England, then it could not held office, more religious persecution.
William of Orange stated: “He was to conquer Enemies, and she was to gain Friends.” Coming from the Netherlands, he did do a lot of changes, like giving the Commons scrutiny of public accounts. Also, he copied the Dutch system of credit, meaning England was able to borrow with better rates than France and that helped the war effort.
The Act of Settlement passed with the Scots being asked, giving the succession to the House of Hanover in 1703. They decided not to pass the same act, but made a modification, that any Protestant can be king. Queen Anne finally passed that act, but, in a few days, the English responded in kind and passed the Aliens Act, in 1705. That meant that all Scots living in Scotland were considered aliens, export to England banned. In 1706 negotiations started and an agreement was reached. The Scots would accept the union and the Hanover king, while the English would allow them to trade freely with the “Plantations”. The Plantations were in north America, and the Scots were eager to tap into that market, after failing to actually create a colony themselves.
Also interesting is his views on the marriage of Diana and Prince Charles. I know how it was presented outside UK and I tend to agree with him.
Crown and Country by David Starkey
Details about the picture: I picked white and red roses as a reminder of the War of the Roses.
My rating: 5/5 Stars.
Would I recommend it: Yes
Published by: Harper Collins
Year it was published: 2011
About the author: David Starkey was born in Cumbria to a poor family. He got a scholarship that allowed him to study at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He was fascinated by the Tudors and became an expert in Tudor history. Starkey made TV shows with the BBC. During his career, he wrote a lot of books, mainly about the Tudors.
Books by David Starkey: Crown and Country; Magna Carta: The Medieval Roots of Modern Politics; Henry VIII; Elizabeth I; Henry VIII and His Court; Henry: Model of a Tyrant; Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII; The Reign of Henry VIII.
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