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Every inch a king

Antonia Fraser, 16 October 1980

Great Harry 
by Carolly Erickson.
Dent, 428 pp., £8.50, July 1980, 0 460 04366 8
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... It is legitimate to ask whether there is a need for another full-length biography of Henry VIII. In 1968, Professor Scarisbrick’s great work dramatically revised our thinking about the bloat King. Three years later appeared Lacey Baldwin Smith’s rich and racy study of the King’s character, taken from the viewpoint of old age and subtitled ‘The Mask of Royalty’: here Tudor history and modern psychology made slightly strange but nevertheless exciting bedfellows ...

Dynasties

Antonia Fraser, 3 April 1980

The House of Stuart 
by Maurice Ashley.
Dent, 237 pp., £9.95, January 1980, 0 460 04458 3
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... Why should anyone wish to write the history of a Royal house? On one level, the answer to that question is easy: most of us learnt history in childhood in terms of Angevins, Plantaganets and so forth, and these convenient groupings gave shape to what was often so dauntingly shapeless. Patterns inculcated early in life tend to leave a permanent impression, especially on those who take no more than a superficial interest in the subject ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Fragrant Antonia Fraser, 25 February 2010

... their friends and relatives. It’s called vanity publishing, but it’s not very different from Antonia Fraser, say, going through her own diaries written daily during her 33-year relationship with Harold Pinter, and editing them with a few linking comments into a book published by Weidenfeld (£20). Obviously, there’s the matter of fame. Her ...

Love’s Labours

Valerie Pearl, 8 November 1979

King Charles II 
by Antonia Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 524 pp., £8.95
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... In her first line, Antonia Fraser describes her book as ‘a labour of love’. Given her somewhat romantic view of Charles II’s many affairs of the heart and her warm sympathy for the King, it is a doubly apt admission. The book is much more, however, than an account written around the royal harem. It is a portrait drawn from the absorption of many sources ...

A Tall Stranger in Hoxton

John Bossy, 3 July 1997

The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605 
by Antonia Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 347 pp., £20, August 1996, 9780297813484
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... handed over to the Ordnance Office, which said that the powder in them had decayed, yet again. Antonia Fraser’s word for the scheme is ‘terrorism’, and she makes no bones about using it, though she implies in her dedication that some of her Catholic friends and relations would feel differently. She has no time for mythical accretions: either for ...

Diary

C.K. Stead: Truth and autobiographies, 27 April 2000

... the bill in restaurants and so on.) The other guests are Julian Jebb (unkindly caricatured), Hugh Fraser (‘tall’, ‘lopsided’, with an ‘aura of helpless authority’) and his wife Antonia, whose charms and ‘sexiness’ are unstintingly acknowledged. Then a couple from New Zealand arrive: Malcolm, an academic who ...

Going Native

A.N. Wilson: Theroux’s Portrait of Naipaul, 13 May 1999

Sir Vidia’s Shadow: A Friendship across Five Continents 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 376 pp., £17.99, December 1998, 0 241 14046 3
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... parties. He seems touchingly, but crudely, pleased, to have clocked up Hugh Thomas, Hugh and Antonia Fraser, as well as some Soho poets, in his first week. And of course, he has managed to bed one of our girls before Christmas. He is never more whining than in his suggestion – which rises to a crescendo-wail in the final pages – that Naipaul has ...

Sexual Whiggery

Blair Worden, 7 June 1984

The Weaker Vessel: Woman’s Lot in 17th-Century England 
by Antonia Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 544 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 297 78381 5
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Family Life in the 17th Century: The Verneys of Claydon House 
by Miriam Slater.
Routledge, 209 pp., £10.50, March 1984, 0 7100 9477 9
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... of social opportunity and experience in the Stuart age indicate the difficulties posed by Antonia Fraser’s subtitle, ‘Woman’s Lot in 17th-Century England’. A better choice might have been ‘Meetings with Remarkable Women’, for her book has little place for the ordinary or for the silent. In some ways, it is true, 17th-century women did ...

Author’s Editor

A. Alvarez, 24 January 1980

... affection of a host of authors as different as Edna O’Brien and Eric Ambler, Ronald Blythe and Antonia Fraser. That, perhaps, is the crucial difference between the two men. Lane was a publisher’s publisher, a man with immense commercial flair who opened up markets no one had ever dreamed existed but who had very little to say to his authors. Godwin ...

Injury Time

Robert Taubman, 2 July 1981

Gorky Park 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins, 365 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 00 222278 7
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The Turn-Around 
by Vladimir Volkoff, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Bodley Head, 411 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 370 30323 7
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Thus was Adonis murdered 
by Sarah Caudwell.
Collins, 246 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 00 231854 7
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A Splash of Red 
by Antonia Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £5.95, May 1981, 0 297 77937 0
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... Between the three corpses dug out of the snow in Gorky Park, Moscow and the sables let loose in the snow on Staten Island at the end – ‘black on white, black on white, and then gone’ – there are connections of cause and effect such as few crime novels have ever had to cope with. Gorky Park is a long novel because it tries to deal as fully with Moscow as Simenon’s novels with Paris or Chandler’s with Los Angeles ...

Nice Guy

Michael Wood, 14 November 1996

The Life and Work of Harold Pinter 
by Michael Billington.
Faber, 414 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 571 17103 6
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... divorced Vivien Merchant in 1980 (she died two years later of alcoholic poisoning) and married Antonia Fraser. During the Sixties, Pinter had, we now learn, an affair with TV presenter Joan Bakewell, which Billington, before finally coming clean, presents to us with remarkable coyness. We are first told that Pinter ‘began a serious extra-marital ...

Rather Break than Bend

Clare Jackson: The Winter Queen, 26 May 2022

Elizabeth Stuart: Queen of Hearts 
by Nadine Akkerman.
Oxford, 581 pp., £20, December 2021, 978 0 19 966830 4
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... In​ a collection of essays published in 2005 to mark four hundred years since the Gunpowder Plot, Antonia Fraser imagined Elizabeth Stuart being crowned as Queen Elizabeth II in January 1606. ‘The Gunpowder Plot Succeeds’ describes the plotters’ confessed intention, in the chaos following the death of James VI and I in the explosion at Westminster, of abducting his eldest daughter from her governor’s home in Warwickshire ...

Splashed with Stars

Susannah Clapp: In Stoppardian Fashion, 16 December 2021

Tom Stoppard: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Faber, 977 pp., £14.99, September, 978 0 571 31444 7
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... deductions for not being there all the time. Lee coolly lets these comments float, leaving it to Antonia Fraser, a provider of several sharp anecdotes, to bring another perspective. Looking around one of Miriam Stoppard’s houses, she remarked: ‘I’m going to be guilty of one of the seven deadly sins, envy.’No one seems much to have envied ...

Resurrecting the Tudors

John Pemble: James Anthony Froude, 23 May 2013

James Anthony Froude: An Intellectual Biography of a Victorian Prophet 
by Ciaran Brady.
Oxford, 500 pp., £45, May 2013, 978 0 19 966803 8
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... woman. This account of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots wasn’t written by Hilary Mantel or Antonia Fraser. It was written more than 140 years ago by James Anthony Froude, whose History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada put the Tudor show on the road. That wasn’t Froude’s only legacy. His Life of ...

On the Lower Slopes

Stefan Collini: Greene’s Luck, 5 August 2010

Shades of Greene: One Generation of an English Family 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 580 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 224 07921 1
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... that ‘he enjoyed obstetrics and, years later, took a retrospective pride in having delivered Antonia Fraser.’ Even the background fact of Uncle Eppy’s having worked, when first in Brazil, for the firm of Edward Johnston prompts the titbit ‘a scion of the family was Brian “Johnners” Johnston, the much-loved cricket ...

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