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Uncrownable King and Queen

Christopher Sykes, 7 February 1980

The Windsor Story 
by J. Bryan and Charles Murphy.
Granada, 602 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 246 11323 5
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... He was a doomed man. In spite of his enormous youthful popularity, he was ill-fitted to be a King or President or Head of State of any kind. His inner confidence was early and fatally corroded by ceaseless bullying from his martinet father, George V, and by a lack of maternal love. Amateur psychology in biography is a prevalent and dangerous fashion ...

Big Men Falling a Long Way

Christopher Logue, 5 November 2015

... She goes.    Then:    ‘Iris.’    ‘Sire?’    ‘Visit Troy. Tell its King: You are to bring your son’s corpse home. Its ransom – large. Appropriate. Go now. Alone, save for your driver. You will be treated with respect.’ *    Troy.    ‘King,’ Iris said, ‘You are to bring ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: King Charles the Martyr, 21 February 2019

... fond of bogus erudition – the Brexit white paper was, he said, ‘the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Philip II at Le Goulet in 1200’ – and he must have enjoyed expressing his hope that it would ‘not be necessary for Her Majesty’s stay at Sandringham to be interrupted by her in person having to prorogue Parliament’. Speaking the ...

King shall hold kingdom

Tom Shippey: Æthelred the Unready, 30 March 2017

Æthelred: The Unready 
by Levi Roach.
Yale, 369 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 300 19629 0
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... Levi Roach​ ’s book is an attempt to redeem the reputation of Æthelred II, king of England, with one interruption, from 978 to 1016. This is a hard task, as the book’s title concedes: Æthelred has been known as ‘the Unready’ for around a thousand years. Ever since 1066 and All That (originally a parody of Oxford University exam papers) he has also been logged as ‘the first Weak King of England ...

Father-Daughter Problems

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Bad Daughters, 8 May 2008

The Lodger: Shakespeare in Silver Street 
by Charles Nicholl.
Allen Lane, 378 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 7139 9890 0
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... and a nameless son bearing the corpse of the father he has just killed, both of them watched by a king who, having inherited the crown from his never-to-be-equalled father, has now disinherited his own son, thereby occasioning the battle. Outside the obsessively patrilineal English histories, trouble between fathers and daughters seems just as common, whether ...

Booze and Fags

Christopher Hitchens, 12 March 1992

Tobacco: A History 
by V.G. Kiernan.
Radius, 249 pp., £18.99, December 1991, 0 09 174216 1
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The Faber Book of Drink, Drinkers and Drinking 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 554 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 571 16229 0
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... school up the road – ever saw, and I appreciated it. Round a corner or two in Petty Cury was King Street, where there stood a rank of pubs. A rite of passage in those days was to inhale a pint of suds in each within the space of an hour – the ‘King Street run’ – without puking, or without puking until the ...

King of Razz

Alfred Appel Jr: Homage to Fats Waller, 9 May 2002

... Modernists such as Picasso begot paper collage, wood assemblage and metal sculpture. ‘I’m king of the ragpickers!’ Picasso proclaimed gleefully around 1930, after he had created Woman in a Garden, his first welded tin and scrap iron sculpture, proof that machines and Tin Can Alley do not ‘rule the world’, as Leopold Bloom laments over noisy ...

How’s the vampire?

Christopher Hitchens, 8 November 1990

King Edward VIII: The Official Biography 
by Philip Ziegler.
Collins, 654 pp., £20, September 1990, 0 00 215741 1
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... but a strong sense of constitutional probity, then one might expect to find some evidence that the King-in-waiting was warned to be circumspect. But there’s not a hint, in all of Ziegler’s industrious fossickings, of any concern on that score. There was some royal pursing of the lips at his levity and laziness – despite costly tuition, he never achieved ...


Christopher Hitchens: The Almanach de Gotha, 2 July 1998

... than two pages devoted to its royal house, which is rather modest considering that His Majesty King Michael I of Romania serves as Chairman of the Comité de Patronage of the Société des Amis de I’Almanach de Gotha 1998. From these pages I learn that Michael or Mihai was born to King Carol in 1921 and ...


Christopher Reid, 18 October 2001

... the world    with all it needed of bicycle saddles and cigarette papers, where cough syrup was king.    Round the corner,    just when you least expect, there’s Blokeston FC, home of ‘The Blockers’, and Blokeston Prison, by the same no-frills architect.    Unmissable from any position,    the Bulwark Brewery stands up in a haze of its own ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Clark: What would Bismarck do?, 26 September 2019

... he was being outflanked on the right. Manteuffel and some reactionary associates were urging the king to shut down the compromise, on the grounds that it was unacceptable for mere parliamentarians to tamper with the military prerogatives of the crown. It’s what happened next that matters. Seeing immediately that the game had changed, Bismarck dropped the ...

Memres of Alfred Stoker

Christopher Reid, 7 August 1986

... come for Hene Harry Peg stol the Doters hat but she was Cott: he being Old whit berd Like the Old King smild angerlie give me Ma sad ile Tan you my girl pa a way and she wolop Pege after Than pa come in he sade wer is harry and Ma cride he past over and pa Lift his Ey on to HEVEN its a Merce * all so 2 older: Ma sad you woned for the ANGEL blesing she rade ...


Christopher Hitchens: Keywords, 13 September 1990

... of American resolve is in prospect, the figure of Hitler is as difficult to exclude as the head of King Charles. The drawback in the analogy is that, from a Hitler, it is impossible to demand much less than his complete destruction or unconditional surrender. Still, other keywords such as ‘expansion’ and ‘poison gas’ do keep on creeping in. Partly as a ...

Posthumous Gentleman

Michael Dobson: Kit Marlowe’s Schooldays, 19 August 2004

The World of Christopher Marlowe 
by David Riggs.
Faber, 411 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 571 22159 9
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Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground 
by Roy Kendall.
Fairleigh Dickinson, 453 pp., $75, January 2004, 0 8386 3974 7
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Tamburlaine Must Die 
by Louise Welsh.
Canongate, 149 pp., £9.99, July 2004, 1 84195 532 9
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History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe 
by Rodney Bolt.
HarperCollins, 388 pp., £17.99, July 2004, 0 00 712123 7
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... combines politics with reflections on the place of education in public life. In one play the King of Navarre is whimsically transformed into a bachelor and rechristened Ferdinand; he retreats from court not for fear of Spanish-funded Catholic plots but to lead a quartet of abstemious students. He experiences a crisis of conscience at breaking an ...

Winner’s History

Howard Erskine-Hill, 20 August 1981

Some Intellectual Consequences of the English Revolution 
by Christopher Hill.
Weidenfeld, 100 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 297 77780 7
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The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714 
by Christopher Hill.
Nelson, 296 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 17 712002 9
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... some good things, and some both great and good, undoubtedly came out of the period 1640-60 which Christopher Hill calls ‘the English Revolution’. What came out, however, was not necessarily originated by the period. It is a nice problem to distinguish causation from succession. In 12 short and easygoing chapters, originally the Merle Curti Lectures at ...

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