Monday, 6 April 1998

J.P. Kenyon: The Stuarts (1969)

Edition: Fontana
Review number: 21

The Stuarts are interesting as perhaps the most devastatingly unsuccessful series of English monarchs. They managed to combine political stupidity with a belief in their own greatness, hardly a recipe for success, particularly not in the changing world of the seventeenth century.

This book follows on from The Tudors, and is part of Fontana's excellent series on English history understood through the personalities of the monarchs who have ruled the country. They have a popular feel, but don't compromise on the historical accuracy and scholarship. In the case of the Stuarts, for example, issues of sexuality are neither ignored nor sensationalised, and an intelligent assessment is made of the effects their activities had on policy (not as much as you might think).

None of the rulers, from James I to Anne, come over as terribly pleasant, and the book gives you the feeling that the English did the Scots a great service by causing the early death of so many Scottish Stuart kings in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

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