Pack Bridge, Wastwater, Lake District, England by Ian Cameron


"Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life - a kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are. "- Princess Diana
Rest in peace, Princess Diana (July 1st, 1961 - August 31st, 1997)


Crown Prince Frederik makes a speech at Rideau Hall, the home of the Governor General of Canada, in Ottawa. His wife Crown Princess Mary watches.


Here is a version of my Mail on Sunday review of Peter Ackroyd’s Civil War
If you are bored of the Tudors, then the Stuarts are what you have been waiting for. With their gay lovers, horrible murders, extravagant queens, and glorious revolutions, the dynasty offers enough scandals and drama to put their predecessors in the shade.This third volume of Peter Ackroyd’s History of England covers a great deal more than the ‘Civil War’ of the title. In fact, it opens a full thirty-nine years earlier with the accession of the first Stuart king of England, James I, in 1603. After a lifetime of ruling violent and poverty stricken Scotland, the king sees England as a land of milk and honey - or rather, of riches and beautiful young men. He is soon enjoying both, and Ackroyd has almost as much fun describing James’s scandal ridden court. Here men ‘wallow in beastly delights’, women ‘abandon their sobriety and roll about in intoxication’, while James spends money like water. But James also has ambitions. He commissions the King James translation of the bible and yearns to be a bringer of peace and religious unity. He succeeds at the former, making a truce with Spain that ends the fifteen years of war. But he fails to unite his three kingdoms – England, Scotland and Ireland –into a single British state.  Nor is he able to impose a single form of Protestantism on his wayward subjects.By the time James’s son becomes King Charles I, the peace with Spain is breaking down. Charles faces MPs who don’t trust a Stuart king with taxpayers money and won’t vote him the subsidies he needs to prosecute the coming war. It is also soon evident that Charles not only shares his father’s belief in the divine right of kings to rule, he is less willing to back down in his confrontations with parliament. One result is the murder of a  hated councillor the Duke of Buckingham – who he had refused to sack.For eleven years after Buckingham’s murder, and following a brief parliament, Charles rules alone, raising taxes by royal right alone. That is enough to make him bitterly unpopular. But it is his single-minded efforts to fulfil his father’s ambitions to create one British Protestant church that drives his kingdoms to rebellion. Two wars with Scotland are succeeded by revolt in Ireland. A year later, in 1642, the English turn on each other and the age of the roundhead and the cavalier is born. According to Ackroyd more people died in the English civil war, as a percentage of population, than England lost in World War I. And the bloodshed didn’t end after Charles I was tried, condemned for treason against his own people, and beheaded. The subsequent dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell proved to be no great improvement on Charles’s ‘tyranny’ and after Cromwell died, the king’s eldest son was invited back as Charles II. Ackroyd covers the reigns of the merry Charles II and his dourer brother James II, in short order, concluding in 1688, with James’s expulsion from England. Rejected as a Catholic James II spent the rest of his life in France, where his mother, Henrietta Maria, had spent so many desperate years during the civil war and its aftermath. It is romantic and tragic story, and Ackroyd packs it with colourful quotations and anecdotes.  But despite having a chapter on ‘the women of war’ there is an absence of strong female portraits. Henrietta Maria is barely more than a shadow. Ackroyd is also weak on analysis and makes some silly mistakes.  Charles I was not crowned in a white cloak. Brilliana Harley, was a famous parliamentarian heroine, not a ‘royalist letter-writer’.  It makes you wonder what else he has wrong and without references it is hard check his facts. Nevertheless, as you follow the remarkable successes and disastrous failings of the Stuart dynasty in England, you cannot but enjoy the exuberance of the ride.

Emma (2009 Mini-Series)


H.R.H. Prince Charles of Wales

Houses of Parliament - London