History is one of those subjects that I wished I paid more attention to at school. Maybe it was just the era that I studied which I didn’t find too enthralling, but I didn’t really pay too much attention at school in any lesson. My Dad always tried to get me more interested in history, but all I wanted to do was ride my BMX.
Me and my wife like to mooch in book shops, and sometimes I browse sections where I’m not usually to be found. A few weeks ago I was standing next to the history section, and I picked up this book. This was the book that I should have read as a teenager.
The book has a brief history of every English monarch since William I (1066 – 1087), known as William the Conqueror. There is also kind of family tree at the beginning of the book, showing the line from one king (or queen) to the next. For me, the most interesting areas are where the ‘tree’ ends and has to go back a few generations before it can continue. For example, from Edward III (1327 – 1377) to Henry VII (1485 – 1509).
There is also the interregnum (1649 – 1660) where there was no king, instead Oliver Cromwell installed himself as Lord Protector. His son declined to take over, leaving a way open for a Stuart king to return. Another very interesting twist is how George I (1714 – 1727) became king. He was probably about 50th in line to the throne, but Parliament had passed the Act of Settlement in 1701, which barred Roman Catholics from becoming the monarch and as George was the first protestant in line to the throne, king he did indeed become. Not a great King either, as he didn’t like to converse in English and preferred to live in Hanover. I aim to read more about this whole section of history soon.
The English and Their History by Robert Tombs comes in at almost 900 pages, although the Kindle version is one penny under £10. Even so, that book is probably too much history for me at the moment. This is one of the best aspects of Gimson’s book, it allows you to pick and chose which areas of English history you find more interesting. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with a passing interest in English history and doesn’t really know where to start.