Title: The King’s Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History
Author: Don Jordan and Michael Walsh
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Genre: Nonfiction, History
In January 1649, Charles I, the King of England, was tried and executed by England’s new government. The republic (headed by Oliver Cromwell) failed, and in 1660, the former Prince of Wales was invited to return and retake the throne, becoming Charles II in the Restoration. Charles II was intent on punishing every member of the court that had voted to murder his father and was at the head of the greatest manhunt in history to track and execute each and every person involved.
When I first heard about The King’s Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History, I was absolutely intrigued. I don’t know much about the Restoration period of British history (I read my fair share about the period, but it’s earlier monarchs that I’m more familiar with), so I was eager to learn about this manhunt that I hadn’t previously heard of. Just one thing gave me pause: Because I’m not overly familiar with the subject, I was worried that this book would go into too much depth about the individual people involved. I was interested in reading a book about history, rather than biographies of the hunted, but I’m glad to say this wasn’t an issue. Early on, the authors explain that they sacrifice detail and depth about the people involved in order to tell a coherent narrative. As someone who was interested in a gripping story, with the knowledge I could read about individual people later if I so chose, I was happy with this decision.
You might think that history can’t really be gripping, especially if we know the outcome, but I’d challenge you with The King’s Revenge. It starts with the trial and execution of Charles I, setting the stage for exactly how the revolution happened. There are no “good guys” or “bad guys” here; both sides make mistakes and errors in judgment, and they pay dearly for them. The fact that men were trying to create a republic for Britain doesn’t excuse the fact that they began said republic in blood, with the execution of a king.
The authors take us through the history, and it’s when Charles II takes the throne a decade later that the tension in the narrative really ramps up. The prince who had been begging European monarchs for what little they could spare him, exiled from his own country, all of a sudden had power and means, and he wasn’t afraid to use them to hunt down every single man and woman involved with his father’s murder. It’s a thirty-year journey of bloodlust and revenge, and the most insane thing about it is that it actually happened.
If you enjoy reading about history, or you want to read more but have found it dry, you should absolutely give The King’s Revenge a try. After reading this, I’m definitely interested in learning more about this period in history, and am so glad to have had such a great jumping off point.