To Catch A King by Charles Spencer @cspencerbooks_

About this book…

How did the most wanted man in the country outwit the greatest manhunt in British history?

In January 1649, King Charles I was beheaded in London outside his palace of Whitehall and Britain became a republic. When his eldest son, Charles, returned in 1651 to fight for his throne, he was crushed by the might of Cromwell’s armies at the battle of Worcester.

With 3,000 of his supporters lying dead and 10,000 taken prisoner, it seemed as if his dreams of power had been dashed. Surely it was a foregone conclusion that he would now be caught and follow his father to the block? At six foot two inches tall, the prince towered over his contemporaries and with dark skin inherited from his French-Italian mother, he stood out in a crowd. How would he fare on the run with Cromwell’s soldiers on his tail and a vast price on his head?

The next six weeks would form the most memorable and dramatic of Charles’ life. Pursued relentlessly, Charles ran using disguise, deception and relying on grit, fortitude and good luck. He suffered grievously through weeks when his cause seemed hopeless. He hid in an oak tree – an event so fabled that over 400 English pubs are named Royal Oak in commemoration. Less well-known events include his witnessing a village in wild celebrations at the erroneous news of his killing; the ordeal of a medical student wrongly imprisoned because of his similarity in looks; he disguised himself as a servant and as one half of an eloping couple. Once restored to the throne as Charles II, he told the tale of his escapades to Samuel Pepys, who transcribed it all.

In this gripping, action-packed, true adventure story, based on extensive archive material, Charles Spencer, bestselling author of Killers of the King, uses Pepys’s account and many others to retell this epic adventure.

My review…

Now I am a pretty fast reader but it has taken me quite a few days to read To Catch A King as I became very focused on all the intricate details of this intriguing tale. I was afraid of missing out on any important points in this fascinating non fictional account of a part of our history I have to admit to knowing very little about. And it’s not through a lack of interest either! Ask anyone who knows me what my favourite book of all time is and they will tell you that it’s Forever Amber, Amber being a fictional character who becomes one of the mistresses of Charles II so since the age of 16 I have had a huge interest in that period especially in the many personal relationships at the court of King Charles II. So I was thrilled to be able to add to my knowledge by reading about a much earlier period of the his life, one that has had very little written about it before, especially not in such an engrossing and easy to understand narrative.

Having moved to Scotland for my secondary education, I found that Scottish History lessons tended not to revolve around Cromwells part in the English Civil War, concentrating instead on how it affected the House of Stuart’s reign in Scotland when the execution of Charles I lead to the English Parliament declaring their monarchy at an end. The Scots then broke ties with England and declared Charles II their king. He ruled then until 1651 when Cromwell and his army drove him out and, after the Battle of Worcester, Charles was forced to flee for his life. Obviously in Scotland the history is much more concerned about the restoration of The House of Stuart in 1660 so I knew nothing of Charles and his escape or why there are so many pubs in England called The Royal Oak!

Thankfully the first quarter of To Catch A King will fill in any gaps in your knowledge if you’re as unaware as I was of certain timelines and I guarantee you will find it as  absolutely fascinating as I did! Once Charles is on the run, you will have become totally invested in his attempts to stay concealed whilst he tries to make his way to the safety of the continent. There’s a plethora of detail to indulge in and plenty of individuals involved in helping the exiled King to remain alive when there was danger around every turn. In fact, one of the things that struck me the most whilst reading this was how many places in the UK  played a part in this account and I’m convinced most people reading will find some reference to a town or city near them used within one of the contexts within this story.

I was pleased the author finished off his account with a look at what happened to the many supporters (or enemies!!) who performed their parts so well in those intense weeks of hiding and how he also included a potted history of the last few years of the Kings life as well as his final days. There felt to be a great affection for the man he wrote of, and for me that raised this historical showpiece to a level of enjoyment I hadn’t been expecting. I would read far more historical non fiction if told with this amount of meticulous research and combined with such an enchanting and entertaining writing style that it vividly brought this story to live for me. I felt as though I had lived through those weeks with Charles alongside him and I loved every single moment.

This would make a fabulous Christmas present for any history buffs in your family or anyone with an interest in biographies and at the time of writing this review Amazon have the hardback on sale for £7.99 which is an absolute bargain for this beautifully designed and illustrated book.

To Catch A King: Charles II’s Great Escape is available to purchase now from Amazon UK (affiliates link) My thanks to the author and publisher for my review copy of To Catch A King.

Meet the author…

Earl Charles Spencer

Charles Spencer was educated at Eton College and obtained his degree in Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford. He was a reporter on NBC’s Today show from 1986 until 1995, and is the author of four books, including the Sunday Times bestseller Blenheim: Battle for Europe (shortlisted for History Book of the Year, National Book Awards) and Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier


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I am a Norfolk girl living in leafy Cheshire with my grumpy Scotsman. A mum and nana who lives for my family but who is also addicted to reading (and Marmite!) I will read almost anything but my preferred genres to review are psychological thrillers, crime procedural novels or women's fiction. My kindle is my life but I also have a substantial bookshelf in my cosy reading room where I can go to escape the stresses of family life with plenty of tea and chocolate. I am a member of netgalley and bookbridg. I review on Amazon, where I'm a Top 500 reviewer, and Goodreads. You can always find me over on Twitter @jocatrobertson for any review requests.

15 thoughts on “To Catch A King by Charles Spencer @cspencerbooks_”

    1. It’s a fascinating tale! And I’ve just found out another place he hid is not far from me down near Wolverhampton I think, a national trust place called Moseley Hall that I will add to my summer outing wishlist next year!

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  1. I’ve visited the famous Royal Oak many times and know a little of the history but would love to learn more…this will be a perfect Christmas present for my husband – and then I look forward to reading it! 😀😀 A great book idea to start my weekend…thank you for sharing on your blog, Jo.

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    1. I’m so glad you know some of the story Annika! It’s a truly interesting tale isn’t it? It’s certainly piqued my interest enough to visit some of the places mentioned in the book! Enjoy!

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