The Restless Republic: Britain without a Crown, by Anna Keay
Essentially a history of Britain, mostly England but with obvious sidelines into Ireland and Scotland, from the time a diminutive king was forcibly made shorter to the time a decade later when his famously tall son entered London to reclaim the crown. It’s always been one of my favourite periods of history and I’ve absolutely no doubt it’s thanks to what happened then that we never went down the route of French-style revolution. But I now know I had a whole lot of unknown unknowns. This fascinating read goes into all the ins and outs and different factions and forces at work, and of the Parliaments held over that period – very few, for a time that was meant to be defined by the will of Parliament! Detailed, but light strokes to interest a dilettante historian like me. Neither the success nor the failure of the Commonwealth were in any way guaranteed – though to be fair the odds were always against it. I knew Cromwell was offered the crown, and declined it; I didn’t know there was such will he/won’t he tension in the air. I knew Cromwell’s heir was the disastrous Richard who very quickly lost everything his father had built up; I didn’t know there was another son, Henry, who by all accounts was a very different kettle of fish and might actually have made things work if he had been made Lord Protector instead. And as the author points out, why is Cromwell’s statue outside the Houses of Parliament when in fact he used military force to dissolve every Parliament he ever sat in? The true hero is George Monck. But I knew that, which is why he appears in The New World Order.