Cover image for The king and the gentleman : Charles Stuart and Oliver Cromwell, 1599-1649
The king and the gentleman : Charles Stuart and Oliver Cromwell, 1599-1649
Wilson, Derek, 1935-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
473 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, genealogical tables, map ; 25 cm
General Note:
"First published in the United Kingdom by Hutchinson/Random House UK Limited"--T.p. verso.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA396.A2 W47 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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For all the myths surrounding Oliver Cromwell and Charles Stuart, there is no detailed account of any meeting between them. Yet they were almost exact contemporaries, embodying virtually everything for which politicians, bishops, preachers, and generals contended. The paths of these two men gradually converged until a frosty morning in 1649, when the executioner's axe ended one man's life and raised the other to the brink of absolute power. In his moving history, Derek Wilson brings to life the politics and the personalities that once shook a kingdom.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Although enemies in the English civil war, the king and the commoner had social connections going back to James I's progress in 1603 from Scotland to London to claim the throne. James apparently sponged off Cromwell's uncle, and familiarity, as the author writes, "did not breed respect." Wilson presents here a personal biography of Charles I and the future Lord Protector--personal meaning Wilson slims down the buildup of political friction between Crown and Commons in favor of chronicling life's travels for Charles and Oliver. In Charles' case, Wilson weaves into the courtier atmosphere the king's friends, his domestically impolitic courting of Catholic princesses, and his attitude of absolutism. With Cromwell, Wilson accents education, a religious revelation, and personal resentments against royal government. The written lives run separately until the two meet, after Cromwell's New Model Army defeated Charles, in failed negotiations. Wilson stops with the regicide of 1649, leaving a well-embroidered portrait of each man's controversial life. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a full-blooded example of old-fashioned storytelling, biographer Wilson (Rothschild; Hans Holbein) attempts a dual biography of Charles I of England and his fatal nemesis. Hoping to free his subjects from an academic cage of "isms," Wilson aims to restore the human face of the 17th century, paying special attention to Charles and Oliver in their formative years and above all to their religious views. He suggests that both wished to transcend the Puritan education that had instilled in them their immutable faith: while Charles rose ever nearer sensuous Catholicism, Cromwell gravitated toward charismatic evangelism. Direct and accessible, often to the point of clumsiness, Wilson writes with impatient immediacy and a minimum of footnotes, intending "to bridge the gap between the archive and the airline lounge, the study and the bedsit." There are illuminating flashes of color: we learn that the aging Cromwell once began a pillow fight during a constitutional debate. However, these moments are shrouded in a tedious mass of detail the bedsit reader will struggle with. The chapters on "Genes" and "Kith and Kin" present a befuddling barrage of names, and despite a nod to psychohistory, the focus on character is repeatedly lost in the shuffle. The author seems unaware of the lively controversy about parent-child relations in early modern Europe and, despite an au courant bibliography, shows a striking lack of interest in scholarly debate or analysis. While much may be explained by Wilson's desire to write a popular history, this remains an overlong and intellectually cavalier narrative. 16 pages b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This dual biography of two men whose face-to-face meetings were few and unremarked but whose lives intersected in inevitable and tragic ways is popular history at its best. Wilson, the author of previous biographies of the Rothschilds, Astors, and Hans Holbein, devotes a great deal of space to his subjects' forebears and childhoods, trying to discern how they became the adults they did. He also traces the development of their religious views (interestingly, Cromwell did not come from purely Puritan stock and was quite tolerant of other shades of belief), which were eventually the main point of contention between them. The writing is felicitous, emphasizing the personal rather than the political, and some knowledge of the period is helpful but not essential. Because it considers Charles I and Cromwell together, and because of its emphasis on their religious evolutions, this book is recommended for most public and academic libraries.√ĄJean E.S. Storrs, formerly with Enoch Pratt Free Lib., Catonsville, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vi
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Genesp. 7
Chapter 2 Kith and Kinp. 47
Chapter 3 Mentorsp. 91
Chapter 4 Responsibilitiesp. 145
Chapter 5 Faithp. 197
Chapter 6 Religionp. 253
Chapter 7 Warp. 293
Chapter 8 Judgementp. 355
Notesp. 427
Bibliographyp. 447
Indexp. 455