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Late Stuarts – One of the most enthralling periods in History

The more I get into this period, the more I love it.

There is a vibrancy, a sense that the country is still young and feeling its way.

But on a journey. It is almost powerless against the mighty forces of Spain or France.

Yet it dares to stand up to them in a cheeky yet persistent way. Since the days of

Drake and Raleigh and Frobisher, England had been on the rise. It still has a long

way to go and the concepts of Great Britain and the United Kingdom are just ideas in

some people’s heads. But it is on the rise.

There is so much contrast and conflict in this period. Monmouth tries to take

the throne from his uncle and fails. Yet, when another nephew, William of Orange,

tries, it is a raging success and James slinks off into the dark, shadowy world of exile

where the gold is only gold paint and the jewels are borrowed and the loans are

mounting up as the subsidies dwindle.

Everything is not as it seems. James II, the last Catholic King of England,

Scotland and Ireland, stood for religious toleration but it was a ruse to gather power

into the hands of his preferred Catholics. And those same Catholics suffered for his

lack of subtilty for generations to come, while the hated Non-Conformists could hold

their heads high; England a truly Protestant nation.

In the bigger picture of Europe, it was a struggle between democracy and

absolutism. Tiny England, clinging on to its strange Saxon conventions like trial by a

jury of equals and an unshakeable belief in common law, was pitted against the

might of France and its absolutist tendencies. This makes a superb backdrop for

suspense, drama and intrigue as my series, the Dorset Chronicles, unfolds.

Under King Charles II, France could pay massive subsidies to England and

not notice the expenditure – almost lost in the rounding. Yet a generation or so later,

the English under Marlborough led an alliance that humbled Louis XIV every bit as

much as Wellington did to Napoleon a century later. But it is the late Stuart period

that brings about this first toppling of absolutism, ironic when the Stuarts are

generally associated with the absolutist theory of the divine right of kings.

In the bigger picture still, it was a period of enormous expansion with

geographic discoveries, medical and scientific development and agriculture and the

arts contributing with new ideas.

Back at home, it was the first time in that a balance emerged between

Parliament and the executive. It was precarious and much was experimentation but it

worked.

At the start of the late Stuart period in 1685, England was still an inward-

looking minor country. Twenty-nine years later, on the death of Queen Anne, it was

aggressive, extrovert and pushing at all the boundaries adhered to by others.

And that is why I love the late Stuart period.

The Dorset Chronicles is set in Dorset and the story starts in 1685, just before

the Monmouth Rebellion. The first book is A New Lease on Freedom. The second

book, dealing with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, is called It Takes a Rogue. Both

books, and the entire series to come, deal with the Davenport family and their

adventures in Dorset and beyond as they play an important role in the emergence of

England as a modern and confident nation.

 

The first two books are being released on 12th April. The third book, One Good

Turn, takes up the story. Planned release date is mid-summer.

Book Signing Event in Sherborne

Following the release of the first two books in the Dorset Chronicles series, I am delighted that WH Smith have offered me a book signing day. This will be held at the Sherborne branch on 11th May. I will be there from 10am so please mark it in your calendars/ phones/ scraps of paper and I very much look forward to meeting you then.

 

The address is:

WH Smith

60 Cheap St

Sherborne, DT9 3BJ

It is particularly appropriate to do a book signing in Sherborne as my new series, The Dorset Chronicles, features Sherborne and the fictional Earldom of Sherborne to a great extent.

The Dorset Chronicles is set in Dorset in the late Seventeenth century, a time of enormous change and development for the whole nation and often, in my opinion, overlooked. This period settled England as a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. It also saw the first steps towards religious toleration, modern government and scientific and geographic discovery.

But all these developments were made through turmoil and unrest. Rebellion followed rebellion and nothing was certain except uncertainty.

It is the perfect setting for a new series.

 

The Dorset Chronicles will be launched on 12th April with the first two books in the series:

 

A New Lease on Freedom

1st Book in Chris Oswald’s series, ‘The Dorset Chronicles’

 

It Takes a Rogue

2nd Book in Chris Oswald’s series, ‘The Dorset Chronicles’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both will be available from the 12th April and can be pre-ordered today! The third book, One Good Turn is planned for later this summer.

If you like historical fiction where fact and drama come together, this series is a must read.

Dorset-based, historical fiction author, Chris Oswald

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A New Lease on Freedom

1st Book in Chris Oswald’s series, ‘The Dorset Chronicles’

A New Lease on Freedom is the first book in the Dorset Chronicles series. It
is being launched on 12th April, alongside the second book It Takes a Rogue.

A New Lease on Freedom is largely set in 1685. The ‘old King’, Charles II is
dead with no legitimate offspring and his brother comes to throne as James II.
James II has a new, young wife in Mary of Modena and there is every
likelihood that the Stuart dynasty will establish itself firmly through their children.

The only problem is that James is a Catholic. And the country is Protestant.

It might have been acceptable if James had let things lie but he could not help
himself from promoting Catholics into every type of position at his disposal. And he
built up a standing army, anathema to Seventeenth Century Englishmen.

The Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of Charles II, is the nearest thing the
worried Protestants have to a rival claimant.

And he is far from perfect. He is not a leader of men; he cannot inspire them
to go out of their way for a greater cause.

He lands in Lyme Regis in Dorset with a small force, hoping to build up an
army as he marches towards London.

The Davenports are based in Sturminster Newton, a sleepy market town in
North Dorset. Luke Davenport, head of the family, has an adventurous past but has
settled down as a serious Presbyterian preacher of some renown. He has four
children, of which the youngest, Thomas and Grace, are by far the most wayward.
Sending them away to school does not work and they are returned home just as
Dorset and the entire West Country is to be blown apart by rebellion.

But Thomas and Grace are far more interested in tracking down their
childhood friend, Lady Merriman. This takes them on a tortured journey across the
West Country and, inevitably, they become hopelessly entangled in the rebellion
played out around them.

There are forces in the background, both national and personal, that threaten
their safety and bring them to the brink of disaster. As Monmouth’s rebellion
collapses in confusion and battle, they are engulfed in danger and have to find a way
through.

This period of History is instrumental in the forging of modern England. Issues
such as religious toleration, Parliamentary democracy and individual rights thread
through the book, both frustrating and assisting personal goals and ambitions.
I believe it is a much-neglected period of our History when war, religion, rapid
constitutional development, scientific discovery and social change all create a
backdrop for drama and excitement.

In 1685, England was a young, immature country. A hundred years later it
was rich and powerful, striding across the world with thrust and daring. But it need
not have been so and the seeds of success were planted long ago.

The story of the Davenports in Dorset continues with It Takes a Rogue, also
released on April 12 th .

The third book in the series, One Good Turn, builds on the wider family and
the role they play in the emergence of modern England.

Put Dorset and History together and you have a whole new world

Put Dorset and History together and you have a whole new world. A world of adventure, suspense, tension, where love mixes with religion, hatred with ambition.

I’ve long wanted to write historical fiction. Now I have a whole new series starting,
collectively known as “The Dorset Chronicles”. It is based in Dorset but spills over to
the country at large and set at a time when modern England first emerged.

Or rather was forged through bravery, stupidity, love, faith and fear.

It seems a forgotten era of History, yet so much happened. In contrast, much has
been written about the Tudors, the Wars of the Roses, the Civil War and Restoration.
Then, generally, fiction skips the next few generations and jumps to the Napoleonic
period when England was already an old, established nation. Yes, in this later period
it fought a long and bloody world war against Napoleon that threatened its very
survival.

But so it had a hundred years earlier, this time against the feared and long-lived
Louis XIV; certainly as much a despot as Napoleon. This time the young emerging
England faced a tyrant every bit as threatening as Revolutionary France could offer.

Consider what a person coming of age in 1685 would experience over a seventy-
year lifetime:

  • Revolutions, both successful and failed.
  • The start of Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy, the great
    bedrocks of our unwritten constitution.
  • The culmination of great religious rivalry and hatred, resulting in a more
    tolerant and mildly Protestant country.
  • The first Prime Minister in Robert Walpole.
  • Developing colonialism that, despite modern views, shaped much of Britain
    today.
  • The creation of the Bank of England, the National Debt and joint stock
    corporations.
  • Scientific and geographic expansion like no other era.
  • The formation of party politics.
  • The growth of towns, society and arts to develop into the Enlightenment.

Agricultural revolution, precipitating and facilitating population growth on an
enormous scale.

In the first book of the series, “A New Lease on Freedom”, several key personalities
are coming to adulthood at precisely this time. In the second book, “It Takes a
Rogue”, they reach twenty-one and face a world of intrigue, adventure, love and
despair, as the nation of England continues its wobbly, precarious journey towards
the country we know and love today.

Both “A New Lease on Freedom” and “It Takes a Rogue” will be released on 12th
April. More details will follow over the next few days.

 

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