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
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.