HISTORICAL ENIGMAS by Hugh Ross Williamson


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The appeal of these whodunits will be limited by the fact that Williamson confines himself almost exclusively to 16th and 17th century English history, some of it quite obscure. The results of his historical sleuthing are sometimes astounding even though his painstaking modus operandi gets a trifle tiresome. Williamson establishes, at least to his own satisfaction, that the father of Queen Elizabeth I was not Henry VII but one Mark Smeaton, a court musician and sometime lover of Anne Boleyn. A bit more convincing is his review of the infamous Gunpowder Hot to blow up Parliament: Guy Fawkes was framed. The actual conspirators were high-ranking court officials including Robert Cecil who concocted the ""plot"" as an excuse to launch repressive anti-Catholic measures. Leaping back to the Middle Ages Williamson suggests that William Rufus, the notorious redheaded king of England who was slain while hunting, was actually a sacrificial victim to his religion -- ritually executed by his fellow heretics and maligned by Churchmen from that day to this. There is more: the ""true"" identity of the Man in the Iron Mask imprisoned in the Bastille for 34 years; novel theories on the poisoning of James I and the executioner of Charles I. The gist of Williamson's message is that, due to cover-ups and agents provocateurs and the propaganda which has often passed for objectivity, nothing is what it seems to be. Williamson's evidence is strictly circumstantial but often ingenious. Other historically minded detectives will find a lot to untangle here.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1974
Publisher: St. Martin's Press