CHARLES I: A Biography by John Bowle

CHARLES I: A Biography

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Since civil fury first grew high under Charles' luckier father James I, the antagonisms of the Stuart cause have not faded from British memories. Bowle's own partisanship is none too subtly proclaimed in his lordly prefatory dismissal of ""many still popular idees revues of the great nineteenth-century Whig and liberal historians""--i.e., the vulgar myths of Macaulay and Trevelyan about the role of the regicides in developing the concepts of egalitarianism, civil liberties, and governmental accountability. Bowle is by no means uncritical of Charles himself. One can only agree with his sympathetic, regretful estimate that the ""royal aesthete's"" aloofness, ""introspective piety,"" diligent concern for detail, and utter constancy to duty as he saw it made him disastrously unsuited to his role. But his approach to the ideological Schwarmerei that brought Charles to ""the Tragick Scaffold"" at Whitehall is both condescending and tendentious. Bowie complacently tells us that Hampden's protest over the ship money has been greatly ""inflated"" by naive Whigs who fail to understand the modernity of the Stuart attempts to centralize power. The notion of seeing ""ruthless politicians"" like Pym as ""liberal champions of democracy"" is ridiculed with perverse narrowness. Bowle's confident tone and well-manicured style camouflage but fail to offset a highly parochial, inflexible historical perspective. Still, this urbanely written account with its lively descriptions of the great Civil War battles may appeal to readers of C. V. Wedgwood, a more conscientious and genuinely learned historian.

Pub Date: May 11th, 1976
Publisher: Little, Brown