Seward’s narrative is swift and cinematic with neatly sketched character portraits, from William III (“skeletal, round-shouldered, eagle-nosed and racked by asthma”) to Queen Anne (“obese, purple-faced, rheumy eyed [and] a martyr to gout”). The fall of the Stuarts accompanied the making of the political nation with the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707. It is timely that The King Over the Water should appear just as the break-up of the political nation has become a distinct possibility. And, unlike Jacobite hopes of a Stuart Restoration, this possibility is not confined to counterfactuals.
Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane
"as Karen Jones sets out dismayingly early in her book, the only things that the real-life ‘Calamity Jane’ can with confidence be said to have in common with her legend is that she wore trousers, swore like a navvy and was pissed all the time..."
— The Spectator
He begins traditionally, with James II creeping through a garden in Rochester and down to the Medway, where a boat was waiting to take him to France. But his perspective is avowedly Jacobite, so instead of ending the story with Culloden in 1746 he carries it on to the death of James’s grandson Henry in Italy in 1807. And he romantically writes of James III, Charles III and Henry IX, while George I is styled “Georg [sic] Ludwig, Elector of Hanover”.... He concludes his bracingly revisionist history with the news that the Duke of Cambridge, through his mother, will be the first British monarch since Queen Anne to descend from James II, by way of his first wife Arabella Churchill, who had “exquisite” legs.
The first great merit of Desmond Seward’s history is that he corrects this bias. We don’t reach the ’45 till Chapter 36, page 253. He also shows that if that rising came astonishingly close to success, the chance of a Stuart restoration was much better at earlier times, and that opposition to the Hanoverian dynasty, and resentment of it, persisted for a long time in England and Ireland as well as Scotland. Indeed, even after the ’45, Dr Johnson, a High Church of England Tory, remarked that if England was fairly polled the ruling dynasty would be sent packing, though he admitted, sadly, that no one would lift a finger to bring about this happy event.