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The King Over the Water Reviews

The King Over the Water by Desmond Seward

The King Over the Water: A Complete History of the Jacobites

Desmond Seward

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Category: History, Non-fiction
Imprint: Birlinn Ltd
Publisher: Birlinn General
Publication date: 3 Oct 2019
ISBN: 9781780276069

The first full, modern history of the Jacobite cause in its entirety as it played out in Scotland, England, Ireland, Europe and even America

4 stars out of 5
1 Nov 2019

"An engaging look at the violent struggle of the surprisingly diverse Jacobites"

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.


4 stars out of 5
10 Oct 2019

"(a) bracingly revisionist history"

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.

4 stars out of 5
Allan Massie
2 Oct 2019

"The first great merit of Desmond Seward’s history is that he corrects this bias."

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.