The King and the Catholics

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 09 Oct 2018

Member Reviews

Oh my goodness! What  a book! There was so much information that I was unaware of, and this book lays it out in explicit detail. Between Ireland and England, the great debate that raged for decades over the "Catholic Question."

Not only does this book answer a lot of questions, but it dives into the backgrounds of the men involved, giving quite a bit of detail about motives and so much more! A great read!
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If you want facts about history and you want them delivered with a dose of intelligent humour, then you want Antonia Fraser. I am endlessly amazed how she can make even the driest of topics interesting for the common reader. This book is no exception to her excellence. 

This is a very well-researched and interesting book. I have to say, prior to beginning religious studies this last year, I hadn't realised quite how much people have had to struggle over the centuries for something that we still take for granted, that right to religious freedom and expression of our faith. In this book, Fraser gives you a real, up-close and personal look at what was happening in the world of the Catholics and their fight to survive in a society that had changed around them. 

This is a brilliant book. It is witty, interesting and most of all, informative. There were countless passages that I felt it was necessary to highlight and come back to read again later. I strongly recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about this significant period in history. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
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I was rooting around on Net Galley looking for some good nonfiction when I ran across this title. Many thanks to Net Galley and Doubleday for the DRC, which I read free in exchange for this honest review. This book is now available to the public. 

Fraser examines the fight for Catholic Emancipation in Britain, from the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of the late 1700s until roughly fifty years later. It is appalling that so much time, effort and money was needed for so small a thing as religious freedom, but there it is. 

My own interest is more in the direction of Catholic history, with Irish history as a major part of that, and so portions of this well written, painstakingly researched and documented tome drew me more than others. I don’t care a whit what the king or any other members of the royal family say, want, or do, so for those with a closer interest than mine, this might well be a five star read. Parts of it are a trifle dry, but then Fraser livens it up with brief, lively sketches of the historical figures involved. 

A major player in the struggle was the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell, and I read all of the passages in which this eloquent barrister is featured with tremendous interest. I also enjoyed seeing ways in which events in the larger world influenced events in the UK, from the French Revolution to the Boer Wars in South Africa. 

An excellent addition to the library of any that are interested in the topic.
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I have enjoyed everything I've read by Antonia Fraser and The King and the Catholics is no exception. The research is impeccable and the story incredible readable.
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In 1533 England was a Catholic country. King Henry VIII professed obedience to the Pope in Rome and Catholicism was the official state religion.
By 1534 England was a Protestant country. The official state religion was the Church of  England and Henry was it’s head. And by the way had a new wife; the second of ultimately six.
Citizens of England became Protestant. They could not be Catholic. Catholicism was banned in England, Ireland and Scotland by governmental decree. This did not sit well with all people, especially the Irish.
Lady Antonia Fraser begins her exploration of this issue beginning in 1780 and makes clear that while time has passed not much has changed. The Irish Parliament has been dissolved and there is much unrest. England looks at Ireland as a millstone. The choice is to remain obstinate and refuse to accept any Catholic participation in government or to pass the Catholic Emancipation Bill and allow Irish Catholics to sit in Parliament. For nearly fifty years this was the battle being fought. World events and leaders impact England in subtle ways. For example, Napoleon and his armies dominate Europe. In response, England feels it must maintain a large military. The Irish are reluctant to fight because they cannot have Mass before battle. Their belief is “If I am good enough to fight for you, I am entitled to my religion,” Oddly it seems to harken to the cry of 18 year old Americans in the 1960’s, “If I’m old enough to fight, I’m old enough to vote.”
The Prince of Wales, the future George IV married a Catholic woman and served as Regent for ten years for his dying father. Of course, when he ascends the throne, he marries a Protestant Princess.
The fight to enact the Catholic Emancipation is detailed and the England and Irish politicians are well drawn. Lady Fraser has authored several biographies and the skill she developed in that genre serves her well as she brings to life the numerous characters who populate the nearly 50 years from conflict to inclusion.
On 13 April 1829, Daniel O’Connell, a Catholic Irishman took his seat in the English Parliament. But not all was resolved. England and Ireland continued physical strife well into the 1960’s. Current laws bar Catholics from serving as Prime Minister or Chancellor of England. Prince Harry could not marry a Catholic so Meghan Markle converted.
This is a well researched, well documented book about a non headline grabbing topic. The authors skill and command of language elevate it to entertaining and enriching status.
I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley. My reviews are unbiased and my own. #netgalley #thekingandthecatholics
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4.5 stars
Antonia Fraser is clearly one of the most scholarly writers for today's living room history enthusiasts. This book thoroughly investigates a topic that I believe has a dearth of information uncovered: Catholicism in the British Isles after the famous Henry VIII converted the islands on their behalf. I've never learned so much about the intricacies of the time period related to Catholics and it's clear she intimately combed through her research to arrive at the information she shared.

It's not a book for someone who wants a light read for bedtime. I had to concentrate heavily to absorb any of the information. And for what it's worth, I'm Catholic (lots of background knowledge there) and a lifelong Anglophile. I've devoured so much historical and fictional literature about the UK over the years and I had to rely heavily upon that while reading this. 

Disclosure: I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book for free from NetGalley in order to review it before it was published.
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