By very happy coincidence the next children's book I am researching for, The King, is set in Dorset during the English Civil War, so I am thrilled that at the moment there are several documentaries, new books and exhibitions on the Stuarts, all adding fresh colour to the period.
I am enjoying watching The Stuarts with Dr Clare Jackson, and Art, Passion and Power with Andrew Graham-Dixon, both on i Player. Also, Fit to Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History with Lucy Worsley was interesting on Tudors to Stuarts, Episode 1. And there are currently, not one but two major exhibitions in London this spring, on Charles I at The Royal Academy and Charles II: Art and Power at The Queen's Gallery.
Guess where I'm visiting at Easter?
Father Christmas brought me Charles Spencer's new book, To Catch A King. I was really happy to hear him talk about it at The Bridport Literary Festival last November. He was a really engrossing and well spoken interviewee, and I wished he had been on for longer. Although I knew a little about the places that Charles II had hidden locally after the Battle of Worcester in 1651 , when he was trying to escape to Europe, the details of his flight and the near misses are amazing. And I am finding out many new things. I'm not surprised that Charles II used to tell the story of his escape repeatedly, as a party piece. He was incredibly brave and resourceful, at this time. I am also ploughing through James II. King In Exile by John Callow, which often feels like chewing on very dry crackers to me, sadly. But there is a good deal of new detail here for me too.
The people, landscape, villages and towns of Dorset played a really important role in the lives of Charles I and Charles II especially. Did you know that the longest siege of the Civil War took place at Lyme Regis? And that there was a castle in Chideock, virtually destroyed by the parliamentarians? Charles II stayed in Bridport, disguised as a groom. He ate a meal at the George Inn (now the Cancer Research Shop), watching the parliamentarians in the streets looking for him, from an upstairs window. There is a huge wealth of material to write about, and hopefully engage young readers with too.
Karen lives and works in Bridport Dorset. She is currently working on her third book in the Abbotsbury Series, books for children aged 8-12.