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Monday, 23 January 2012

image for History Review: Queen Anne: The Politics Of Passion, By Anne Somerset A queen. Not Queen Anne, though. Victoria. But a queen all the same.

The last Stuart monarch was a key figure in the Glorious Revolution that overthrew her father, James II. She is also famous for her 17 pregnancies and tragically short-lived offspring, a tempestuous friendship with Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, and furniture legs.

Ken Lucid casts an eye over this welcome reappraisal...

Have you seen how much The First Churchills is on DVD at Amazon?

I'll tell you.

It's £19.99 for part one, and that's pretty stiff for six episodes of a 1969 TV series if you ask me. But - and I kid you not - the second part is an almighty £89.98. That's right, eighty-nine pounds and ninety-eight pence... 2p short of 90 bloody quid! One seller even has it - second-hand - at £99.99!

What on Earth is that all about?

Classic British TV - John Neville, Susan Hampshire, John Standing, Margaret Tyzack, James Villiers... but come on. How can those prices possibly be justified?

Anyway, when we saw John Neville's obits in the Press last November, the Empress and I got to remembering The First Churchills and thought we might like to see it again. Then we saw that price. OK, chair of history at Hounslow doesn't pay peanuts, but bloody hell! I'm not coughing up a hundred quid for a 40-odd-year-old TV series - we're not talking antiques here, after all.

It's not really my period this - it's fascinating, I grant you, and I did some stuff on the Stuart period for my bachelor's. Did a lot of comparing the Wars of Religion in France with the 17th century civil conflicts over here and looking at how the monarchies developed.

I seem remember being particularly struck by rebel leader Comte de Soissons who, at the moment of triumph at La Marfee in 1641, managed to blow his own brains out liftng his vizor with his pistol. Apparently things might have been very different had he not done that. I bet his missus thought so too!

Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenaarde, Malplaquet... kicking Lewis's (as Macaulay called him) French backside. But you know what? At my last place, we had to drop our modules about the Glorious Revolution and all the Whig view of history stuff because the ignorant oiks we were getting just weren't interested. I've said it before and I'll say it again: you get kids coming to do history these days and all they're interested in is the bloody Nazis. And Stalin.

Oh - and you know what else these days? Gladiators. Bloody Roman gladiators, thanks to all the guff spewed out in the movies and on TV. You wouldn't believe the applications we get... they're not interested in the later empire, Byzantium, Gothic invasions. Oh no. "What do you do about Spartacus?" Is what we hear.

I'm just waiting for the first kid to come in here and ask if we do anything on dinosaurs and their foreign policy during the Jurassic.

So, a new book about Queen Anne. I saw a review of this by Maureen Waller in The Spectator last week. Told you a lot of what's in the book but not if it's any good. "That's a good trick," I thought to myself, so I'm not letting on either. Read it and make up your own mind.

Ken Lucid is Herodotus Chair of History at Hounslow University.

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