The Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff is the book that I got in the Classics Club Spin #22. It was first published in 1959. I’ve read and enjoyed quite a lot of books by this author so I was happy to be reading this one. However for some reason it just didn’t hit the spot.
The setting is the North of England during the English Civil War – or more correctly as it is called nowadays, The War of the Three Nations. The writing is good as you would expect but for some reason the whole thing just dragged, although there are only 320 pages, albeit of fairly small print.
Anne and Sir Thomas Fairfax are prominent members of their community and their marriage had been an arranged one. They’re on Parliament’s side in the Civil War. Sir Thomas becomes legendary within the Parliamentary Army as The Rider of the White Horse and is beloved by his men and Anne follows him around to various northern England towns as he takes part in battles with the Roundheads/Royalists.
Anne had been very unsure of her husband’s feelings for her, but she’s devoted to him and her determination to stay near him with their small daughters culminates in her briefly being taken as a prisoner of war. She eventually realises that Thomas is just an undemonstrative husband.
As you would expect Oliver Cromwell rears his ugly head in this book.
For me the most enjoyable part was remembering all the locations that were mentioned that we had visited. When we were walking about in places like Selby and Wetherby I don’t think I realised that I was exactly where people had been fighting in battles – as they were right outside Selby Abbey.
The result of The Classics Club Spin number 22 was announced on Monday and it’s 13 which means I’ll be reading Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff.
I’m happy about that as I enjoy Sutcliff’s writing, but such is life and my book piles the book has been languishing here unread for a long time. Previously I’ve mainly read her books which were aimed at children, but this one is for adults. The setting is the English Civil War, or as it is more accurately called nowadays, The Wars of the Three Kingdoms as it all spilled over into Scotland and Ireland too.
If you’re taking part in this spin I hope you were lucky enough to get something you’re looking forward to reading too.
Recently a friend and I did one of those FutureLearn free online courses on the Battle of Dunbar, one of the bloodiest of what used to be called the English Civil Wars and is now called Wars of the Three Kingdoms, featuring that dastardly killjoy Oliver Cromwell. It was Maureen’s idea to do the course, she has links with the Durham area of the north of England and as she’s keen on archaeology and local history, as am I. She was very interested when the news of human remains being found at Durham Cathedral broke, and it turned out that the skeletons belonged to Scottish prisoners who had been incarcerated within the cathedral after the Scots lost the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, so we decided that it would be a good idea to take a look at the actual battlefield.
We chose a beautiful day to go there, Jack did the driving and as we got close to Dunbar which is in East Lothian, south of Edinburgh I was scanning the roadside, looking out for a sign pointing the direction to the battlefield. We had a book, and had looked on the internet but it was surprisingly difficult to find, but after some to-ing and fro-ing we got there – we think.
I say we think as sadly there is no proper information board there. Other battlegrounds that I’ve visited pointed out where the various rivalling factions were gathered at the beginning of the battle. It’s really just modern memorial stones that you can see and we were left to guess.
Over the centuries the area hasn’t changed too much, although there’s now a cement making factory on part of the land, a blot on the landscape. But we had a lovely walk as far as we could go before reaching a gate that we weren’t allowed to go past. The animals aren’t at all bothered by the industrial blot, we saw sheep, a deer and hordes of geese. It was a good day out.
Going back to that online course, I was really surprised that the few prisoners who survived the starvation and disease of their captivity in Durham were sent out to America as indentured servants, which in some ways was even worse than being a slave. A few managed to live into old age though and married and had families. I bet they were always thinking of their homeland though.
The long driveway which leads to Glamis Castle is flanked by fields of cattle, if you have to be a cow this is one of the best places to be one I think. Good grass, lovely trees to hide from the sun, when we get it, not a bad life – for a while anyway.
This fountain is just beyond the field of cows and if you’re in the castle you would be looking out on to it from the front windows, unfortunately it wasn’t up and running, which is a pity because I love fountains and for some reason there aren’t enough of them in Britain. Nice trees though, the whole area is well planted tree wise. As you can see from the blue rope there was some sort of festival going on at Glamis and they were busy preparing the grounds for it.
Going beyond the castle you come to this dinky wee bridge which I just had to have a look at, bridges being something else I’m keen on. We never did find out what was over the bridge as you can see you aren’t meant to go over it. There were a few cars coming over it in the other direction, belonging to the Strathmore family I suppose.
These two statues are of Stuart kings. This one is James VI of Scotland – he was Mary, Queen of Scots’ son and when Elizabeth I of England died with no heir, he was next in line for the English throne. He’s known as James I in England and he is probably best known nowadays as the man who had the bible translated into English – hence it being known as the King James bible.
He was a bit ‘thrawn’ as we say and his determination to hold on to all of his power led to him having his head chopped off which more or less ended the English Civil War (which actually spread all over Britain.) It was about fifteen years later the Restoration brought his son, Charles II, back as king.
Captain Hook from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is traditionally modelled on Charles I.