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To Catch a King: Charles II's Great Escape

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  33 reviews
How did the most wanted man in the country outwit the greatest manhunt in British history?
In January 1649, King Charles I was beheaded in London outside his palace of Whitehall and Britain became a republic. When his eldest son, Charles, returned in 1651 to fight for his throne, he was crushed by the might of Cromwell’s armies at the battle of Worcester.

With 3,000 of his
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 5th 2017 by William Collins
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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Whispering Stories
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Book Reviewed by Julie on

‘To Catch a King’ the story of King Charles II by best-selling author, Charles Spencer. The book is beautifully presented with a selection of paintings reproduced and interspersed in the text. It is divided into four parts and the chapters are of fairly equal length; each beginning with an epigraph to give an indication of what to expect. The book is written in narrative style rather than as a dramatisation.

The content is fairly easy to read
Joanne Robertson
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Now I am a pretty fast reader but it has taken me quite a few days to read To Catch A King as I became very focused on all the intricate details of this intriguing tale. I was afraid of missing out on any important points in this fascinating non fictional account of a part of our history I have to admit to knowing very little about. And it’s not through a lack of interest either! Ask anyone who knows me what my favourite book of all time is and they will tell you that it’s Forever Amber, Amber ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Charles Spencer has done extensive research, using much contemporary material from such as Samuel Pepys, to tell the amazing story of Charles II's fight to regain his crown after the execution of his father.

Having fought in the Civil War, Prince Charles was exiled in the Channel Islands before, on 5 February 1649, six days after his father's death, he was proclaimed King of Scotland and as such he returned to England to claim his throne in 1651. Supported by loyal Scots, he advanced into
Linda Hill
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The future Charles II is on the run.

I rarely read non-fiction and was apprehensive about reading To Catch A King. I needn’t have been, because the vivacity of the writing frequently made me forget that this was a factual book and I became thoroughly absorbed in the narrative elements.

That said, To Catch A King is no sloppy fictionalised romp through the seventeenth century. Each element has been meticulously researched and the quality and extensiveness of the Notes and Bibliography are solid
Andrea Zuvich
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With To Catch a King: Charles II’s Great Escape, out on the 5th October 2017, Charles Spencer has done it again. As the author of some fantastic books about seventeenth-century Britain, such as my personal favourite, Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier, Blenheim: The Battle for Europe, and his most recent work, Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared Execute Charles I, Spencer knows how to bring history alive with his thrilling and strong narratives. This time, he has chosen Charles II’s amazing, ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While I was eager to read To Catch a King as I have always liked history, I was a little apprehensive about whether or not I would be able to get into it as my interests tend to lie in modern British and European history. My knowledge of the monarchy and Britain in the 17th Century is sketchy at best. However, I needn’t have worried as Charles Spencer has written a pacey historical novel in which the momentum never lets up and which is easy to follow.

In January 1649 Charles I was beheaded and
V.E. Lynne
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Highly readable account of the escape to the Continent of the young Charles II in 1651 after the disastrous (for him) Battle of Worcester. Charles Spencer outlines the unlikely nature of the king's flight, the huge risks many ordinary people took to help him, the indispensable pieces of good luck that came his way, and the personal courage of the king himself. Spencer has an engaging, fluid writing style, a good command of the subject matter, and a natural affinity for the figure of the king and ...more
Louise Culmer
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
A fairly interesting account of Charles II's remarkable escape after the battle of Worcester. Though it would be very difficult to make this thrilling true life story dull, this particular version is not nearly as engrossing as Richard Ollard's The Escape of Charles II, which I personally found much more gripping than this one, in fact I could hardly bear to put it down, whereas I didn't have any trouble putting this one down. Charles Spencer spends rather too long working up to the battle of ...more
Kiki Z
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
There are two major issues with this book: It takes too long to get to the actual escape (it starts at about 35%). A majority of this information is unnecessary to understand. There's background and then there's needless information. And second, the author throws so many names at us, some of which are again unnecessary to the narrative, that they are confusing in the end. Like most nonfiction authors, it's almost like the author wanted to show you how much research they did.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm not sure what to think--parts of it were riveting while other sections fell flat. This may in part be that I'm simply not used to non-fiction books, or else it signals a lack of authorial talent. I'm really not sure. I need to read more on the subject. Once Charles reaches France, the telling is much abbreviated: The Parliamentarians seem to have just faded away quickly esp after the death of Cromwell. Charles' reign is also not covered in great detail. but that isn't the focus of the book. ...more
Jo Barton
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In To Catch A King, the author has captured the excitement of the subterfuge which was needed, over a period of six weeks, to ensure the young King's safety. In using authenticated archive material the author brings together a fascinating look at the huge risks that Charles faced in a time when the whole of the country was in complete disarray. The book reads like a boys own adventure, full of daring-do and high excitement, however, what is never forgotten, is the inherent danger that Charles ...more
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite his laziness and sexual profligacy, history has always treated King Charles II kindly. The eldest son of King Charles I, he personally participated in the English Civil War, which led to a puritan reformation in England and the execution of Charles I. King Charles II had two narrow escapes and this book deals with his escape to France after the defeat of his Army at the Battle of Worcester. The Royalists were under severe threat but they still showed their loyalty to their King and at ...more
Andrew Collins
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book covers a crucial but largely unpopularised period of English history- the one exception being the Boscobel oak. The underlying research is awesome but the real brilliance of the book is the way in which the dry facts are woven into a living story; as it says on the cover ‘a history book with the pace of a novel’.
The individual characters emerge as the story unfolds. I became so engrossed in the historical factors that I could not help wondering how our history would have emerged had
First of all, this wasn't the Charles I wanted to read about. The Charles I wanted to read about was Bonnie Prince Charlie so it is my fault that I had no interest in this book. I do have to say though; I love history, mainly British, but any significant history is interesting for me. Except this.

Although it was only 278 pages it took me an age to read (no doubt due to the non-interest) and I dreaded reading it to be honest. Don't get me wrong, it is highly informative for someobody who would be
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The titbits make a historical novel sing and this had them aplenty, from "angel lust" to clever disguises. The dialogue and historical anecdotes have been carefully woven into the narrative to reflect the characters within it - and complex characters too. These aren't two-dimensional figures ripped from time, they're fleshed out individuals and some almost too flamboyant and prideful to seem real. Truth, however, is stranger than fiction (as we learn time and time again). 'To Catch a King' ...more
Kate Guinan
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Charles Spencer is an excellent historian and this one does not disappoint. Having escaped to France after the execution of his father, Charles I, Prince Charles (the future Charles II) plans an invasion of England with the support of Scottish troops. It ends in a disastrous defeat at the battle of Worcester. The Model Army of Cromwell puts a huge bounty on Charles' head and he must make an attempt to flee England for Europe. Through the help of Royalist sympathizers he dons disguises, is moved ...more
Stephen Griffiths
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Well-researched and fast-moving, this was history writing with spice. However, the writing was somewhat polemical, the author strongly empathizing with his subject at the expense of a more balanced approach - Parliamentarians are almost universally described in negative terms. This is unsurprising, given that the author's ancestors fought and died on the Royalist side during the English Civil War. Although the story is placed in detailed historical context to begin with, the implications and ...more
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly well researched for a book with such a strong narrative. Easy to read, written with pace, humour, and compassion, yet based on considerable original research. Of particular use is the attention paid to the 'minor actors' in the story, and especially women, with work done to fill out their back stories and to discover what happened to them after 1651. Narrative history at its best.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another cracking read, and a great follow-up to Spencer's previous, 'Killers of The King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I'. A fast-paced well-written read about a part of history that is usually just given a cursory glance. A thrilling life-or-death adventure which I recommend to all lovers of history and especially of this period.
Sekhar N Banerjee
A real captivating story

This part of the details of Charles’ escape was unknown to me. This was a good read and the author related the story to make it read like a thriller.i enjoyed the book very much.
Tom Bevan
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: histories
A food author brings a lesser known period of history to life. Coupled with his book Killers of the King, I have become enthralled with Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s 17th century tales that underpin a wealth of social understanding today.
Ann Frost
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I knew nothing about this period of English history. My interest was piqued by proofreading a paper my son wrote for a history course. I look forward to going to the UK and investigating further.
Tom Simpkins
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Definitely worth a read
Jo Wheater
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very well written. Really enjoyed it
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Outstanding Prepare to be fascinated. ...more
Adeptus Fringilla
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This reads like a fast paced thriller, excitement from beginning to end. There is also a lot of information, like names, facts and figures, and it can be a bit difficult to keep up.
Mrs. Quinn
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Once the would-be king had to escape the battle of Worcester with his life, this book became a page-turner. I could barely put it down for the last 150 pages. Wow!
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant retelling of Charles' escape - easy to read, thrilling, historical and funny.
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars
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