The Soldier, the Gaoler, the Spy and Her Lover

Written by Simon Parker
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

In 1647, the English Civil War is over (for the moment), and King Charles I is now Cromwell’s prisoner, having been handed over to the English by the Scots. The story begins at Hampton Court, where the King is being kept, and covers his escape and his arrival on the Isle of Wight, where he spends a year before being tried back in London and eventually executed on January 30th, 1649.

There is little in this book which is not confirmed by historical records, and according to the notes at the end, there is only one fictitious character, that of Anthony Wood, the spymaster. All the others are real, historical figures about whom there is also ample description in the author’s notes.

This episode in our history is so well-documented that it was ambitious for Simon Parker to turn it into an entertaining story by concentrating on Charles’s entanglement with the spy Jane Whorwood, something that does not feature in most history books. However, I did find the pace a little slow and at times had to persuade myself to go on reading, especially as the outcome is so well known. For those who are not familiar with the happenings of this short period, it will be a good read.