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Extended Audio Sample Quarrel with the King: The Story of an English Family on the High Road to Civil War, by Adam Nicolson, Simon Vance Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (55 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Adam Nicolson, Simon Vance Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Quarrel with the King tells the story of the first four earls of Pembroke, their wives, children, estates, tenants, and allies, following their high and glamorous trajectory from the 1520s through 1650—the most turbulent and dramatic years of English history—across three generations of change, ambition, resistance, and war. The Pembrokes were at the heart of it all: the richest family in England, with old blood and new drive, led as much by a succession of extraordinary women as by their husbands and sons.

It is also the story of a power struggle, over a long century, between the family and the growing strength of the English Crown. For decades, questions of loyalty simmered: was government about agreement and respect, or authority and compulsion? What status did traditional rights have in a changing world? Did a national emergency mean those rights could be ignored or overturned? These were the issues that in 1642 would lead to a brutal civil war, the bloodiest conflict England has ever experienced, in which the earl of Pembroke—who had been loyal until then—had no choice but to rebel against a king who he felt had betrayed both him and his country.

At other times, the Pembrokes both threatened the Crown and acted as its bruisingly efficient and violent agents. They were ambivalent figures: flag bearers for an ancient England and time servers in some of the most corrupt courts England has ever known; fawning courtiers and indulgent landlords; puritanical aristocrats and rebel grandees. Nicolson’s book amounts to a study in all the ambiguities involved in the exercise and maintenance of power and status.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Absorbing…Wonderful, lyrical and contemplative.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “This is a rich, informative and original book.”

    Daily Telegraph (London)

  • “A superb book, beautifully written, subtle, passionate, questioning, mind-altering and wise.”

    Daily Mail (London)

  • “A moving account of the Elizabethan golden age, retold through the varying fortunes of the Pembroke family, and a tour de force…A brilliantly imaginative and beautifully written coup of scholarship.”

    Observer (London)

  • “In his typically supple and elegant prose, Nicolson…traces the Pembroke family’s “arc of ambition, success, failure, and collapse” between the 1520s and the 1640s, when the fourth earl of Pembroke joined the Puritan rebellion…For fans of the Tudor and Stuart era, this will be a welcome treat.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Donna Jo Atwood | 6/19/2013

    " For over one hundred years the Earls of Pembrooke served their country and feathered their nest--and a beautiful nest it became. But the time came when a choice had to be made between Charles I and the Commonwealth. And it all came tumbling down. One hundred years of an English family. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jack | 6/7/2011

    " This one was different. This book explored the literature aspect as well as the history of the era. Went very in depth on local customs of the manoral society. Light on the history which was disappointing, but very in-depth on the previously mentioned subjects. Overall, not bad. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Suzanne | 4/26/2010

    " Unfortunately this one did not live up to expectations. The book comes alive when narrating the fortunes of the Herberts, but gets bogged down with its discussion of the copyholders on the Pembroke estates. Possibly I'm just not that interested in the 'ordinary people'! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Suzanne | 6/28/2009

    " Unfortunately this one did not live up to expectations. The book comes alive when narrating the fortunes of the Herberts, but gets bogged down with its discussion of the copyholders on the Pembroke estates. Possibly I'm just not that interested in the 'ordinary people'! "

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About the Author

Adam Nicolson is a British author of nonfiction titles about history, landscape, literature, and the sea. Among his many awards and honors are the Somerset Maugham Award, the W. H. Heinemann Prize, the Scottish BAFTA, the Spears Book Award, the British Topography Prize, and others. He lives on a farm in Sussex with his wife and their five grown children.