Never make a defense or apology before you are accused… Charles I

No one who knows me would feel the need to ask why I would admire a family that had a centuries-long practice of saving every piece of paper that came into their possession. Although the portraits of the family seem to present something of a cautionary tale. We go from the old soldier to the modern fop and from the lady of substance – one of the Verney’s was the sister of Florence Nightingale who is pictured with her – to the dowager who looks like one of Bertie Wooster’s aunts. Regardless of what has become of the family – or of England for that matter – the book is a great read.

The Verneys : a true story of love, war, and madness in seventeenth-century England  Adrian Tinniswood  London : Jonathan Cape, 2007  Hardcover. xxii, 570 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [535]-546) and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The remarkable story of one English family during the tumultuous seventeenth century, as revealed through their original letters and documents, which paint an extraordinarily accurate and detailed picture of life in England, Europe, and even the American colonies.

“To know the Verneys is to know the seventeenth century,” Adrian Tinniswood writes in this brilliant new book. The Verney family‘s centuries-long practice of saving every piece of paper that came into their possession -amassing some 100,000 pages of family and estate letters and documents -resulted in the largest and most complete private collection of seventeenth-century correspondence in the Western world to date.

Given exclusive access to these documents, Tinniswood draws a sweeping portrait of the Verneys and the world among Buckinghamshire gentry in which they lived. In vivid detail Tinniswood introduces us to generations of the family: We meet Edmund Verney, King Charles I’s standard bearer, who died in battle during the English Civil War in 1642 (his hand still clutching the king’s standard).

Edmund’s son and heir, Ralph, struggled to hold the family together after his father’s death, but lost the respect of his brothers and sisters because he alone of the family supported the Parliamentarian cause. Parliament, however, suspicious of his royalist connections, hounded him and his family into exile.

Ralph’s sons fared both better and worse than their father: Jack went to Syria and made a fortune, while Edmund married a girl who was rich, beautiful, and deeply in love with him – but within months of the marriage she succumbed to insanity.

Rigorously researched, intensely insightful, and alive with drama, The Verneys is narrative history at its very best: fascinating, surprising, and enthralling.


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