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The King and the Catholics

England, Ireland, and the Fight for Religious Freedom, 1780-1829
Written by: Antonia Fraser
Narrated by: Steven Crossley
Length: 11 hrs and 29 mins

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Publisher's Summary

From beloved historian Antonia Fraser comes the dramatic story of how Catholics in the United Kingdom won back their rights after two centuries of official discrimination. 

In the summer of 1780, mob violence swept through London. Nearly 1,000 people were killed, looting was widespread, and torch-bearing protestors marched on the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street. These were the Gordon Riots: the worst civil disturbance in British history, triggered by an act of Parliament designed to loosen two centuries of systemic oppression of Catholics in the British Isles. While many London Catholics saw their homes ransacked and chapels desecrated, the riots marked a crucial turning point in their fight to return to public life.

Over the next 50 years, factions battled one another to reform the laws of the land: wealthy English Catholics yearned to rejoin the political elite; the protestant aristocracy in Ireland feared an empowered Catholic populace; and the priesthood coveted old authority that royal decree had forbidden. Kings George III and George IV stubbornly refused to address the "Catholic Question" even when pressed by their prime ministers - governments fell over it - and events in America and Europe made many skeptical of disrupting the social order. But in 1829, through the dogged work of charismatic Irish lawyer Daniel O'Connell and with the support of the Duke of Wellington, the Roman Catholic Relief Act finally passed. It was a watershed moment, opening the door to future social reform and the radical transformation of the Victorian age.

The King and the Catholics is a gripping, character-driven example of narrative history at its best. It is also a distant mirror of our own times, reflecting the dire consequences of state-sanctioned intolerance and showing how collective action and the political process can triumph over wrongheaded legislation.

©2018 Antonia Fraser (P)2018 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“[A] splendid account of the struggle for Catholic emancipation.... Fraser knows better than anybody how to make political and religious history fun.... Her tale flows with such elegance and enthusiasm that you barely stop to notice just how skillfully she does it.” (Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times)

“Triumphant.... [The King and the Catholics] explains, without ever obviously seeming to do so, how implacable prejudices and intractable issues can be tackled and overcome. In other words, it is that rarest of things: a good news story.” (Peter Stanford, The Sunday Telegraph)

“This is an absolutely splendid book. With the brio and narrative skill which has been in evidence since her first book - the irreplaceable classic biography of Mary Queen of Scots - Fraser gives us a vivid account of Catholic Emancipation. Some of the most dramatic scenes in our parliamentary history are here brought to life with unmatched verve.” (A. N. Wilson, The Spectator)

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  • Albert C Reichelt
  • 2018-10-16

Peaceful Revolution. How it was done.

A great study in Catholic Emancipation in Ireland. Very detailed in the analysis of the persons and their characters that brought this momentous change to Ireland.

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