J D Davies

Oxford to the Dunes

Just back from a very enjoyable alumni weekend at Oxford, culminating in a powerful performance of Haydn’s Creation in the Sheldonian Theatre yesterday. Unfortunately any visit to Oxford also seems to involve the switching on of that invisible, irresistible tractor beam which always drags me into Blackwells bookshop… Nice to see both Gentleman Captain and Blood of Kings on the shelves, the latter prominently placed in the 17th century history section, but unfortunately for the bank balance, there were also several titles nearby that demanded to be bought. These were Peter Duckers’ new book on the naval campaigns during the Crimean War, Charles Carlton’s This Seat of Mars: War and the British Isles 1485-1746 (good to see that Carlton is on the same wavelength as me about the whole ‘British/English’ question, as covered here recently!) and Stuart Carroll’s Martyrs and Murderers, about the House of Guise – the acquisition of the latter being a by-product of the many years I spent teaching the French Wars of Religion, possibly one of the trickiest but also goriest topics one can teach on an A-level syllabus. But I think the book I’m most looking forward to reading, despite the fact that it’s far and away the largest of the four, is Dan Baugh’s The Global Seven Years War, 1754-63. I know Dan quite well of old, and he was a huge influence on my early academic work; his Naval Administration in the Age of Walpole, incredibly almost half a century old, is one of the truly seminal works of naval history. I was disappointed to have to miss his recent lecture at Greenwich at which he was presented with the National Maritime Museum’s Caird Medal for his outstanding contribution to scholarship. A thoroughly well deserved accolade, in my opinion.

I’m now getting back to work on an exciting new project, the first Quinton story outside the main chronological run of the published series. My hope is that this will come out in e-book format, probably direct to Kindle, later in the year; it won’t affect my schedule for writing the fourth novel, The Lion of Midnight, which is already well on course. It’s a prequel set four years before the events described in Gentleman Captain. Provisionally named Ensign Royal and set principally on land, it will be a novella describing the eighteen-year-old Matthew Quinton’s experiences before and during the Battle of the Dunes in 1658. Now almost forgotten, this was in some respects the very last battle of the British civil wars: on the sand dunes near Dunkirk, a small royalist army of 2,000 men fought alongside the Spanish army against the mighty French army of Marshal Turenne, which was reinforced by 6,000 of Oliver Cromwell’s Ironsides. If Ensign Royal proves successful, I hope to write some more stories in this format – and I’d love to hear suggestions from readers for historical events, or aspects of the Quinton family history, that they’d like to read about!