For some time now, I’ve been keen to expand the Quinton canon by writing some shorter stories which would be available exclusively on e-readers. There are several reasons for this:
- Firstly, it will allow me to fill in some of the chronological gaps in the main series, and to explore elements of Matthew Quinton’s ‘back story’;
- Secondly, it opens up the opportunity to have a greater variety of settings and plots – the main series is constrained to some extent by being perceived by booksellers and some readers exclusively as ‘naval historical fiction’, with all the preconceptions of what that genre should provide, whereas the e-format opens up, for example, the possibility of having stories set exclusively on land, and thus providing a much more rounded picture of Matthew’s life, times and adventures;
- Thirdly, and most importantly, quite a number of readers have contacted me to let me know that they’d love to read such stories!
The upshot is Ensign Royal, published by Old Street on 1 June 2014. This is a prequel to Gentleman Captain, and deals with an episode alluded to both in that book and other titles in the series – Matthew’s first experience of battle, the Battle of the Dunes in June 1658. Matthew was then eighteen years old and an Ensign in the tiny royalist army-in-exile, marching with its much larger ally, the Spanish army, to raise the French siege of Dunkirk. This battle has always intrigued me: the royalist general, James, Duke of York, had been trained by the French commander, Marshal Turenne, who in turn was the former comrade-in-arms of the Spanish commander, the Prince of Condé, who had rebelled against France’s ruler, Cardinal Mazarin. This tangled web of loyalties was further complicated by the fact that Mazarin, a prince of the Roman Catholic church, had entered into an alliance with the virulently anti-Catholic Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, who provided 6,000 New Model Army veterans to the army besieging Dunkirk – not to mention the fleet moored offshore to bombard the Spanish positions. Thus Roundhead and Royalist armies battled each other one last time, amid the sand dunes of Flanders.
The Battle of the Dunes, fought, ironically, on exactly the same beaches from which the British army was evacuated in 1940, forms the climax of Ensign Royal. But before then, Matthew has to undertake a dangerous mission to England on behalf of his enigmatic brother, the Earl of Ravensden. This puts him at the very heart of a dark conspiracy, the truth of which he learns only many years later during an unsettling encounter with the last relic of ‘England’s black legend’. But Matthew’s perilous escapades in England and during the Battle of the Dunes also lead to his first meeting with someone who will play a very important part in his life…
Ensign Royal will be followed by a number of other Quinton short stories or novellas, exclusive to e-readers!