Monday, 4 February 2019


talking of great double acts, when we were at Hampton Court last month, I bought a little volume (barely 80 pages) in the Penguin Monarchs series – William III and Mary II by Jonathan Keates. I chose it because I realised how little I knew about these joint monarchs or their reign, pivotal though it was in so many ways. I also suspected that my rudimentary ideas about William in particular might have been shaped by anti-Williamite prejudice and be rather less than fair. I already felt great warmth for Mary, purely on the strength of Purcell's birthday odes and that sublime funeral music. Suffice to say that Keates's concise and elegant double portrait opened my eyes, particularly to William's good qualities and skilful statesmanship, and to the well-earned affection Mary inspired in her people. It's a masterly little history and I warmly recommend it. In fact, if the others in the series are half as good, I might well be reading more of them...


  1. Keates is great. I’m an Italophile and loved his ‘Italian Journeys’ which features many a gem of an opera house hidden in the sticks and shoe and accordion manufacturers. He also wrote a good book on Stendhal.

  2. Yes, and the poor chap recently fell victim to a scam that cost him his savings – did you see that story?

  3. No I didn’t. That’s terribly sad.