Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Book Review - Montfort: The Revolutionary Years
Even while the fight for democracy continues in half a dozen hot spots around the world, most people have no knowledge whatsoever of the amazing person who created democracy as we know it.
Katherine Ashe has spent 34 years researching the life of Simon de Montfort, the man who founded Parliament in 1258 and created modern democracy. Her extraordinary four volume novelized biography, Montfort, based on fact, places the life of one of the most controversial and interesting people in history into stark and colorful light. Her work chronicles his amazing times.
If you’ve never heard of Simon de Montfort, Ashe offers quick synopsis:
He was the greatest warrior of his time.
He married a nun who was the King of England’s sister, and he bribed the Pope to lift her vows. He probably was the actual father of the heir to the throne of England: Edward I. He stood trial for treason twice and when King Henry III sent an army against him, he raised his own army and conquered England's dukedom of Gascony, holding it for ransom. He was Regent of France. He was offered the Crown of England twice and refused it
When he saw King Henry was dangerous not only to him, but to everyone else, he joined with other lords in writing The Provisions of Oxford. Not the Magna Carta, but The Provisions of Oxford is the document that actually created Parliament as we know it, and gave the common man the vote.
Then Simon de Montfort conquered England and made democracy a reality.
He was killed in battle at Evesham in 1265 -- and it was made a hanging crime to speak his name. Which is why few people know of him
The seeds of a new world order are laid. A star is born: Democracy.
Restored to his titles Earl of Leicester, Steward of England, Simon, as permanent ambassador to France, is living contentedly in Paris when Prince Edward commits an atrocity, and the Earl returns to save him and his friends from Llewellyn. In England again, unbidden, Simon becomes entangled in the barons' revolt against King Henry's misrule. But when the barons recklessly abandon their project, he alone rescues the Provisions of Oxford -- and newborn democracy -- at risk of his life.
Written as novelized biography, this pivotal book of the Montfort series tells the story of how modern democracy came into being out of the chaos of personal hatreds, chance committee findings and the near destruction of a generation of England's nobility. And how Simon de Montfort, as virtually the last man standing, made modern elective government a reality -- at risk of his life.
About the Author
Katherine Ashe was born in Los Angeles, California, daughter of Fredric M. Frank, a staff writer for Hollywood legend Cecille B. deMille; he received an Oscar for “The Greatest Show on Earth” and a Christopher Award for “The Ten Commandments.” What fascinated Katherine about her father’s work was research – the sort of minute research that never got onto the big screen.
Katherine has a BA from The New School with a major in philosophy, though her actual undergraduate education was all over New York City: “wherever I found classes that interested me. Back then The New School gave a degree with 50% accumulated credits elsewhere, so I studied with just about everybody of importance in philosophy in NYC between 1961 and 1967, enjoying the city as a smorgasbord of ideas.”
Apart from having a fine art print publishing company, 1970-1976, she spent most of her adult life writing books, plays, screenplays, and then radio plays for her own company, Jefferson Radio Theater, which was funded with state grant money, with production through Public Radio stations WJFF and WVIA.
Her writing of books on Chinese subjects consumed the years 1966 - 1970. She began a massive Encyclopedia while still in college -- after purchasing an Imperial famille noire vase, and imagining that, if she compiled a directory for herself, she was going to have more such finds. Funk and Wagnalls contracted for the directory (Chinese ceramics: The Encyclopedia of Chinese Pottery and Porcelain).It grew to a five-year project, and resulted in work for Christies auction house and a projected series for Walker and Co. (Chinese Blue and White). She also worked as a ghost writer for Abrams, Horizon, and American Heritage.
Her nineteen plays, many written for commissions, include: “Columbus” for the American Stage Company 1992; “Vriesland”, also for the American Stage Company and rewritten as a radio play for Public Radio WVIA-FM, as a mini-series with a large grant the New Jersey Council for the Humanities; "An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe" commissioned by the New York City Parks Department/ Historic House Trust, for the Poe Cottage (“Poe” ran in New York as dinner theater for 2 ½ years); and "Johnny!" for The Celebration of American Labor in 2000.
Her current aim is to finish her newest book, and oldest, book, a fantasy called The Fairy Garden, which she began before Montfort. She’s begun research for a sequel to Montfort, on Edward I and Simon's son, Guy de Montfort.
She lives with her husband and dogs in rural northeastern Pennsylvania.
My Take on the Book
I have to say that before reading this book I had not heard of this individual. In reading this book (Which is the 3rd Volume in a series of 3) I learned so much in only a short time and have to say that if this is the 3rd volume of this person's life, the first two must also have been exciting reads too. This book was engaging and kept me on the edge of my seat as I wondered what would happen next. I know that for me, now that I have read this, I will definitely be looking to move backwards to see what else happened within this intriguing individual's life.
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