The story of Catholic Emancipation begins with the violent
Anti-Catholic Gordon Riots in 1780, fuelled by the reduction in
Penal Laws against the Roman Catholics harking back to the
sixteenth century. Some fifty years later, the passing of the
Emancipation Bill was hailed as a 'bloodless revolution'. Had the
Irish Catholics been a 'millstone', as described by an English
aristocrat, or were they the prime movers? While the English
Catholic aristocracy and the Irish peasants and merchants
approached the Catholic Question in very different ways, they
manifestly shared the same objective. Antonia Fraser brings colour
and humour to the vivid drama with its huge cast of characters:
George III, who opposed Emancipation on the basis of the Coronation
Oath; his son, the indulgent Prince of Wales, who was enamoured
with the Catholic Maria Fitzherbert before the voluptuous Lady
Conyngham; Wellington and the 'born Tory' Peel vying for
leadership; 'roaring' Lord Winchilsea; the heroic Daniel O'Connell.
Expertly written and deftly argued, THE KING AND THE CATHOLICS is
also a distant mirror of our times, reflecting the political issues
arising from religious intolerance.
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