MIKE JAY    Book Number: 88861    Product format: Paperback

Was Despard a hero or villain we ask in this energetic study of the political complexity of the 1790s. It is the true story of Colonel Edward Marcus Despard, the last person to be sentenced to hanging, drawing and quartering in Britain for high treason, an alleged plot to kill the king. His execution on 21st February 1803 was witnessed by 20,000 hushed onlookers. Their silence was ominous for few believed he was guilty. His death would tear apart a Britain still reeling from the impact of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. But who was he? Was he, as his comrade-in-arms on the Spanish Main Lord Nelson believed, an outstanding British Army officer of unimpeachable honour, courage and patriotism? Or, as the white slave-owners of the Caribbean claimed, a traitor not only to his nation but to his race, who had married a local woman and championed the rights of freed slaves? When Despard returned to London to answer these allegations did he commit himself to the cause of political reform in Britain's best interest? Or did he join a shadowy international terrorist conspiracy dedicated to the murder of George III and the overthrow of the state? Despard's contested fate marked the sensational climax to a British revolution that never happened, but it also presaged the birth of modern democracy. It was 37 minutes before the executioner finally cut Despard down, in his cream waistcoat trimmed with gold lace. The surgeon aimed at a joint in the neck vertebrae but missed and was soon reduced to nervous hacking. The executioner barged him out of the way and began twisting Despard's neck this way and that, eventually separating the head and, picking it up by the hair, he carried it to the edge of the parapet before the crowd. At this point the crowd broke their silence to hiss the executioner. 286pp in paperback reprint of the 2004 original biography.
Published price: £12.99
Bibliophile price: £2.00

Additional product information

ISBN 9781472144072
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