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Devil's Consort: England's Most Ruthless Queen by Anne O'Brien

By Anne O'Brien

Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, is a made up our minds girl who plots and schemes an dazzling direction among both robust males in 12th century Europe, a girl who can manoeuvre and manage to shield her personal lands as successfully as any power-grasping lord. Eleanor is single-minded in her fight to maintain her inheritance intact, major her to reject one husband and take one other who will fulfil her wants. Eleanor intends to reign as Queen and is ready to carry scandal down upon herself in pursuit of her final prize. Hers is a narrative of strength, political intrigue, ardour and love.

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From May until mid-November 1648 Cromwell was fully occupied as commander of the cavalry of the New Model Army; first in suppressing insurrection in South Wales, then in the campaigns leading up to the battle of Preston (17 August). This was the first major engagement in which Cromwell had overall command. It reveals his tactical daring, his devastating vigour and his economy with his own forces. The Scots force was virtually annihilated with minimal casualties amongst Cromwell's troops. There followed a brief mission to Scotland to 28 Oliver Cromwell ensure the disbandment of the remaining Scots forces and then a protracted siege of Pontefract Castle, one of the few strongholds stubbornly held on to by recalcitrant Royalists.

It may have been an interview with Fleetwood, Desborough and Lambert, men close to him and long-time associates, who indicated that they would not serve him under that title, which tipped the balance in his mind, but his own musings on Providence and the pleas of old soldiers, like William Bradford who had followed him from Edge Hill to Dunbar, no doubt played a part. The process of negotiation had, however, induced greater flexibility. On 25 May the Humble Petition and Advice was offered again to Cromwell with kingship gone and the succession to the position of Protector in his gift.

A settlement would be reached with the King which would restore much of the status quo ante bellum and take the heavy costs of the military establishment off the backs of the taxpaying classes. There were two problems with this scheme. The first was that of reaching any kind of settlement with a king who was determined to use every advantage to secure the position and future strength of the crown. The second was the army. Anxious about substantial arrears of pay, which Parliament showed no signs of paying, indemnity from criminal prosecution for acts of war and for provision for widows, orphans and wounded soldiers, the soldiers were in no mood for their concerns to be brushed aside.

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