In this innovative and engaging work of history, distinguished author Lisa Jardine shows how the first killing by handgun of a head of state had a profound effect on the course of history. The shooting of Prince William of Orange by a French Catholic in 1584 had immediate political consequences: it was a serious setback for the Protestant cause in the Netherlands, as its forces fought for independence from the Catholic rule of the Hapsburg Empire. But, as Jardine brilliantly demonstrates, its implications for those in positions of power were even more far-reaching, as the assassination heralded the arrival of a lethal new threat to the security of nations -- a pistol that could be concealed on one's person and used to deadly means at point-blank range.
Queen Elizabeth I, William's close Protestant ally, was devastated by his death and, as the object of assassination plots herself, was thrown into panic. The English parliament soon enacted legislation making it an offense to bring a pistol anywhere near a royal palace. Elizabeth's terror was not misplaced.As Jardine observes, William's assassination was the first in a long and bloody line that would include the murders of President Lincoln in 1865 and Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 -- a terror that is all too relevant today.
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Lisa Jardine, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, is the director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, the centenary professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London, and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She lives with her husband and three children in London.From Publishers Weekly:
William the Silent may be an obscure name for many readers, but his assassination in 1584, at close range with a handgun, is still remembered in the Netherlands as a key event in the long Dutch struggle for independence from Spain. Born to a German family, William inherited a French principality and was raised under the tutelage of the Catholic Emperor Charles V, yet became the "father" of Netherlands Protestant national identity. Jardine (The Curious Life of Robert Hooke) places the assassination within the era's religious turmoil and espionage systems, arguing for its deep repercussions for security, diplomacy and warfare. Her scholarship is broad, as she dissects William's lasting reputation for tolerance as a product of the writings of his supporters and traces the technology, uses and symbolism of the wheel-lock pistol used to kill him. With modern references including 9/11, fatwahs and Tupac Shakur, Jardine demonstrates the pervasiveness of the issues raised both by this type of weapon and by responses to crimes of state. Some readers might wish for a more narrative approach to such a potentially riveting story, but they will enjoy this marvelous study of a single event and its numerous echoes. (Feb. 7)
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