John Jolliffe

Robert the Bruce — master of guerrilla warfare

The story of Robert the Bruce runs from the death of Alexander III of Scotland in 1286 to Robert’s own death in 1329, aged 54. His extraordinary achievement was to fend off both rivals at home and formidable English enemies to firmly establish his country’s independence. In 1292, John Balliol had been proclaimed King of

Swagger and squalor

This is a monumental but inevitably selective survey of all that occurred in Britain, for better or worse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is certainly a useful summary, with much illuminating detail to carry the story forward: describing the opulence that was so much in evidence, Simon Heffer mentions the diamond

Derring-do in the desert

The SAS was the first unit to be granted regimental status for generations. Its chief aim was to damage the enemy from behind their lines in the North African desert. It was an entirely independent unit, not answerable to any superior command and therefore anathema to the regular army mind. Its creator, David Stirling, had

Putting Germany together again

The purpose of Lara Feigel’s book is to describe the ‘political mission of reconciliation and restoration’ in the devastated cities of Germany after 1945 (though no politicians were directly involved). The chief needs of the shattered population at the time were, of course, practical: food, water, sanitation and the reconstruction of buildings. But a vital

The powers that were

Ivan Maisky was the Russian ambassador in London from 1932 to 1943, and his knowledge of London, and affection for it, went back to his time there as a political exile from 1912 to 1917. Even after the multitude of books published on the subject, these diaries throw new light from a fresh angle on

Awfully arrayed

John Keegan, perhaps the greatest British military historian of recent years, felt that the most important book (because of its vast scope) that remained unwritten was a history of the Austrian army. Richard Bassett has now successfully filled the gap, and few could be better qualified to do so. During many years as the Times’s

The very model of a modern duke

Miles Fitzalan-Howard was one of eight children of a fairly distant cousin of the previous two Dukes of Norfolk, and so grew up in the give and take of life in a large family. Up until the age of about 30, he had no great expectation that he would succeed his predecessor, who was married,

Mistress of the royal game

Marie of Romania (1875–1938), though little known to most readers today, was probably the most dynamic and effective royal consort of the 20th century, and certainly the most glamorous. A granddaughter of both Queen Victoria and the Tsar Alexander II, she was brought up in England by her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.

‘The only man in Paris’

Eugenia de Montijo was born in a tent, during an earthquake, in Granada in 1826. Her father, a Liberal minor grandee, had joined the French army, been wounded at Trafalgar, and welcomed the replacement of the Bourbons by the mediocre Joseph Bonaparte in 1808. Threatened by the Carlist wars, in 1833 he sent his wife

The third man

In the 1840s and 50s, Douglas Jerrold, Dickens and Thackeray were the three best known literary men in England, and it was said at the time that it was ‘hardly possible to discuss the merits of any of them without referring to the other two. What happened to Jerrold? He was born into a family