Monday, 10 October 2011

Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser

This is the second in the series of books about Harry Flashman, the villain from Tom Brown's Schooldays. As ever, Flashman is an amoral, bullying coward. He gets himself into some terrible fixes and by a combination of luck and cunning manages to get himself out of them again.

In this story Flashman foolishly manages to make an enemy of Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck is at the beginning of his career, but is still a force to be reckoned with. Flashman is persuaded to go to Germany (he is offered money, which Flashman always finds very persuasive). Once there he finds himself a prisoner of Bismarck.

It turns out that Flashman bears a remarkable resemblance to Prince Carl Gustaf of Denmark. The Prince is set to marry Duchess Irma of the tiny province of Strackenz. It is vital for Bismarck's political ambitions that this marriage goes ahead. Unfortunately Prince Carl Gustaf is indisposed with a rather embarrassing illness. To avoid scandal Bismarck wants Flashman to stand in for the Prince and act his role until the Prince has recovered. Not even the Duchess (who has never met the Prince) will know of this scheme. If Flashman doesn't agree to go through with this he will be killed.

As with the previous Flashman novel I have read, there is loads of historical detail here which made me want to read further into the period. I know nothing about Otto von Bismarck, and I also want to find out  more about Lola Montez, a dancer who ended up being the virtual ruler of Bavaria.

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