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Lisa Jardine, The Awful End of Prince William the Silent: Commentaries

What happens in this passage?

A Spanish agent, Balthasar Gérard, shoots William from point-blank range. Under torture Gérard first claims that he was put up to the assassination by the Duke of Parma and other Spanish noblemen, but he later retracts this and claims he acted alone, which seems to be the truth.

Commentary

This is a good example of vivid narrative, written like a novel. The first paragraph has the sort of detail that a novelist would include: William is making for the stairs, Gérard steps forward out of the crowd, William is carried through to a couch, and so on. On the other hand, there are reminders that we are reading a historical recreation rather than a novelist’s invention: the insertion of ‘one imagines’ before ‘brutally manhandled’ keeps even this action-packed account within the strict confines of the evidence. Most of the passage deals directly with the characters, rather as if Jardine was there as an eye-witness, but towards the end of the passage the focus begins to widen as she describes the message that was to spread through ‘the many broadsheets and pamphlets’ that spread the news across Europe.

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