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Mad Dogs and Englishmen: An Expedition Round My Family.


ENGLISHMEN: An Expedition

Round My Family

by Sir Ranulph Fiennes

HODDER & STOUGHTON, HB, 20[pounds sterling]


Can it be a coincidence that the titles of Sir Ranulph Fiennes's last two books contain the word 'mad'? What are we to make of someone who runs seven marathons in quick succession after a double bypass, amputates his own frostbitten fingers and goes on to climb Mount Everest on his third attempt at the age of 657

In Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know, Fiennes took us through his first 63 years, from blowing up a Doctor Doolittle film set he happened not to like, to climbing the north face of the Eiger to confront his fear of heights. Now, in Mad Dogs and Englishmen, we are introduced to roughly 118 forebears of the Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes clan, who passed on their eccentric genes to the author.

The book is an entertaining jaunt through 1,000 years of British history in the company of the Fiennes family, starting with the Norman Conquest. In fact, Fiennes traces the family roots to around 800 AD, to find that the primogenitor of the family tree was Charlemagne's grandfather, Charles Martel, Fiennes's great-to-the-power-of-41 grandfather.

As Fiennes explains, his family were'an interesting bunch': 40 generations in all, 21 of which lived in Broughton Castle, as they do to this day. They include Fienneses who fought against one another at Agincourt, Cromwell's chief patron, the mother of eight kings, and a signatory to Magna Carta. Not to overlook several ill-starred forebears, such as a poacher hanged by Henry VIII and a lord treasurer beheaded by a London mob.

Fiennes never knew his father or grandfather, both of whom died in 1943, which 'left a gaping hole' and the desire to find out about his ancestors. 'Fortunately, the family has lived in Broughton Castle for the past 600 years, so I had an abundance of documents at hand for tracing our family history.'

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Comment:Mad Dogs and Englishmen: An Expedition Round My Family.
Author:Stewart, Jules
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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