FREDERICK THE GREAT
Frederick the Great – one of the few rulers in history ever accorded the epithet – was, in David Fraser’s description, ‘One of the most extraordinary men ever to sit on a throne or command an army’. He was an artistic patron and himself a distinguished musician whose attributes of mind and taste were recognised throughout civilised Europe. He was a man of letters, corresponding with, and the intimate of, many of the leading intellectuals of his day. He was a dedicated ruler and lawgiver, who said he wanted nothing more than to be remembered as ‘le Roi de Gueux’, the king of beggars. He was made famous at the age of 33 by his military capacities, and he lived the rest of his long life acknowledged as the greatest soldier of his time.
David Fraser’s new biography, which aims to be definitive, explores every aspect of Frederick’s life and career with complete thoroughness. Frederick committed immense amounts to paper throughout his life – letters to his friends and family across Prussia and the whole of Europe, orders to his generals, reflective memoranda to himself in which he tried to work out the nature of the situations he faced and what he should do, and his more formal Political Testaments. From all these Fraser has drawn in detail and to great effect, demonstrating the extraordinary range of Frederick’s achievement.
As readers of Fraser’s lives of Rommel and Alanbrooke will expect, it is Frederick’s life as a soldier which is at the centre of the book. Fraser’s own superb sense of battle – not only of strategy and manoeuvre, but of psychology, morale, the impact of defeat and victory on victors and vanquished – allows us to understand Frederick’s strengths and weaknesses in the field more completely than in any previous biography. The war is never seen in isolation; the book summarises the complex diplomatic and strategic situations of eighteenth century Europe with concision and elegance, so the reader fully understands the ever-shifting balance of diplomatic and military forces, and what was going on in Frederick’s mind in reaction to them. Above all Fraser allows us to appreciate the unending weariness of the European war which began with Frederick’s invasion of Silesia, and which left Prussia and indeed the whole continent (Britain alone excepted) exhausted.
Frederick excited violent opinions for and against in his lifetime and has continued to do so ever since. ‘He is the completest tyrant God ever made for the scourge of an offending people,’ wrote the British diplomat Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams, who was accredited to his court. To the Prince de Ligne who fought against him and was a loyal servant of his enemies, he was on the contrary ‘the greatest man who has ever lived’. David Fraser’s book explores the ground between these two opinions, and clearly sets out his own view. The result is a marvellously satisfying and engrossing biography.
PUBLICATION DATE: January 2000
THE CHRISTIAN WATT PAPERS
Christian Watt was born in 1833 into a Fraserburgh fishing family. Hers was a life of toil and hardship during which many of her relatives, including her husband and favourite son, were lost at sea. Anxiety and grief eventually led to mental breakdown at the age of forty-seven and Christian spent the rest of her life as a patient in the Cornhill Infirmary, Aberdeen. Her treatment there was enlightened and humane: she continued to work and travel and it was at this point that she began to write down recollections of her life. Her remarkable story paints a vivid picture not only of life in the north-east of Scotland during the second half of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, but also of major national and international events.
Fuelled by a sense of family pride, anger at social injustice, hatred of war, and profound religious faith, these memoirs show Christian to have been a woman of immense courage and compassion. Written with frankness, spontaneity and insight, they are a fascinating record of an extraordinary life.
PUBLICATION DATE: March 2004
First published in 1982, this biography by a leading military historian and former general Sir David Fraser firmly establishes Alanbrooke in Britain’s pantheon of great warriors. Alanbrooke was a master strategist, and his partnership with Churchill was of central importance to the Allies’ victory.
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PUBLICATION DATE: December 1997
WARS AND SHADOWS: MEMOIRS OF GENERAL SIR DAVID FRASER
This exceptional memoir by one of Britain’s most distinguished living soldiers describes a life lived against the backdrop of the most significant military events of the last century. David Fraser was raised in a military family deep in the shadow of the First World War. He absconded from school to enlist at the earliest possible moment after the Second was declared. He was intimately involved afterwards in crises in Suez, Cyprus and Malaya, and eventually became Vice Chief of the General Staff. Wars and Shadows is one of the last notable memoirs of the great conflict in the middle of the last century. It evokes the lives and characters of many of those who fought – and, often, lost their lives – vividly and tenderly. Like the very best memoirs, as well as entertaining us, it also allows us to reflect on how we might have reacted in similar circumstances to those the author faced, and whether eventually we might be able to give an account even half so satisfying as this of our own lives and times.
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PUBLICATION DATE: August 2002
AND WE SHALL SHOCK THEM: THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR
PUBLICATION DATE: October 1999
WILL: A PORTRAIT OF WILLIAM DOUGLAS HOME
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PUBLISHER: Andre Deutsch
PUBLICATION DATE: November 1995
KNIGHT’S CROSS: A LIFE OF FIELD MARSHALL ERWIN ROMMEL
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PUBLICATION DATE: November 1993
PUBLICATION DATE: January 1990