Noble Endeavours

Other Fiction

Nothing about the story of England and Germany, as this remarkable book demonstrates, is as simple as we might expect...

In 1613 a beautiful Stuart princess married a handsome young German prince. This was a love match, but it was also an alliance that aimed to weld together Europe's two great Protestant powers.

Before Elizabeth and Frederick left London for the court in Heidelberg, they watched a performance of The Winter's Tale. In 1943, a group of British POWS gave a performance of that same play to a group of enthusiastic Nazi guards in Bavaria. When the amateur actors suggested doing a version of The Merchant of Venice that showed Shylock as the hero, the guards brought in the costumes and helped create the sets.

A shared faith, a shared hunger for power, a shared culture (Germany never doubted that Shakespeare belonged to them, as much as to England); a shared leadership. German monarchs ruled over England for three hundred years - and only ceased to do so through a change of name.

Miranda Seymour has written a rich and heart-breaking story that needs to be heard: the vibrant, extraordinary history - told through the lives of kings and painters, soldiers and sailors, sugar-bakers and bankers, charlatans and saints - of two countries so entwined that one man, asked for his allegiance in 1916, said he didn't know because it felt as though his parents had quarrelled.

Thirteen years of Nazi power can never be forgotten. But should thirteen years blot out four centuries of a profound, if rivalrous, friendship?

Speaking in 1984, a remarkable Jew who fought for Germany in one war and for England in the next called for an end to the years of mistrust.

Quarter of a century later, that mistrust remains as strong as ever and Hitler remains Germany's most familiar face. The stories that Miranda Seymour has recovered from a wealth of unpublished material and exceptional sources, remind us, poignantly, wittily and tragically, of all that we have chosen to forget.

Available in hardback now.
Paperback publishing date: 8th May 2014.

"This is an impressive, meticulously researched and thought-provoking history. Certainly there is much to be celebrated in the stories of those whose sympathies span the two nations and who found empathy in both shared culture and shared loss. From this perspective the book is indeed a noble endeavor, worth of admiration" Clare Mulley, History Today
"Miranda Seymour deserves to be hailed for her courage, generosity, imagination and decency" Richard Davenport-Hines, The Observer
"Nothing can alter what took place between 1933 and 1945,” writes Miranda Seymour, “but another history lies behind it.” She has given us that history, vividly bringing to life a vast cast of characters, skillfully interweaving their stories, sometimes over several generations. The result is a gripping read and a new and strangely uplifting perspective on relations between the two countries" Jane Ridley, Literary Review
"With meticulous research, including unpublished material from her family, it’s a timely reminder of a delicate, deeply felt relationship between two great countries" Andy Plaice, Daily Express
"Exemplary and inspiring work" Oliver Kamm, The Times
"She is a highly experienced biographer, and much of the pleasure of the book derives from her succinct biographical sketches, her eye for detail and the sympathy with which she addresses the plight of people torn between two countries. The strength of feeling in these pages makes Noble Endeavours an arresting account of a complex and multi-faceted subject" Giles Waterfield, Country Life