By Permission of Heaven: The Story of the Great Fire of London by Adrian Tinniswood - review by Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor

City In Flames

By Permission of Heaven: The Story of the Great Fire of London

By

Jonathan Cape 330pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

LONDON IS ABLAZE, and the Duke of York (the future James 11) is in the Inner Temple, struggling to prevent the conflagration spreading. As the gunpowder is prepared to clear a fire-break, a lawyer who was standing by pushes forward to warn that the ancient privileges and charters of the Temple forbid the destruction of any of its buildings. At that point, amid the smoke and sparks and sweat, one of England's heroes steps forward.

James's Master of the Horse, Henry Jermyn - 'an unprepossessing little debauchee with a big head and skinny legs', notes Adrian Tinniswood, rather ungraciously - grabs a cudgel and offers the pontificating lawyer an irrefutable argument to the contrary. It would be worth reading By Permission of Heaven for that

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